Bus lane cameras in review

Some months ago I rather foolishly said that “[bus lane camera] success will only be if the number of fines issued diminishes rapidly over the next number of months, because that will be the indicator of a change of behaviour – the real purpose of the cameras.”

So, in the week that DRD released figures on bus lane camera tickets being issued since June, it feels like a pretty good time to see if I need to eat my words.

Bus Lane/Buses Only Street Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs)
*Jun-15 Jul-15 Aug-15 Sep-15 Oct-15
Albertbridge Road   7 1 3 2
Andersonstown Road   4 6 2 2
Antrim Road 10 22 14 23 30
Castle Street (Fixed Camera) 835 1,748 1968 1466 1515
Castlereagh Road (Belfast)       7 11
Chichester Street       2  
Cregagh Road       5 3
College Square East (Fixed Camera) 189 379      
Donegall Square East (Fixed Camera) 625 3,006 3695 1185 2662
Donegall Square South (Fixed Camera) 58 217      
East Bridge Street (Fixed Camera) 245 250      
Falls Road 56 167 84 27 64
Great Victoria Street (Fixed Camera) 316 2,091 2425 103  
Kingsway, Dunmurry 14 5 11 1 7
Lisburn Road   3   10 5
Ormeau Road 17 4 30 12 17
Queensway   6      
Saintfield Road 11 7 10 29 12
Shankill Road 4 2      
Shore Road 22 109 12 65 48
Upper Lisburn Road Finaghy     3 17 3
Upper Newtownards Road (Belfast)     1 5 22
Upper Newtownards Road (Dundonald)   44      
Upper Queen Street   2 9   3
Victoria Street   12   1 3
Whitewell Road       3  
Woodstock Road   1 5 7 1
York Road   10 3 7 5
York Street 14 3      
TOTAL PCNs 2416 8099 8277 2980 4415
           
Income (£) received in respect of PCNs issued within the time periods above 67,760.00 308,645.00 304,426.05 100,705.00 138,240.00

June’s figures refer to one week only, as only warnings were issued for the first three weeks.

The total for the period up to the end of October is certainly big, but there is a massive difference between the figures in July and August on the one hand, and September and October on the other.  I want to watch what happens in November and December, but there was a collapse in the number of tickets issued between the summer and the autumn – and even though October was substantially up on September, it was still significantly down on the summer.

Significantly, four of the fixed cameras didn’t detect a single motorist in October, and of those only Great Victoria Street detected motorists in August and September.  The mobile camera caught 408 motorists in July, 189 in August, 226 in September and 238 in October.

So what of Castle Street and Donegall Square East?

I’ve noted before that the bus/cycle only section of Castle Street probably has very little to do with buses, and a great deal to do with making the city centre a better and safer place for pedestrians by preventing rat running – except that it was widely ignored, not unlike the general ban on motor vehicles in the city centre other than permit holders, loading and blue badge holders.  Within a few months of the introduction of the restrictions, the “No motor vehicles except buses” signs [Not “No flying motorbikes? “- Ed] were replaced with “No entry except buses and cycles” to emphasise the restriction, but it seemed ineffective as motorists continued to drive straight through as the restriction was never enforced until the camera was installed.

It’s frankly disturbing that all the signs – the No Entry signs, the yellow signs in Royal Avenue and Castle Place stating no entry to Castle Street, and signs in High Street and Castle Street (Streetview a little out of date – is now No Motor Vehicles) stating the restrictions on motorists – aren’t enough to stop 50 determined motorists every day.

It’s equally disturbing that all of the following have barely had an impact on the number of motorists prepared to insist on illegally crossing from Donegall Square South into Adelaide Street:

Alban Maginness is hardly unique in refusing to believe “that thousands of people have deliberately driven into the bus lane in Donegall Square East” – several other politicians have said as much – but faced with so many road signs placed to attract their attention, there are only three plausible explanations for their behaviour:

  • drivers are not paying attention to what is going on around them, including believing sat navs over the evidence of their eyes (careless driving)
  • they do not know the meaning of the road signs (no defence in law, and the Highway Code has told them what bus lane signs mean for the last 40 years), or
  • they are wilfully ignoring them – and then blaming the cameras for getting caught.

