Belfast Telegraph and City Centre bus lanes

And I thought I’d stopped commenting on transport for a wee while.  Hey ho.

Jim Rodgers is quoted in today’s Belfast Telegraph as calling for a formal review of city centre bus lanes, backed by Gavin Robinson.  I’m not going to retread ground I covered on Friday and Saturday, but I do want to make a few comments.

  • As I’ve already noted, I think the bus lanes were brought in too soon.  Implementation should have been more closely tied to the implementation of Belfast Rapid Transit in order to provide adequate carrot to go with the stick of less road space for the private car.
  • People movement into Belfast city centre has actually improved, as per the DRD’s own figures (HT Wesley Johnston) showing a 6% increase
  • The same figures show a substantial reduction in city centre traffic, in the region of 10,000 vehicles a day.
  • 4% fewer cars are entering the city centre in the peak.
  • And there has been a 17% increase in bus passengers and 36% in rail passengers to Belfast.
  • In the Belfast Telegraph report, car park usage has risen.  Go figure.
  • Belfast City Council wasted a massive opportunity when the bus lanes were introduced to promote off-peak travel to Belfast – the impact of the bus lanes on travel between 9.30am and 3.30pm is far less, and the chance was there to promote Belfast as a fantastic shopping place.
  • A massive problem has existed 52 weeks a year for several years in Cromac Street on a Thursday evening between 5pm and 6pm as traffic from East and South Belfast converge on Cromac Square to go late night shopping at the same time as commuters are trying to get home from work through the same junction and on Victoria Street.

Bus and rail fares are perceived as expensive, even though they are lower than in Great Britain or Ireland on a like-for-like basis – and of course I agree they are expensive.  As highlighted in the discussion on Friday’s post, demand for public transport in Belfast is very sensitive to value for money, perceived or actual.

With the substantial increase in public transport usage clearly linked to driving into the city centre being made a lot less attractive by the presence of the bus lanes, it isn’t hard to see that if the bus lanes were taken away, most of the 17% increase in 2012/13 would be wiped out if driving in was made easier.  The rest of the increase is already at risk as the existing proposed public transport cuts will make it harder for people to do anything other than drive.

Falling passenger numbers will drive Translink into a downward spiral that will require more taxpayers’ and ratepayers’ money to be pushed into filling the gap between farebox income and the cost of operating services.

For those reasons, I think that ripping out the bus lanes, coupled with increasing demand for roadspace, will in the end do us no good whatsoever, and potentially leave us, and in particular those who already have little choice other than to drive, worse off.

However, vehicle numbers and available road space are only part of the story.

From experience as bus passenger, cyclist and driver (and a former rail commuter when I lived in Bangor), while the bus lanes, together with the extra traffic lights, and sheer numbers of vehicles may cause most of the congestion, it is severely impacted by the driver attitude that green traffic lights mean you must go immediately unless there is another vehicle right in front of you.

The statement in the Highway Code is that green means you may go if the way is clear and you should only go forward when the traffic lights are green if there is room for you to clear the junction safely or you are taking up a position to turn right.” (Rule 176)

As of those of us with the misfortune to use the East Bridge Street/Albert Bridge Road/Short Strand/Ravenhill Road junction know only too well, this last rule is not so much broken on the grounds that it isn’t legally enforceable (unlike yellow box junctions)  as completely ignored.  When Short Strand is tailed back to that junction, traffic from Albert Bridge Road and the Ravenhill Road habitually ploughs on across the junction even though they cannot get into Short Strand, stopping traffic from East Bridge Street from moving onto empty asphalt on the Albert Bridge Road, and creating (ok, worsening) tailbacks in Cromac Street and Oxford Street.

