How many “bus lane” signs can you ignore? Better enforcement needed?

If you frequent the area, you might have noticed that the Ballarat Road has a lot more buses than usual. Not for the first time, the Regional Rail Link project has closed part of the Sunbury line, with buses ferrying passengers between Albion and Flemington Racecourse, resulting in convoys of buses doing train impersonations:

Sunbury line bustitution

Sensibly, the Regional Rail Link Authority organised to have bus lanes on the 6-lane section of Ballarat Road, to help the many people using the buses get through the traffic.

And they didn’t skimp on the signage, either — there are “BL” paint markings on the road, variable message signs, and conventional bus lane signs, all placed on a regular basis along the road.

Sunbury line bustitution: bus lanes

Sunbury line bustitution: bus lanes

Sunbury line bustitution: bus lanes

What amazed me while heading down there on Friday was that some motorists managed to ignore this prolific signage and drive for long distances in the bus lane.

Obviously some people are creatures of habit, but if you can ignore three separate types of signs (one flashing at you), repeated every couple of hundred metres, along a distance of several kilometres, then I’d suggest you’re either wilfully ignoring them, or just not paying attention.

Either way, it appears better enforcement is needed. Hopefully they are cracking down at least when it matters, during peak hours.

ID card options if you don’t want/have a driver’s licence

So, following-up yesterday’s post.

A little research on IDs for young adults (in particular to prove they are over 18) who don’t drive led me to two possibilities — assuming one doesn’t want to carry around a passport:

Liquor licencing: recognised forms of identificationKeypass — $55, and supposedly recognised nationwide.

Proof Of Age card — $10, and also apparently recognised throughout Australia.

It seems other states have similar cards to the Proof Of Age card: NSW has the NSW Photo Card. Queensland has the Adult Proof of Age Card, and so on.

One commenter yesterday mentioned the International Student Identity Card — but according to the posters summarising the law, this isn’t necessarily recognised.

Apart from a liquor-licensing point of view, some retailers also want to see ID for certain card transactions, apparently due to their own paranoia.

While Isaac is reluctant to learn to drive, I think it’s still an important skill to have even if you don’t want to use it… and as others noted, there are insurance premium implications later down the track.

But for now I think we’ll go for the $10 Proof Of Age option.

Stay on the train, or join the traffic? Some young adults are rejecting cars.

Isaac just turned 18. (Yeah, I know.)

Anyway, I was talking to him about getting a photo ID that shows his age, so (if he should choose to) he can exercise his rights as an adult.

Many his age would get a Learner’s permit as part of learning to drive. But he has zero interest in doing that — in fact he has firmly said he doesn’t want it. And I’m not about to argue against that. Not me, who likes to avoid driving, and who didn’t get a driver’s licence until the age of 27.

Stay on the train, or join the traffic?

I wonder if not being interested in driving is becoming a Thing?

Looks like it might be in some circles.

Young people are shying away from getting their driver’s licence because they are keeping in touch with their friends online rather than in person, a new (US) study has found.
– Fairfax Drive: Young people choose computers over cars

What, Facebook is killing cars? Surely not — at least, not on its own — though it does seem that my kids go and visit their friends less than I used to when I was a teenager.

The article continues:

The figures tally with some recent Australian findings, which show that public transport use is booming as car use declines.

Twenty years ago, almost four out of five people between the ages of 20 and 24 had their full licence. By 2009, that figure had fallen to 51 per cent.

Social analyst David Chalke says that in Australia the increasing number of young people attending university for long periods of time in major metropolitan areas means that cars are more of a hassle than a convenience.

“With kids staying at university for longer, they’re more likely to want an iPad than a car,” Chalke says.

He says mobile devices mean people can also use their travelling time more effectively on public transport.

Good point, that last one. And Mr Chalke also notes that university life doesn’t mix well with cars — at many campuses, parking is expensive or scarce or both.