The correct route to that part of Adelaide Street is incidentally via May Street – either using Chichester Street and Montgomery Street or Donegall Square South, Bedford Street, Franklin Street and Alfred Street.  The restriction appears to be so that buses can get out of the stops in Donegall Square East to turn right into Donegall Square South with less conflicting traffic.

So, at this stage, two cheers out of three for the bus lane cameras substantially stopping abuse of bus lanes in Belfast.  Only once the selfish driver behaviour around Donegall Square East and Castle Street changes can we give the third cheer – whether DRD earns £0 or £2,000,000 a year from the cameras is entirely in their hands.

  • AndyB

    Nothing of what you have proposed is politically acceptable. As I said, the Greenway is lost to Sustrans. The Lagan is still navigable between Stranmillis and Belfast Lough, and losing that amenity would not be acceptable – if anything we should be looking at recovering rivers, not culverting them to be like the Blackstaff, Clooney and Farset.

    North Belfast is coming down with schools, yet you want more traffic on the roads travelling across the city (including the extra traffic to accommodate hundreds of school pupils who could no longer get the train to school from North Down), or else to ship them out to Lisburn – where they won’t travel, creating pressure on oversubscribed schools in North Down, Ards and East Belfast.

    North Belfast will have its own problems soon enough with UUJ closing and relocating to Belfast with little thought given to transport infrastructure.

    Nobody with any sense would operate trams along the peace line. Even if the kinks were ironed out, it would be too much of a target.

    In the end, your whole plan is way too risky. Would QUB and Methody sell for enough money? Doubtful, and you’d have to persuade both, especially considering that Methody is very much privately owned, that they wanted to move.

    Making it easier to drive will do nothing to promote public transport, given that it’s already (relatively) cheap, and will just bring more cars onto the road. Environmental targets will be missed, and Belfast will not be a nicer place.

  • Gopher

    All I see is empty trains and buses, sorry.

  • AndyB

    Not the ones I see. Are you sure you and I work and live in the same city?

  • Gopher

    Everything I suggest is practical. Big bit of land on North Foreshore, Plenty of Land on County Down side. Plenty of land beside MI and Railway beyond Lisburn. If Methody for example or Queens don’t want to move cut off Government money and let them rely on fees and see how “private” they are. You can’t object to such methods as you have advocated them with regards motorists throughout your posting

  • AndyB

    That’s because roads are not there for the benefit of motorists. They are there to move people and goods.

  • chrisjones2

    Should it be a matter for the planners or the people?

  • AndyB

    Apparently the people want greenways and public space in East Belfast.

  • Gopher

    Yes, bus just drove past me a double decker with 6 people on it in a bus lane

  • AndyB

    In any case, the people vote for parties with policies to reserve roadspace for buses.

  • AndyB

    I wonder whether it was going to its last stop and about to turn round and go back out of town full!

  • chrisjones2

    “is politically acceptable”

    To whom. Have they been asked?

    “if anything we should be looking at recovering rivers”

    What on earth for?

    “you’d have to persuade both, especially considering that Methody is very much privately owned”

    But the space taken up by all these bus lanes was owned by all road users and it was just kidnapped

  • chrisjones2

    Again, you’re missing the point.

    It’s not drivers that could use the bus that are inconveniencing drivers. Its bus lanes imposed that are lightly used and as at May St buses that wont use their lanes and drive on the rest of the road blocking other vehicles

    It’s planners wedded to a myopic policy and a weak Minister who are inconveniencing those drivers and destroying the commercial centre of the city

    Taking away bus lanes would just create less congestion. Simple as.

  • Gopher

    Two Blue buses just past other way, first double decker 8 other single decker 6

  • AndyB

    Chris, that is completely irrational.