Similar stories happen daily at Cromac Square where until the yellow box was painted, traffic was routinely prevented from turning right from Cromac Street to East Bridge Street because of traffic turning from East Bridge Street into Victoria Street blocking the junction.  Similar can happen at the Gasworks, where I remember a driver attempting to turn right from Donegall Pass onto the Ormeau Road and stopping traffic going straight across the Gasworks to Donegall Pass.  Same problem:  the lights are green, therefore I must go even if there’s nowhere for me to go to.

My thesis on congestion that adhering to rule 176 of the Highway Code would have a disproportionate effect on Belfast congestion, because traffic going a different direction would be able to cross the path of already congested traffic more easily.  There would then be a knock-on effect, for example where traffic in Oxford Street is held up by traffic blocking the Albert Bridge/Short Strand junction because traffic at the head of their queue cannot get into Oxford Street.

Discuss.

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  • Comrade Stalin

    Enjoying this series of informed articles, Andy.

    Same problem: the lights are green, therefore I must go even if there’s nowhere for me to go to.

    As a general principle, I think people take the view that if there isn’t a yellow box across the junction then they should immediately move forward and try to fill the space.

    If you simply waited behind the line, the lights could go red again before the traffic ahead has moved forward. The other traffic flows would then take up the space and you would make no progress. I’ve been in that situation and I’m sure many other drivers have too.

    The proper solution is to have yellow boxes on every major interchange except where there is some kind of good reason to do so. It would be interesting to hear exactly what the criteria are for adding them – I am sure there are guidelines that say when they are appropriate.

  • Bryan Magee

    These bus lanes seem to me to have worked but what is really needed is more capacity on the railways. Its standing room only.

    It has to hurt to work – meaning people will move to bus bike foot or rail if its painful enough to go by car –

  • Bryan Magee

    I think they put them only in congested spots – though I may be wrong. Yes I am sure there are criteria.

  • AndyB

    As a committed public transport user (currently stranded in the car and using it to drive places for work while I have it), I agree, but that’s not exactly very popular!

  • AndyB

    There is a problem with bad phasing in places, sorry, far too many places, for sure, and I’ve been on the receiving end of it myself.

    The problem is more that people are blocking others who are trying to cross their path to empty roads rather than join their route – it’s dog in the manger behaviour.

    I wonder if I can find the criteria. I think I might know where to ask.

  • AndyB

    Bingo. Pages 76 to 79 of

    http://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/223667/traffic-signs-manual-chapter-05.pdf

    will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about yellow box junctions.

  • Surveyor

    So you open the bus lanes to traffic but won’t they get congested again eventually? Then we’ll have calls to build more lanes which will also get congested and on and on it goes.

    Do people really need to be in offices in Belfast City Centre 5 days a week 52 weeks a year in this day and age? Where is this advancement in technology we were promised which would enable people to work from home and only go to an office when absolutley needed?

  • Neil

    I think your series has been illuminating. A couple of points that have landed here is the notion of making transport sufficiently cheap and joined up to be attractive. It surely makes sense to allow people to finish the second leg of their journey using their ticket from the first journey. I don’t want to use public transport because it will add time and money to my journey. One of those would have to give before I park up. Oh yeah, and lane blockers, hate them. Just inconsiderate drivers really, too many of them about.

  • Comrade Stalin

    I learned something new – you can enter a yellow box and stop, as long as you are planning to turn but are only prevented from doing so by oncoming traffic.

    It sounds like they try to only have yellow boxes where there is a demonstrated problem with the traffic flow.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Right next to your paperless office.

    Seriously, the work from home thing has been tried. It doesn’t work well in all cases. In my own trade (software engineering) people who are stuck working from home can end up out of the loop. I also don’t think it’s good being constantly stuck in your house the whole time.

  • Mister_Joe

    That’s the way in works in Toronto Canada. If you have to switch from one subway line to another or switch from a subway to a bus or vice versa to complete your journey, you get a transfer ticket at the first location which gives you 2 hours to make the switch. It works great, one fare only.

