Full-time bus priority needed for Hoddle Street

The Public Transport Users Association (PTUA) has today called for the immediate introduction of full-time bus lanes in Hoddle Street to improve traffic flow and reduce travel times for bus commuters travelling along one of Melbourne’s busiest corridors.

PTUA President Daniel Bowen said that the current situation must be fixed. “More people can be moved along Hoddle Street, one of Melbourne’s busiest arterial roads, by simply allowing the frequent buses to operate in their own dedicated lane rather than being stuck in the heavy congestion. It’s not rocket science to realise a full bus with 70 people is going to move much faster than 70 single-occupant cars all heading in the same direction,” he said.

Hoddle Street is one of Melbourne’s busiest bus routes, with frequent services on route 246 (Clifton Hill to Elsternwick), and Eastern Freeway services from the Doncaster corridor resulting in buses operating about every minute in peak times. At present, a part-time bus lane operates southbound along Hoddle Street in the morning peak (6.30am-9.30am), and northbound, a T2 lane operates in the afternoon peak (4.00pm-7.00pm), though this is not enforced to ensure only high-occupancy vehicles use the lane [1].

“The present situation for bus commuters is simply a joke. There is no reason why travel times should increase for off-peak travel, and there is no reason why peak-hour commuters should be penalised for choosing to travel by bus,” said Mr Bowen. “It is already proven that bus lanes are successful on Hoddle Street: the morning southbound bus lane moves more people per hour than the four lanes of gridlock next to it, so there is no reason to delay the introduction of full-time bus lanes.”

Much has been made in recent times of the capacity problems of the road, including plans to install fly-overs or create an underground freeway tunnel [2] which do not address the true problem with Hoddle Street: that the majority of road users are single-occupant cars from the Eastern Freeway travelling to the CBD and inner suburbs because they don’t have adequate public transport alternatives. The bus lanes are painted red to distinguish them from regular traffic lanes, however the lanes are used as parking for most of the day.

“The obvious solution is of course to build the long-promised rail line along the Eastern Freeway to Doncaster. Instead, the Brumby Government has promised more buses to solve issues of overcrowding and reliability, but we need to ensure that they get an uninterrupted run, and that is by ensuring full-time bus lanes are installed before the promised DART upgrade in 2011-2012,” concluded Mr Bowen.

[1] Survey for Bus Association Victoria (November 2007) showed the 64% of the vehicles in the Hoddle Street Transit Lane were single occupant only.

[2] “Hoddle Street chockers”, The Age, March 16, 2009