This is a post I’ve been saving up for a while about the Transit Lane on the Freeway which I drive on every day I go to work. Be warned. This is a RANT.
The idea is that between 7am and 9:30am, cars with more than one passenger are allowed in the Transit Lane. Any car with a single passenger will be fined if they are caught. A friend of mine contemplated purchasing an old store window dummy to sit in the passenger seat of his car, but as far as I know he never put this plan into action. I wonder how many people do actually try it? I’m sure traffic cops would have some funny stories to tell.
What’s the policy behind the Transit Lane? Well, the idea is that single people driving into work alone is a terrible waste of petrol and resources. Therefore, single people in a car should be punished, and multiple people should be rewarded by getting a quicker drive into work. Presumably it is also meant to encourage car pooling and public transport use.
What a nice idea in the abstract. It is ridiculous to see all these almost empty cars on the freeway. However, I think this idea doesn’t really gel with the practicalities of modern life and workplaces.
When I was a kid, my Dad used to carpool with three friends, so that Mum could have the car to drive me to school. Then Dad’s hours started being more irregular, and he had to work later. It became problematic to carpool: everyone had to leave at the same time and go home at the same time, but everyone’s work hours had gotten longer and more irregular. Then one of the friends moved away from the area, another quit, another went to a different site…there was no one left to carpool with. Luckily Dad got a company car then, so that was okay.
I think the people who design these rules must have 9 – 5 jobs, and live in the vicinity of their co-workers. In that case, they are rare beasts indeed. Personally I don’t know anyone at my workplace who lives anywhere near me, so I’ve no one with whom to carpool . And it would have been totally impractical when I was a solicitor to carpool, because my working hours were long and irregular. No one wants to hang around until some crazy hour of the night to give me a lift home.
So I very much doubt that the Transit Lane succeeds in encouraging people to carpool. Life these days is too unpredictable, and workplace hours are much longer than they used to be, for many people anyway.
Public transport in Melbourne is a crock. Dirty, crowded and unreliable.
A while back (before we were married) my husband broke his shoulder. Apparently it was a very interesting break, because he broke the ball joint into perfect halves. Obviously he was unable to drive for about 2 months. When he had been able to drive, the journey to work had taken him 15 minutes, or at maximum, 20 minutes. When he was forced to take public transport, the journey took him a minimum of one and a half hours. Sometimes longer. Either he had to get the train right into the city and right out again (problem of a radial train line system) or he had to catch two different buses which did not connect, and he had substantial waiting periods in between.
Public transport is passable in Melbourne if (a) you work in the CBD and (b) you live near a train line. Neither my husband nor I fit the above criteria. Who has the time to spend an hour and a half of one’s life on public transport? I’d prefer to spend more time with my daughter, thank you very much.
Which brings me to another point – prams on public transport. I’ve only tried it once. What a nightmare. Although I don’t have one of those mega-monster prams that could rival a four wheel drive car, it is still big enough to block the aisle and inconvenience everyone. And getting the pram up the steps of the tram was terrible. There are no conductors any more – so you’ve got to rely on help from other passengers – which isn’t always forthcoming.
So public transport is not really a viable alternative to singular car travel for many people. And I doubt that the Transit Lane is going to encourage anyone to go on public transport if they don’t have to do so, because the service provided is so bad.
The Transit Lane looks all shiny and nice in theory, but in practice it’s just a bloody revenue raiser on the part of the State Government (I reckon I see people pulled over quite often). It fails in its objectives of encouraging people to share car use because (a) modern society and workplaces do not work in a way that facilitates this and (b) the alternative (public transport) is appalling. Furthermore, it means that the freeway is extra jammed as people try to get out of and into the lane, and all the other cars get squashed into a few lanes. It also may cause accidents – I have seen people try to dart back into the main stream of traffic when they see evidence of a cop car up ahead – because they panic, they can endanger other drivers.
P.S. I have to say that when I was heavily pregnant, I occasionally used the Transit Lane even when it was just me in the car, because technically speaking, there were two people in the car, weren’t there? Hmm, nice legal point there. I don’t think that a foetus is a separate person until birth, but then I think of those cases about murder of a foetus, where defendants are charged with murdering an unborn child.
P.P.S. Thank you for letting me have my rant (if you got this far).