  • Mister_Joe

    You won’t make people switch from car to public transport unless you make it prohibitively expensive to take your car into the city centre. Congestion charges are the way to go. With modern technology, making all car owners have a transponder device makes it fairly easy to send out the bills which can be paid online in most cases.In conjunction, of course, you have to have an excellent bus service, free in the downtown core such as Buffalo in the USA.

  • Bryan Magee

    You can also do it by reducing the number of parking places for commuter and raising the price of parking. Make companies reduce the number of parking places as a condition in the planning law. etc.

  • Mister_Joe

    The concept of yellow boxes is a great one. It sometimes drives me crazy that it hasn’t been adopted in Canada, well in Toronto at least. Some traffic in Belfast ended up in total gridlock before they were introduced when I used to drive a lot there as part of my job. It’s so simple and relatively cheap to introduce.

  • cimota

    OK. You’re a smart lad so I would expect more investigation of how on one hand fewer cars are entering the city centre but car park usage has risen.

    My analysis? Yes, people are changing the times they are entering the city but also the routes. They’re going back back roads and through residential areas to beat the bus lanes.

    In the midst of a recession, the only reason to go to Belfast is actually to go to work and you’ll probably find that most employers want their wage slaves on the road during peak hours.

    This strategy is all stick, no carrot. We can influence people by making it daft to take the car but instead we’re keeping bus prices in line with car prices and only exorbitant parking charges keep cars more expensive (but the advantages of flexibility, speed, convenience and fewer people win out). We’re aiming too low and hitting targets that are only described in percentages which, when you’re working from an incredibly low base, seem revolutionary.

    Increasing the costs of taking the car will just move transport even more into the domain of the wealthy and remove options from the have-nots. It’s already expensive. We’d end up spending more money policing it – collecting pennies for taxes – rather than doing something simple like building a transport system on the basis of quality and not cost. Translink is already a failed business; bring it back inside and pay them to move people rather than run a bus service.

    Education used to be the domain of the wealthy but free education for everyone was a revolutionary idea and it transformed society. Free transport – ensuring that the lowest paid worker is not penalised for living far from his or her place of work – is a revolutionary idea. As the mayor of Bogotá said “A devel­oped coun­try is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use pub­lic trans­port”.

    Public transport prices are lower here but this is also a poorer region with a very spread-out population and poor links between towns. Proportionally we’re screwed. We don’t have the population to build out economies of scale (and we’re unlikely to build them if the young keep fleeing our shores).

    I’m not going to comment on “Green Light, Go!” mentality. Most of the morons on the road don’t understand what a yellow box is for anyway. Which just leads me to further urge everyone to make public transport the default rather than the alternative. Fewer morons, less traffic; happier workers.

  • chrisjones2

    I am confused.

    We have spent millions on this scheme – whay! Last night at around 4.30pm I was running a client from East Belfast to the Malone Road. It took me almost 90 minutes.I then drove on to LIsburn – that took another 45 mins via the M1 – I reckon that’s over 2 hours to travel around 13 mils.Traffic in central London is faster

    I bow in wonder at the competence of our Ministers and their officials. Their policy of forecing bgusines out of Belfast really is working

    To be fair It was raining so they will have an excuse as that doesnt happen very often

  • Neil

    This is my experience also. However someone will be along to tell you that things are more or less tickety boo and no worse than a couple of years ago. It’s a disaster for some people, like those on the outskirts of WB or Lisburn. It’s easy for others to say suck it up, but losing around an hour a day of your life is kind of hard to put up with.

  • Practically_Family

    There are no circumstances whatever under which I could be persuaded to utilise public transport.

    I drive or am driven or I don’t go. Nothing will change this view.

  • Practically_Family

    In this circumstance, I for one would simply stop visiting the City Centre altogether.