    If more drivers used the bus, there would be more space for cars. That’s plain and simple.

    While there are issues with bus drivers not using bus gates (which has incidentally improved, as those of us who use Belfast do know), they cannot be forced to do so. We’ve been through that before – there is no such thing as a lane which may not be used by buses.

    All I can do is reiterate that if the bus lanes were abolished, buses would slow down, passengers would drive instead, and there would be more congestion as a direct result.

    It is myopic policies such as were followed right up into the 1990s where buses just had to sit in traffic all day so that they became more and more uneconomic and passengers deserted them in droves to use their more “convenient” cars that has left us where we are.

    Making it harder to use public transport will simply make the roads full again, and we will be worse off – and the economy will suffer.

    So, in short, what you are saying is provably nonsense.

    Roads are for moving people and goods, not cars.

  • AndyB

    Oh, that’s easy. Since there is no public Ulsterbus Service 8, and nor has there been since 2005, and Ulsterbus Service 6 runs from Ards to Bangor, they must be school buses carrying their last few passengers to the end of the journey.

  • AndyB

    Polticians of all parties get their ears bent on a regular basis on the subject of public amenities including parks and other green spaces. Ask them.

    Rivers, yes, for people to use.

    The road space was not kidnapped. You can still use it any time in an appropriate vehicle – that is, if you have any respect for the law of the land. Remember, you can vote for politicians who will change the law.

  • AndyB

    And what is wrong with giving priority to more efficient forms of transport than the private car?

  • Gopher

    8 and 6 people on board respectively. since those two a further 4 buses two singles and two doubles 6, 12′ 10′ and 8 respectively

  • AndyB

    Thank you for clarifying. It may astonish you to hear that buses into town, even for late night shopping, aren’t as popular as buses going out of town.

  • Gopher

    These buses are going both in and out of town on a main route and are empty at peak times. Bus lane are a nonsense a Doubledecker just past going out of town with 4 people on it.

  • Gopher

    6 buses to move 50 people plus the bus lanes. It’s not good

  • AndyB

    Funny how the same buses are full when they pass Central Station!

  • AndyB

    However, it’s also fair to say that bus carrying figures at 5.20pm when there is late night shopping are going to be skewed.

  • Gopher

    Funny that you don’t work for translink by chance

  • AndyB

    Definitely not. Since i use my true identity, I would have been sacked long since.

  • Gopher

    Well just had the fullest bus here, 20 and emptiest 0. Buses and bus lanes are not the solution and as other posters have stated are making the problem worse.

  • AndyB

    Except that it is an established fact that that statement is false.

    More people accessed Belfast city centre after the bus lanes were brought in than before.

    Your solution is to destroy green space and architectural heritage in the city, and run trams through spaces currently used for abusing “themmuns,” and instead to encourage more car use.

    That does not work. More car use is the old tired strategy which got us in the mess in the first place.

  • Dan

    Shore road at Jordanstown was a disaster for years as two lanes were funnelled into one. Result, tailbacks for miles, every day. Now widened, the road flows freely.

    In Belfast, where two lanes are funnelled into one throughout the city, the traffic is tailed back and a complete mess. Funny that.

  • AndyB

    Well, as I’ve already pointed out, it’s the choice of the car drivers to funnel into one lane on a Sunday. Nobody is forcing them.

    Shore Road Greenisland is a very different story. No point having a bus lane as it wouldn’t gain them any time.

  • chrisjones2

    Fine… all I can say is that I dont shop there anymore. Too much hassle

  • chrisjones2

    In a few years you will get in tell the car where you want to go and it will drive you there. The main danger you will face is being run down b one of Andy’s wonderful buses

  • chrisjones2

    ..and its not even the planned Ballymena Bendy Bus any more …its a foreign bus

  • chrisjones2

    …you could force them at gunpoint?

  • chrisjones2

    Chris, that is completely irrational.

