Yesterday’s collision between a police vehicle and a tram stop barrier has raised the issues of whether those barriers are a good design.
Thankfully the two policemen will recover.
The barriers are intended to stop pedestrians crossing the tracks at tram platform stops. It’s hardly surprising that people do this, given many of the stops are so long as to fill entire city blocks, and it is often the quickest way across.
At the Federation Square stop in question, time saving isn’t likely to be an issue because unlike the other stops on Swanston Street which are open, the two platforms are enclosed. Perhaps the fear is people will jump the tracks due to congestion on the platforms — in which case the logical thing to do is to widen them. Given little traffic congestion southbound at this point, widening and moving them across to take one southbound traffic lane would make sense.
Certainly crossing the tracks could potentially be dangerous, particularly on Swanston Street with a large volume of trams. But are there statistics supporting the use of barriers? And at quieter stops, if people pay attention, is it really a huge issue?
As I understand it, crossing the platforms is deemed to be an equivalent offence to doing so at a railway station, which doesn’t make sense given trams are slower, can stop faster, streets have a smooth surface rather than ballast, and of course the distance down from the platform is much smaller.
Another issue with the barriers is that emergency vehicles using the tram tracks (which they often do) are unable to move around stopped trams. Here’s an instance of an ambulance going to a call, stuck behind a tram.
Platform stops are important to help provide an accessible and efficient tram service. But perhaps the wisdom of block-long stops in busy urban areas, and the use of barriers in particular, needs to be considered.
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