  • AndyB

    The idea that business is being forced out of Belfast has largely been put to bed, though, when you look at how busy the city has continued to be. 4.30pm is a bad time to try and go anywhere but out of the city centre, and late night shoppers are making it worse.
    The reality is that Westlink and the M1 are running at capacity at the peak, and only one of those can actually be fixed (the M1), and even then only in one direction as the canyon section of the Westlink will permanently constrict traffic approaching it. The York Street scheme should help, but the pinch point at Divis Street will still be there.
    Beyond that, all that is left is persuading drivers to use park and ride if commuting to the city centre and not leaving the city centre until it is time to go home again.

  • AndyB

    Ok, I’ll ask the question.

    Why will you not use public transport?

    Do you live somewhere where it’s cheaper to come and park in Victoria Square for three hours than to use Park and Ride?

    Are you or one of your passengers disabled (as some of my friends are) so that you would have trouble getting from bus stops or railway stations to your destination?

    Is what public transport exists at the wrong time for you to be able to use it?
    If shopping in Belfast, are you getting more stuff than you could safely carry on a bus? (some people can carry more than others!)

    Are you always going on somewhere else after your trip to Belfast city centre that would make going home and picking up the car a waste of time and money?

    The answer to all of these is that if you are only using the car because you want to and sitting in congestion, you’re part of the problem as you’re taking roadspace that could be used by someone who cannot avoid making their journey by car.

  • chrisjones2

    Thank you – I am glad you think so.We moved out business out of Belfast 10 months ago precisely because of this issue. Every time we entered or left the premises we had to budget an extra 30 minutes.It was like working in a prison.We now get an extra 30 mins a day morning and evening and save hours every day

  • AndyB

    You couldn’t make this up.
    Bob Stoker is quoted in today’s Tele as saying that “there are times I’m sitting in traffic and cars come down bus lanes as people don’t know they are bus lanes.”
    That is news to me. I could have sworn that the car drivers coming down bus lanes know very well that they are operational bus lanes, but firstly they don’t care as the only thing on their radar is their own convenience, and secondly they realise that the PSNI isn’t going to catch them, much less stop them and issue a £30 fine.

    Bob really should drive down the Ormeau Road at 8.30 in the morning. He’d learn something about the reality of law breaking in the BMW, sorry, BUS lanes, while the law-abiding motorists are stuck in the outside lane.

  • AndyB

    And of course you are now saving on rent as well. How many other businesses have actually been forced out of Belfast?

    Can you honestly say that you wouldn’t have moved out of Belfast if the bus lanes hadn’t been installed, given the amount of congestion that has been around for a lot longer than the bus lanes, ie Westlink/M1 with its tailbacks onto Short Strand, lower Newtownards Road etc, and Cromac Square, Victoria Street and Dunbar Link being saturated with cars long before the bus lanes?

    The bus lanes are only a symptom of the problem. The problem is addiction to driving when it isn’t necessary to go about your business conveniently, and it punishes everyone for whom it is necessary to drive in a particular time and place.

  • Practically_Family

    “Why will you not use public transport?”

    I don’t find it pleasant or convenient and I prefer to be in charge of the when & the where of going places.

    “Do you live somewhere where it’s cheaper to come and park in Victoria Square for three hours than to use Park and Ride?”

    I doubt it. But as I’ve no idea what the “park & ride” costs I really couldn’t say.

    “Are you or one of your passengers disabled (as some of my friends are)
    so that you would have trouble getting from bus stops or railway
    stations to your destination?”

    Nope.

    “Is what public transport exists at the wrong time for you to be able to use it?”

    The time I want to use transport is when I want to use transport, so sometimes yes, sometimes no I presume.

    “If shopping in Belfast, are you getting more stuff than you could safely
    carry on a bus? (some people can carry more than others!)”

    Again, sometimes. It’s not a deciding factor for me though.

    Are you always going on somewhere else after your trip to Belfast city
    centre that would make going home and picking up the car a waste of time
    and money?

    I’m not quite sure I understand this point, Wouldn’t it depend on where I was coming from in the first place? The answer is likely no!