This trend ties in with some parts of the USA:

The latest generation of young adults has more alternatives to the car, Sheryl Connelly (Futurologist at Ford) suggests. Cities such as Portland, Oregon, have successfully encouraged far greater bike use, while public transport is far better in some places than 30 years ago.

“The car doesn’t hold the same imagery that it did in the Sixties or Seventies,” she says.

Financial Times

…and it seems to be borne out in other western countries as well:

The findings indicate that since the turn of the millennium, access to cars, measured in terms of drivers’ licences and household car ownership, has decreased in most study countries—especially for men. Moreover, average daily car travel distance has decreased in most study countries, again especially for men. In France, Japan, and most significantly in the USA, the decrease in car travel has led to a reduction in total everyday travel by young travellers. In Great Britain, the decline in car travel was partly, and in Germany fully, compensated by an increased use of alternative modes of transport.

Obviously there are a lot of factors, and it’s only a specific demographic, but I think this makes some sense.

If you live in a walkable neighbourhood, if your friends and the places you go are either local or easily accessible by bike or public transport, then why would you be interested in cars, especially given the costs of running them?

Opting out of using a parent’s car as well? That’s a step further that I find that really interesting.

In many cities, including Melbourne, of course it’s going to be different in different areas. We in Bentleigh do have a walkable suburb, with no roads more than 4 lanes in total (certainly no freeways), mostly straight and easily navigable streets, few cul-de-sacs and while the buses are nothing special, the trains run every 10 minutes every day of the week.

But some suburbs are really pedestrian-hostile, with very wide fast roads to cross, little within walking distance, and appalling public transport. I really doubt the reluctance to join motordom is a Thing in most outer suburbs.

One look at the planned EW route shows why it would have made yesterday’s #Citylink mess worse, not better

The claims that the East-West link would somehow help the road network cope with yesterday’s horrible Citylink accident are truly mystifying. It really does appear as if the motorway boosters have tried to make use of this high-profile event to promote their cause in the hope that nobody thought too much about what they were saying.

RACV public policy general manager Brian Negus said the crash amplified the need for an east-west tunnel connecting the Eastern Freeway in Clifton Hill and the Western Ring Road.

“You see it all the time if we have a major collision on the West Gate Freeway, the Bolte Bridge, the Tullamarine or the Monash and the whole city grinds to a halt. This crash has really amplified the need for the East West Link and a complete network of freeways. We need an alternative route,” he said.

Herald Sun: Truck crash on CityLink confirms the need for East West Link, say experts

One look at the map shows why this isn’t the case.

Melbourne East-West proposed route map
Proposed East-West link map, highlighting shared section with Citylink, where Friday’s accident happened. (Source)

Apart from the fact that “alternative routes” have their own traffic to deal with, in this case the East-West link would have been no help whatsoever. Why? Because the planned East-West route includes the section of Citylink where the crash was.

The presence of the eastern connection in particular would have made it worse, because it would have brought their own traffic into the picture. Traffic coming in from the eastern suburbs and wanting to head south on Citylink (to head towards the Westgate bridge or anywhere else south of Flemington) would have been joining the traffic caught up in the snarl.

Their only alternative motorway route they could have taken would be to head north via the Tullamarine, then the Calder then the Ring Road, then finally onto the Westgate. For a trip from say Flemington to Spotswood, this would blow out from 9km to 34km — hardly a realistic alternative, particularly in the face of that route’s usual traffic plus other displaced vehicles.

As one commenter on the 3AW web site said yesterday: “Thank God we don’t have the East-West Link, otherwise traffic would be backed up on the Eastern as well!!!!!!!”

Even on the best of days, this section of Citylink is congested already at peak times, simply because it is a completely inefficient way of moving people. Add extra traffic — even in the absence of a major disruption — and it would become daily gridlock.

Don’t be surprised if the EW link ever gets built that the road lobby immediately start asking for the next alternative route to link them up — yet another new freeway connection through inner-city Melbourne.