    I just copied what you said and inverted it

  • chrisjones2

    “You can still use it any time in an appropriate vehicle”

    In other words I cannot use it as I wish Its amenity has veen stolen from me

    “you can vote for politicians who will change the law”

    No I cant. This was never in the UUP Manifesto

  • AndyB

    Its amenity has not been taken from you. That’s like complaining when your street is made one-way and you can no longer drive the long way round.

  • chrisjones2

    You keep coming out with this utter guff. These core principles only exist in your head and are the self justification for interfering in people’s lives .

    Your approach to motorists is the Transport equivalent of the DUPs homophobia

  • AndyB

    Precisely. In other words, you are speaking from ignorance – an incredibly dangerous practice.

  • AndyB

    I AM a motorist!

    I am also a cyclist, and a pedestrian. I work in city centre Belfast. There are many journeys I cannot make by public transport, or they would take too long and cost too much (for example seeing my parents) or be utterly inconvenient (grocery shopping.)

    Private cars are certainly needed as part of moving people and goods, because of how much cannot reasonably be done without them.

    But that is where it stops.

    Responsibility to other members of society, to the economy, and to the environment requires that people start thinking of how their choices affect others.

    My gay friends getting married doesn’t affect me or my marriage beyond the likelihood of getting an invite. Your and my choice of whether to drive does affect others.

  • barnshee

    students getting up earlier ??.
    Some mistake surely

  • Dan

    Bus lane on station rd creates ridiculous tailbacks too on a daily basis. Can’t recall ever seeing a bus on it.

  • AndyB

    I’ve just looked at the timetable for Station Road heading towards the roundabout, and it’s terrible in the morning. I wonder if it was a victim of the service cuts in August, which would at least make some sense of it having been put there!

  • Neil

    I think Andy that many people feel that in this day and age, with the projected transport issues in this city in our future that a combination of bendy buses and DRD with a tin of paint is not a suitably ambitious approach.

    I salute your unwavering support of Translink, I find it odd I have to say. My own experiences, the anecdotal experiences of everyone I know, and seemingly many of the google results for Translink related info seem fairly negative, including a few questioning whether or not we really needed a 200k big chief, or whether hiking fares by 8% while claiming 120 million in subsidies at the time the big chief was getting paid over 15k a month was a good idea. So some people think Translink is not so good, some people will question the value for money and I think it’s entirely justified to do so, given the sums involved and the total absence of any motivation to provide value for money tax payer backing provides.

    I look at West Belfast – Blacks Rd is right there by the railway line. East Belfast is the same. Is it entirely unfeasible to try and use those? How about a tramline down the side of the M1? How about an L train? Any of these options would allow drivers to use the roads and provide good public transport, but I have my suspicions that the idea of forcing people onto public transport trumps all considerations.

    Finally I say that in terms of lost trade in Belfast you are very dismissive based on the fact that shopping numbers have increased. I’m suspect about that due to the number of empty shops I see, but it’s also disingenuous. No one can argue definitively whether things are better or worse than they would otherwise have been without bus lanes as the bus lanes were introduced at a point during a recession where as time went along more people were spending more money. Whether there would have been even greater numbers in the city in the absence of bus lanes as more people entered work and prices dropped will never be known. I personally have avoided the city where possible and so it seems have many others.

  • Dan

    That’s been an ongoing problem there, years now. If there have been service cuts, there is even less need for the lane, and it should be removed.
    No doubt a review process of the effectiveness of such lanes isn’t in place. Once they’re in, that’s them forever no matter what disruptive effect they have on the motorist and traffic flow. (That’s the objective too, right? )

  • AndyB

    I can only put my hands up on that one and say that it needs to be (at least) reviewed to either rip it out or get more buses down it.

    Can I suggest going straight to DRD, as I’m doing right now? https://www.drdni.gov.uk/contact

  • Dan

    I shall. Let’s see what happens

  • AndyB

    Yeah, there are several key problems.

    1. Ambition of approach – The problem here was that trams, which would have cut the mustard, came back at too high a Net Present Cost, essentially because the infrastructure investment required was so high against the income from additional passengers. I don’t know whether the impact of reduced congestion was properly factored into this (something I want to challenge, actually) but the decision makers will have been only too aware of how many people are looking over their shoulders for wasted money.