  • AndyB

    Nowhere left to build more lanes in Belfast city centre, and Frederick Street is to be made narrower under Streets Ahead.

  • AndyB

    Transfer tickets were done away with on Citybus decades ago as it was being abused. Personally, I’d like to see it brought back, perhaps with a shorter timespan.

  • Practically_Family

    I should probably also say that where work is concerned… I’m contractor of sorts, that’s as much as I’m giving 🙂 Turning up on the bus, on a pushbike or in my walking boots would probably not be conducive to business. Can’t say for sure.

  • AndyB

    Well, if you’re carrying equipment to do your job and expected to go places all day, you probably fall into my definition of someone who can’t avoid driving for work…

  • Wesley Johnston

    “I would expect more investigation of how on one hand fewer cars are entering the city centre but car park usage has risen.”

    The reason is that most of the cars that are now not entering the city centre were cars that had no destination there – they were simply driving through, e.g. from east Belfast to Westlink. Car park usage has gone up by about 500 cars per day while the total number of vehicles entering the city centre has gone down by 10,900 per day. This could be explained fairly easily by, for example, 11,400 car drivers choosing not to drive through the city centre and 500 others now choosing to enter to park there. We also know that traffic levels on Westlink went up by roughly 5000 vehicles over the same time period, suggesting that a large percentage of these displaced drivers have now chosen to use Westlink, which was a secondary aim of BOTM. All this suggests that a greater percentage of the cars that are entering the city centre have the city centre as their destination, which is likely to be good for those who operate businesses there.

  • AndyB

    1. Convenience is an issue, but if you’re carrying out a journey from somewhere on a bus route to the city centre and back again, is it actually less unpleasant to drive?
    2. Park & Ride is either free parking plus normal bus/train fares in the commuter belt, or in the case of Northside and Eastside Park & Ride, paid parking and free buses.
    3. If you’re doing a two-leg journey, say going into a city centre office at 9am and coming home at 5pm, then it doesn’t make sense to drive unless there’s no bus or train at the right time or you’re carrying stuff in and out of the office.
    On the other hand, if you’re not just going to the city centre (eg going to another office not easily accessible by public transport during the day, or going off somewhere straight after work), then it’ll almost certainly waste time to take the bus and then have to go back home to pick up the car. That’s what I mean.

  • Practically_Family

    “Convenience is an issue, but if you’re carrying out a journey from
    somewhere on a bus route to the city centre and back again, is it
    actually less unpleasant to drive?”

    Yes. Much.

    “Park & Ride is either free parking plus normal bus/train fares in the commuter belt, or in the case of Northside and Eastside Park & Ride, paid parking and free buses.”
    TBH I just don’t get “park & ride” at all. If I’m going to park I’ll just do it where I’m going.

    “If you’re doing a two-leg journey, say going into a city centre office
    at 9am and coming home at 5pm, then it doesn’t make sense to drive
    unless there’s no bus or train at the right time or you’re carrying
    stuff in and out of the office.”

    In what sense does it not make sense? It makes perfect sense to me. I go from my door to the door I’m going to, I sit in a comfortable seat all the way, I listen to whatever music I feel like and nothing else… That’s sense. From my point of view, nowhere is “easily accessible” by public transport, it’s always an unpleasant compromise.

  • AndyB

    Unpleasantness: I’ll come back to this.

    Park & Ride is aimed at people who don’t live on bus routes or near railway stations, or who can’t help starting their working day by driving for other reasons eg taking children to childcare or school, but who would pass the site on the way to work and can get public transport from there to their office, avoiding having to drive through the traffic.

    Taking a car just to drive along a bus route to and from an office with nothing heavier than a single file and your packed lunch might make sense to you as an individual from the point of view of personal space and choosing times yourself, but at a society level it’s completely irrational because of the impact on those who actually need to drive just to do their work.