Of course, one should note Negus’s comment was not necessarily about this particular event, but more about wanting a complete network of freeways. Because apparently the best solution to something that doesn’t work is to build more of them.

The long and winding road

We went to Walhalla for a night to camp on Sunday (it’s been about a year since last time). Apart from a little rain on the way up, nice weather — though a little hot when the sun got going.

Camping at Walhalla

The rain didn’t affect the camp site when we were there, but had other consequences.

After you get off the freeway and head through Moe towards Walhalla, you end up on twisty, windy roads for quite a way. A ute with a P-plate came up behind me… I figured it was a local driving who would probably know the road better than I, so I came to a straight section and slowed down and indicated left to let him overtake me, which he did.

Only a few seconds later he skidded down into a tight curve, and smashed into a safety barrier.

We stopped and I called out to him to ask if he (and his passenger) were okay. He said yeah, but he didn’t sound too happy. The barrier was bent, and so probably was his car.

The barrier wasn’t saving him from falling down a ravine or anything, but it does emphasise the importance of driving to the conditions… no matter how well you might think you know the road, it’s not a great idea to zoom along when it’s been raining and is slippery.

Late-night camp food

Camping itself was terrific fun, just like last time. Good company, fun times around the fire, and improvised camp food which this time around resulted in a wondrous creation: chocolate and strawberry jaffles. Yum.

On the way home we had the honour to stop off at the prestigious BP Officer inbound freeway service centre, opened by Mr Dean Salter (vice-president of BP Australia) himself in 2011. Gosh. Such an honour.

Wow. So prestigious. Almost makes up for the Gulf Of Mexico Deep Horizon spill, doesn't it.

Fast cars

I was trying to get some photos and/or video for a blog post I’m writing. I’m having trouble finding a source for part of the post, so in the meantime here’s a snippet of video from the pedestrian overpass above the Nepean Highway at Moorabbin.

I might be wrong, but it does appear to me that there’s more than one rev head in amongst this lot. But I’d be reluctant to estimate how fast they were going. Any guesses?

I wonder if they realised they were passing Moorabbin Police station?

Special licence plates

Horse Drawn Vehicle number plate

The Wikipedia article on Australian licence plates highlights some special prefixes, but here’s a list I’ve tried to come up with that includes others they don’t show, from personal observations and gleaning information from the VicRoads web site.

Bus number plateSome of them are clearly abbreviations for what they are… some not so much.

AO (suffix) – accredited bus

CC – Consular Corps

E56 – trailers

HDV – horse-drawn vehicle

Mxx – state vehicles, such as (marked) police cars

M – metropolitan Melbourne taxi

U – Geelong, Ballarat or Bendigo urban taxi

PS (suffix) – peak period taxi

ST – substitute taxi (replacement for regular taxi which is out of service for repairs)

C – country/regional taxis

TOW (prefix ) / TT (suffix) – tow truck

VHA/VHB/VHC – hire cars (eg chauffeured)

S000 to S999 – hire motorcycles

I particularly like HDV.

Are there others?

The Rooster Tree

Those who regularly head up the Hume Freeway from Melbourne would know about this, but others may not: it’s the Rooster Tree.

The Rooster Tree

You’ll find it somewhere past Wandong and the exit for Clonbinane (which is one of those places I’ve never heard of apart from on the freeway exit signs), and it’s really only properly visible when heading northbound.

As you get closer, you’ll see it’s not really one tree, but a clump of trees.

One wonders if the owners of it know of its significance… my guess is yes, since it never seems to grow enough to look like anything other than a rooster.

Enough people know about the Rooster Tree that it’s got a fan page on Facebook — and in the aftermath of the horrific death and destruction of Black Saturday in 2009, many wondered if it had survived.

One more thing: local musician Mal Webb has written a very amusing song about the Rooster Tree:

(thanks to M for snapping the pic above as we drove up the other day)