    2. My support for Translink is not unwavering. I challenge bad driver behaviour all too frequently, although the other day I was on to them about a bad passenger (didn’t ring the bell, didn’t walk to the front of the bus, and wondered why the bus didn’t stop to let her off, and abused the driver!), and if I think they’re wrong, I will say so.

    However, things like the subsidies Translink get are rarely put into context – I’m one of the very few to bother, and I’ve done it on this site often enough, including comparisons with GB practice which show pretty conclusively that we get public transport on the cheap. It isn’t credible that private transport companies could run Translink services for as little cash, or that privatisation would magically heal all ills, providing better services at lower fares, but the proposed model would see fares set by DRD (so no cuts) and minimum service levels set which would probably be less than Translink now operate. The deregulated model followed outside London would almost certainly result in higher fares, next to no competition, and fewer buses – but I’ve been through all that before. http://sluggerotoole.com/2015/04/21/1-1-billion-running-public-transport-to-stand-still/ and http://sluggerotoole.com/2015/05/30/experiences-of-bus-privatisation-in-gb/ come to mind.

    It’s all about perceptions, regardless of the evidence that we get it on the cheap, both as ratepayer and customer.

    3. The railway lines are already doing pretty well! The Park & Ride at Blacks Road is the wrong side of the M1 from the railway line, which kinda rules that connection out (forward planning, anyone in DRD?) and I’d say, all things considered, that the Bangor and Lisburn lines probably have railway stations in the right places. There used to be a halt at Victoria Park, but a couple of years after it closed but before it was fenced off, my grandma was told that they could at that stage arrange a special stop, but before it closed it was used by one or two people each day.

    A new station on the Portadown line west of Knockmore Junction with Park & Ride has long been proposed, but never seems to get off the ground. Ballymartin Park & Ride could still have a railway station, but there’s actually a good reason for its absence: the trains are full leaving Mossley West, and an extra stop would mean nowhere for Mossley West passengers to stand.

    You’ll notice I left out the Larne line, but that’s because I think it needs at least one more station between Yorkgate and Whiteabbey.

    4. In terms of rapid transit, I’m not sold on converting the railway lines. Partly because of the Enterprise, and partly because it won’t improve access to public transport – we know extra frequency would be good for increasing passenger numbers (although it would come at the cost of losing express services to Lisburn) but putting trams somewhere else would gain new markets from people who won’t use buses – nor do I think the political will exists to run Bangor-Lisburn at L train frequencies, with extra rolling stock needed, signalling alterations, additional subsidy, and Great Victoria Street already running near capacity.

    5. I’m not sure about a tramline along the M1. There are space constraints, which can be got round, but with a railway line on the other side, would it get many new passengers? Where would stations be? Would it be a great deal of use to locals?

    6. I can only appeal to Wesley’s commentary at https://wesleyjohnston.wordpress.com/2014/06/07/belfast-on-the-move-are-traffic-levels-really-lower/ and the original document at https://www.drdni.gov.uk/publications/belfast-move-post-implementation-impact-study which reveals a 6% increase in people coming into the city centre in the morning peak and .

    While I don’t have figures going further back, I know they are currently carrying out traffic surveys (the tubes which go across the road), and I also know my own observations from living in South Belfast from 2006 to 2010, when I saw train usage increase considerably before the recession even ended. I’d suggest though that 2011 is post-recession.

    I still maintain though that Belfast City Council failed to capitalise on the bus lanes to promote Belfast as an off-peak shopping destination. Yes, the peak is far worse for the private motorist determined to use their car, but what about the rest of the day?

  • AndyB

    Hopefully they’ll do something – removing the signs and road markings is enough to make the legislation unenforceable.

    There’s a danger they mightn’t find the money to lift the paint on the road, but I’ve suggested they could look stupid if the less friendly parts of the media (or indeed hostile MLAs) catch on. I also wrote to a friendly MLA.