    I can go from 20 yards from my house to a five minute walk from my office, I can listen to whatever music I feel like, the seats are reasonably comfortable (and getting more comfortable as new buses come in), and I can work on the bus using my iPhone. Taking the bus at £2.30 return is cheaper than parking at £3.20 a day in the cheapest city centre car park, and unless cars are holding the buses up, there is a bus every ten minutes.

    On top of that, I don’t have to pay attention to what other traffic is doing around the bus, which is a lot less stressful than sitting in the driving seat and wondering whether other traffic will let me in.

    And the clincher: when I can get the bus, or indeed cycle, I’m not occupying road space that somebody else has more need of just to be able to do their job.

  • cimota

    That’s certainly an interpretation that borders on optimistic.

    Frankly I think the places where we measure cars have reported decreased numbers whereas the objective numbers of car park usage has risen. To my mind the traffic flows have changed – for instance – I still drive into the centre, I just never go via the main bus lane segments. It means I avoid places like Oxford St and Gt Victoria St.

    I think the results reflect what has been measured. That’s probably enough for departments to get back-slapping each other.

  • cimota

    All that’s left?

    No, Andy. What’s left is developing a regional transport strategy that has to be more watertight than just painting lines on the road. Does anyone seriously think there was actual thought never mind action put into this?

    I was at SIB/MATRIX thing about 6 months ago and the brainstorm they came up with was nationalising Belfast City Airport. They all talk about making the city liveable, making it a destination. But they won’t actually do anything smart about it. I made my public transport pitch and there wasn’t one substantive objection to it. I got the feelings the biggest resistance to it was from the various captains of industry who resent giving anyone anything.

  • Practically_Family

    I find standing in all weathers waiting, then either standing while in motion or sitting beside a potentially flatulent, halitosis sufferer with ebola, or worse, the cold, all the while listening to the bass end of twenty “personal” music soundtracks a lot more stressful than simply driving, or indeed being driven.

    I can sum it up by saying that I drive because I want to. I do not want to use public transport and, frankly, I won’t. If that involves not going somewhere then I’m happy not to. It hasn’t happened yet and I really don’t think it’s going to.

  • Bedhead1157

    As someone who works in Cromac St, I can add a few things to the pot! A great deal of the Markets is used as a car park by commuters, at night you can have cars turning in and out of Eliza St, Raphael st and Stewart St with the associated delays on Cromac St and East Bridge St, as well as this the Ormeau Avenue Junction is a complete free for all with the entire junction being blocked with cars doing the whole “must move” bit.

    As has been pointed out before, there is a yellow box at Cromac Sq. This is routinely ignored and since it’s inception, I have never witnessed any attempt at enforcement.

    I cycle to work the vast majority of the time, if I have to take the car I find it slower and more stressful than cycling, yes I may not get rained on but taking a 2 ton vehicle with only myself in it, on a journey of a few miles is frankly pointless.

  • Wesley Johnston

    “Frankly I think the places where we measure cars have reported decreased numbers”

    I believe the planners thought of this potential issue. The survey work methodology was to place a virtual “cordon” round the city centre. Surveys simultaneously measured traffic flows at *every* street that crossed this cordon. Hence it would not be possible to enter the city centre without being counted, no matter what route you followed. The figure of 10,900 fewer vehicles per day was derived from this survey being repeated before and after the lanes went in. So, objectively, this shows that there are now fewer vehicles in the city centre than before the lanes went in.

    You can read the full report here: http://www.drdni.gov.uk/belfast_on_the_move_-_post_implementation_impact_study_-_report_-_updated_april_2014.pdf

    The traffic flows have certainly changed. There’s less traffic in front of and behind city hall. Great Victoria Street is slower than it was. Westlink is busier. Other streets are undoubtedly affected too.

  • cimota

    You’ll forgive my scepticism. I wouldn’t trust them to go down the shop for me yet I’m meant to believe them about the cars into belfast across a hundred roads?

