Invisible passengers - Solo drivers clog peak-hour

The Sunday Telegraph

Sunday 26 May 2002

Choked: Victoria road transit lanes banked up illegally


SEVEN out of 10 Sydney motorists who use the transit lane during the morning rush on Victoria Road, are breaking the law.

An investigation by The Sunday Telegraph has revealed that more than 73 per cent of drivers do not qualify to travel in the T3 transit lane, which requires two passengers in each car.

The result is hundreds of solo drivers clogging up the lane reserved for buses, taxis and eligible drivers.

The Sunday Telegraph spent one hour monitoring the rush hour traffic near Seymour Street, about 500m from the northern end of Gladesville Bridge, from 7.30am to 8.30am.

Of the 704 vehicles counted travelling in the T3 lane, a staggering 514 were illegal drivers who sped past their law-abiding cousins sitting patiently in the bumper-to-bumper traffic.

The findings raise serious questions about the State Government's plan to install a west-bound transit lane on Victoria Road.

Transport Minister Carl Scully has flagged the idea as a key way of increasing the traffic flow on Victoria Rd, one of the city's most clogged arterial routes.

But while police regularly patrol the transit lane, the head of NSW Police traffic admitted that it was virtually impossible to enforce the law on some sections of Victoria Rd.

“(Transit lanes) are difficult to enforce because you need to find a place where you can safely pull the vehicle up where you are not going to cause more congestion than you would by allowing it to pass,” said Police Traffic Services Commander Chief Superintendent Ron Sorrenson.

And many streetwise motorists often bluff their way along the lane -- switching on their indicators as if they are turning into a side street, but continuing in the T3 lane after they pass police.

“The police do enforce the lane on Victoria Rd but motorists tend to be wise and note where the police are,” said Supt Sorrenson.

The 190 vehicles The Sunday Telegraph witnessed travelling legally in the lane were either cars containing three or more people, motorcyclists or taxis.

Buses were not included in the count nor were drivers who entered the transit lane to turn left into Seymour St off Victoria Road, a legal manoeuvre.
“The whole idea was to make public transport more acceptable to get people to their destination as quickly as possible,” said Bus divisional secretary Trevor Avery. “We've often asked for something to be done.”

Clogged bus and transit lanes have been blamed for adding to perceptions that public transport is too slow to use.

The State Government's 2002 Household Travel Survey found that almost 60 per cent of people travelled to work by car because they believed it was faster than alternatives such as public transport.

The Roads and Traffic Authority defended the lane, which it said was monitored with RTA traffic cameras which helped police target offenders.
See also PCA Media Release 23 March 2000