    I think I got to the bottom of it – most or all CityExpress buses used to go that way, but nearly all of them run via the Doagh Road instead now.

  • Dan

    Most of the summer, the signs were obscured by over growing branches, but that’s another story.
    It’s a farce though. I’ve seen the cops ready to pounce on anyone who dares stray into the unused lane approaching the roundabout,
    Hope we’ve started a process to see it go

  • AndyB

    What, the police were enforcing bus lanes? I thought that only happened in fairy tales!

  • kensei

    Current system:

    Hateful public services – infrequent, inconvenient, unpleasant, expensive (regardless of comparisons to England) and slow.

    Hateful driving experience: Belfast is continually congested even during the day now, in part due to all the bus lanes. Now compounded with fines all over the show. Not that I’ve been hit, but the spate of fines in the first month are at least in part due to people not understanding the new system, signs or not.

    So hateful all round. Spend the money to do it right or stop annoying everyone.

  • kensei

    Don’t subsidise. Let them go bust.
    When there is a skeleton service then people will be happier to pay for something functional. Sometimes you have to clear to build.

  • AndyB

    Well, at the moment, Translink bus services are subsidised to the tune of a few thousand pounds for the rural transport fund, or is it only hundreds now? As I’ve pointed out, every local bus operator in GB gets paid thousands of pounds towards their fuel duty. We don’t.

    They also get refunded for carrying concession pass holders, but that’s not subsidy to keep services running as such. That’s making up for being denied cash income.

  • kensei

    If people don’t read the signs then the system doesn’t work and you need an alternative.

  • AndyB

    What do you think “doing it right” looks like?

    As for confusion over the “new” system, it’s been in place for three years. It’s hardly new (and I watched another idiot cruising into the bus lane at Donegall Square East earlier and keeping going into Adelaide Street)

  • AndyB

    If people don’t read the signs, it’s their own fault, and they’re not fit to be on the road. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink.

  • kensei

    The roads were built for man and not man for the roads.
    People can be stupid. Any working system needs to account for it.

  • kensei

    Free bus travel through Belfast’s arterial routes combined with increased service. Widen the roads. Do something about the appalling rail link to Dublin.

    All needs money. But well spent, if the traffic clearing produces a ROI.

  • AndyB

    If people can be stupid, they shouldn’t expect a great deal of sympathy for something that isn’t exactly rocket science.

  • babyface finlayson

    kensei
    I don’t think it is asking too much to expect people to be able to read the signs. We do it every day with signage all around us.
    It is true some people stay out of the bus lanes when they are not operational due to stupidity or caution perhaps. In time they will figure it out. In the meantime it allows me a nearly empty lane, provided I keep reading the signs.

  • AndyB

    Free buses: Believe it or not, DRD is prevented from subsidising anything other than loss-making services! That’s the reason why local authorities in GB haven’t been allowed to subsidise cheap fares since deregulation in 1987 (primarily to stop potential operators from being excluded from the market.) Only if commercial fares aren’t enough to make money are they allowed to subsidise, and the days when DRD subsidised Citybus are long gone.

    On that thought, coming back to it, if DRD did provide funding to Metro to operate buses for free, then they would have to offer the same funding to private operators wishing to take on routes Metro didn’t wish to operate – something which I think is theoretically possible, much as it seems unlikely given that any service abandoned by Translink seems to stay that way!

    If the law changed, yes, free bus travel with increased service would be fantastic. Matt Johnston (www.cimota.com) has discussed it at length, although I see pitfalls.

    Widened roads: I’m on record as saying certain road works need to be done to take through traffic out of the city centre – York Street junction, Inner Ring from Dublin Road to Cromac Street, and Sydenham Bypass/Dee Street. What they all have in common is that there is room to do the work. Beyond that, short of unacceptable demolitions, there isn’t a great deal of scope.