  • Guest

    A total of 17 roads crossed the cordon. If you’re saying they’re lying, then there’s not much anyone can say to that. 🙂

  • Wesley Johnston

    A total of 17 roads cross the cordon. If you’re saying they’re lying, then there’s not much anyone can say to that. 🙂

  • Neil

    I don’t understand why car sharing hasn’t become popular with commuters in Belfast. It’s cheap, more flexible than public transport, comfortable, and could take thousands of cars off the road each day.

    https://carshareni.liftshare.com/

  • Neil

    I think you’re rather dismissive of your fellow commuters with that statement.

    I’ve made countless journeys on public transport, probably more than a thousand, and I am struggling to think of more than half a dozen occasions where I resented the presence of a fellow passenger.

    I can remember three very drunk people who should not have been allowed on the bus, a couple of gobshite spides, and a couple of people with bad BO.

    Occasionally someone wants to have a conversation, but is that really a bad thing?

    Metro services were not as reliable as they should be, but all things considered I saved many thousands of pounds by not buying and maintaining a car, I got to relax and ignore other road users, and used that time to read scores of books.

    In other words, public transport is not quite the nasty, ebola-ridden beast that you seem to think it is.

  • kensei

    Allow full cars to use the bus lanes. Raise fines and heavily enforce against abusers, at least at start. That would probably encourage it.

  • kensei

    Why not just make bus travel free on main Belfast commuter corridors? The cost could be shared between the council and the Assembly. It’d probably have a net economic benefit.

  • AndyB

    Read Cimota’s blog on http://www.cimota.com where he proposes exactly that. It’s very well worth a read and to be taken seriously.

  • AndyB

    Problem is that the police rarely enforce bus lanes as it is!

  • AndyB

    You see, that’s exactly the problem. Too many people insist on driving because they want to, not because they need to, which wrecks the place for everyone who has no choice and slows up the traffic and the economy, and helps push prices up in the shops.

  • AndyB

    Neil, you have probably been using public transport for over 30 years like me to have that sort of statistics 🙂

  • AndyB

    Neil, taking a journey requiring two Metro buses is usually too expensive in cash and takes too long to be economical for most commuters – especially as, all other things being equal, a through traveller can get round the worst of the congestion via other routes one way or another.
    Speaking of inconsiderate drivers, last night I went down Oxford Street as Donegall Quay had been virtually empty. I then crawled past Central Station for 10 minutes, and had to wait through a full change of the lights at Short Strand – reason: idiots just crossing from Ravenhill Road to Short Strand and stopping in the middle of the junction because there was nowhere to go and there was no way for me to get past them to the lovely empty asphalt beyond on the Albert Bridge Road.
    So frustrating, and causing such needless congestion just because they couldn’t get where they wanted to.

  • Neil

    I’m still in my 20s 😉

    I used to commute using 4 buses per day – Ulsterbus into the city, connect to Metro bus to get to my office, then the return leg in the afternoon. It was certainly not a perfect way to travel, but I saved a fortune and the journey was usually stress-free.

    Buying journey cards and putting credit on in advance made the journeys very good value, a Metro ticket purchased like this would cost only £1.15. Annoyingly though, I had to use two cards, one for Ulsterbus and one for Metro, so there was no integrated ticketing.

  • Neil

    If I bus it into town I’ll get dropped off near Castle Lane and have a 20 – 30 minute walk to work. So yeah, that’s why it’s a non starter. I park cheaply (you can get parking for around a pound a day in Belfast if you search around) so it’s cheaper for me to drive, and I don’t have a long walk, or the further expense of a second journey to deal with. It’s a no brainer really. Spend less and take the car is the obvious option. Like many people if I could save sufficiently I wouldn’t be able to not take the bus.

    Re: your second point, you may then have experience similar difficulties heading towards town, past Central at the exit to the Markets there is a set of traffic sensitive lights. They turn green when the buses drive towards them, and on passing through the light on the left of the road the bus then has to cut across 3 lanes to the far right hand side of the road.