    Rail link to Dublin: Yes, but there are two problems, of which only one is within our gift to tackle. We could order additional stock to achieve an hourly service (alas ruled out by DRD) but the congestion created by the DART is still going to be there until the Irish Government changes policy and decides to build a third and fourth track from Connolly to Malahide.

  • citybus

    I’m the opposite to Chris & Dan. I’m more likely to shop if there are less cars. To me
    the whole point of town is that it is more pedestrian friendly, where
    you can walk around easily without spending too much time waiting for
    the green man or worrying about getting ran over. The city centre may have lost your custom but it will gain business from people like me. Looking at it from a business perspective you could argue that the city centre should be focussing on
    it’s core market- which is people not driving. Whereas shoppers who
    don’t want to get out of their cars can be catered for in one of the
    suburban shopping centres which are aimed at them anyway. Andy’s figures suggest the loss of chris et al will be more than made up for by people like me. I think it will be a long time before this is proven right or wrong but reducing car traffic seems to me to be a sensible way of managing limited road space in this area.

  • kensei

    Stop subsidising TransLink. Nationalise the carcass. Fairly confident there’ll be upteen funding models that would bypass any European legislation.

  • AndyB

    Translink is nationalised, and is already the least subsidised in UK and Ireland. EVERY local bus operator in GB gets 89% of their fuel duty back, and almost every local bus operator gets subsidy to operate non-profitable services – even if they are making enough profits on other routes to cover those losses.

    Translink doesn’t – cash and concessionary fares pay the wages, government buys the buses.

    They’re also subsidised to operate railway services, as despite the best pipe dreams of the 1950s and 1960s, they can’t be made to pay as there is no fare that would meet all the operating costs without losing most of the passengers due to unaffordability.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Chris, this, like most of your contributions to this discussion, is a combination of lies, exaggeration and ignorance. The “bus gate” on May Street is not “half the road”. It’s a section well under 50 metres at the back of city hall.

    The bus gate is there to allow buses to have priority when there is heavy traffic. When there is no heavy traffic there is no cost to buses going around the bus gate. No motorists are delayed any more than they otherwise would be in these cases.

    You can’t claim that bus lanes are a waste because buses are rare and empty all the time and then at the same time try to say that motorists are being held up by buses not sticking to the bus lanes.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    The system doesn’t work – or the fines simply aren’t steep enough ?

  • Catcher in the Rye

    Shore Road at Jordanstown was only a disaster because traffic increased. The increase was caused by the fact that A-class roads were built on either side with a big motorway connecting them to the city centre.

    It is equally valid to observe that building more roads causes more congestion.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    There are multiple routes to the from the Doagh Road and Rathcoole area to the A2 and on to the M5 which do not involve driving down Station Road.

    And given that most traffic movements in the morning are towards the M5, there is effectively a one-lane bottleneck at the roundabout onto the A2.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    if the cops were on station road it’s more likely to have been to catch people speeding. People assume that since the lower half has no houses they can do 40.

  • Catcher in the Rye

    All of those options are very expensive, and would simply stave off the problem for another 10 years until traffic grew to the point where we would be back where we are now.

    Wouldn’t it be easier to just pay for more bus services ?

  • AndyB

    In fairness, it’s easy to go over 30 accidentally down there. I actually wonder if it should be increased to 40 due to how little development there is.

  • AndyB

    You can turn right from the left hand lane, actually

  • Gopher

    Fact. When the schools are off traffic falls off a cliff. It seems the parents dont want to pay off/lease a car and pay for a weekly ticket for their children. You know how many bottles of wine you could buy for that amount? Secondary schools and the “working class” arnt the problem they generally exist where the pupils are. Punishing drivers who arnt involved in non productive travel is insane and thats all your doing. The problem is clear. Denying the road space to commerce to have empty buses and as I demonstrated they are empty, 6 buses plus bus lanes to move 50 people at peak is not efficient.