    Then another bus arrives. Then another. Before you know it you have 3 or 4 buses cutting across 3 lanes of traffic, blocking everyone in and preventing people from continuing their journey. By the time they get out of the way another bus or two will have made it to the lights and there’s nothing you can do but sit there and look at the empty space where your car should be if it were not hemmed in by buses crossing three lanes of traffic.

    Many people, and I’m one of them, have no faith that the people who put that in, did so wisely, or are getting the necessary value out of some of the lanes/lights. As someone above has said and I myself said on an earlier thread, the notion that BOTM could be implemented by a few fellas with tins of paint is beyond ridiculous. The notion that every lane and bus friendly light is working well is also BS. Bearing in mind they removed one bus lane because translink admitted that no bus would ever drive in the bus lane because of it’s position (twin spires). They’ve made mistakes – we know that for a cast iron fact. The question is how many have they made, and if they can locate the issues will they have the stones to admit their mistake and put it right.

  • Ian James Parsley

    Glad I read that! Agree with every word.

  • Ian James Parsley

    I can’t find my piece now, but I have proposed similar – at least, in the sense that the assumption should be that off-peak bus travel should be free and any charges introduced should be clearly explained.

  • Ian James Parsley

    I “work from home” and can vouch for that!

    To the extent I often choose to get the train to Caffe Nero…

  • Ian James Parsley

    The big advantage, which I believe is due by end decade (Andy or Wesley will know), will be the “Dualling” of the line across the Bridge into Central. Just in time for it not to be called Central any more, probably…

  • chrisjones2

    Why don’t we simply install a giant printing press in Stormont to churn out fake £20s

  • chrisjones2

    …but many of the locals let out their car park spaces or protect cars for a small fee per day. You would ruin a local industry

  • chrisjones2

    Yes…it was the last straw…the determining factor

    “The problem is addiction to driving when it isn’t necessary”

    Thank you for taking upon yourself the right to decide my life and how I will run my business. I am thinking of having another child. Any suggestions? Where for the holiday next year? Greece? Turkey? Dinner tonight? Pasta? A Tagine?

    It is so much better when you have a self appointed expert to tell you what to do

  • chrisjones2

    You mean the civil service? Yes..like that will happen

  • chrisjones2

    “It has to hurt to work ”

    Oh yes…spank me Minister ……I have been very naughty wanting to go to work

    Surely that’s much more DUP or SDLP than UUP though

  • AndyB

    Chris, you could be one of the very many who cannot go about their business without driving, but my point remains that there is a minority who insist on driving at all times, whether necessary or not, and regardless of the impact on everybody else.

  • AndyB

    Funnily enough, I never have that problem on East Bridge Street. It’s usually the opposite – cars are blocking the exit from the bus lane so that buses can’t get across at all! On top of that, the lights are now turning to green again before the bus gets there.

    The lights at Oxford Street cause a lot of problems as they are very badly phased. If that were fixed, it ought to be easier now that most buses only have to cross a single lane.

    As for the bus lane you refer to in Howard Street, of course it shouldn’t have been painted yet, but it has a future use when BRT vehicles go right the way down and back up.

  • AndyB

    Don’t they already have one?

    Think about it, Chris. Assuming you can’t get to and from your work without driving, massively reduced or free fares would cost the taxpayer and ratepayer more, but everyone who needs to drive would have a far easier time going about their business.

  • chrisjones2

    Perhaps you are thinking of simple office based firms that make money shifting paper opr data .Those in the real economy move people and goods

  • AndyB

    Yes, that has been my point from the beginning. Those who have to drive because they are moving people and goods are suffering because selfish individuals insist on putting their cars on the road when a single bus (or even a full car of fellow commuters) would get them to work and home again straightforwardly.

    Perhaps you should read the other posts in this series.