    Your belief in train usage is also touching, outside peak the trains are empty. Thats a hell of a lot of infrastructure to do nothing. I agree the Belfast Dublin line needs keeping but as for the rest a better alternative has to be found whether simply turn them into roads as they lose money or some form of light railway or tram system has to be considered. Both automated and both electrified.

    I’ll repeat there is an epochal change in commerce occuring and denying punters access to the city centre through bus lanes because daddy wont stick his precious middle class kid on a bus or train is lunacy. Not understanding that is the problem is also lunacy.

  • AndyB

    I am sorry, but that is absolute nonsense.

    Grammar schools are not the sole preserve of the middle class. You have a fixation about grammar schools that would make us think that they are the problem, but magically ignores the congestion that exists miles away where other schools dominate demand.

    The reality is that “daddy” is actually sticking his precious middle class kid on the bus or train, as is obvious to anyone who gets a train anywhere between Bangor and Lisburn, or gets buses between Newtownards and Belfast.

    I’ve also explained that the fall-off in traffic during school holidays is not just because children don’t have to be taken to school – a considerable amount is because workers are taking time off to either look after them at home, or go on holiday.

    As for trains, again your obsession with the private car is blinding you.

    Converting trains into trams isn’t going to magically make them profitable.

    Turning railway lines into roads would make congestion worse. We’ve been through this on this site.

    You can’t get a proper road down a railway line, it’s too narrow.

    You could get a busway down a double track railway line, but even the buses required to replace the trains (at least 60 allowing for people who won’t use buses) would be a drop in the ocean – you’d maybe take a dozen service buses off the roads each day because the roads still need to be served – so even before people refuse to get buses because they’re not trains, congestion would be worse.

    Evidence? Every time a railway line is closed for engineering work, passengers vote with their steering wheels, partly because they don’t like buses, partly because the buses are so much slower. That has been put into sheer relief by the collapse in public transport demand in Crumlin, Glenavy and Ballinderry when the GNR line to Antrim closed.

    You allege you are concerned about commerce, yet your every statement suggests the opposite. Your concern is solely the private car and individual convenience, and you are blind to the consequences for congestion of making it more difficult to use public transport. In short, if you slow public transport down by doing away with bus lanes and making it easier to drive, congestion will get WORSE. That will keep more people away from Belfast city centre, and have far wider implications as it becomes more difficult and takes longer to deliver goods.

    My concern is the ability of everyone to get about their lawful business. The evidence is that we cannot all do that by private car.

  • Gopher

    I waited to today to reply until the schools are off, it was a pleasure to drive to work this morning, little traffic. It is you that are talking nonsense the problem is the school run as demonstrated today. The buses are the same btw empty. You are trying to apply solution to the wrong problem. Deal with the school problem you solve the traffic problem.

  • AndyB

    It is not that simple.

    Of course the school run takes cars off the road, lots of them. It also takes buses off the road as the public service can be run with fewer drivers.

    However, the holidays take a good number of other drivers off the road. People who have to stay home to care for kids. People just enjoying the holidays because they can. The evidence of that is in how the roads get significantly busier during August before the kids go back.

    Secondly, moving schools miles away will move the traffic problems, not get rid of them, and also lead to more people driving as I’ve already explained – never mind the lack of capacity of more local schools to cope with additional demand. It is no panacea – if the Maze site already cannot cope with the Balmoral Show traffic, how could it cope with exhibition traffic as well as daily school and university traffic? It would also see a lot more people being forced to drive journeys that they can currently make by public transport, or having to drop children to school whom they are currently happy to stick on the bus or train.

    So there are your questions. If you move Inst, Methody, QUB and Victoria, how do you cope with the extra traffic at the Maze? Where do you put pupils who live in North Down given most of the schools are oversubscribed, including my old school Regent? How do you deal with extra traffic to Belfast High, BRA, Bloomfield, and Strathearn who are probably also oversubscribed? What about the popular secondary schools?

    If you move school start times, how do you tackle work-life balance for the teachers and parents who can currently get kids to school on the way to work? How do you deal with the rising cost of childcare for those who do not have the luxury of working short hours to collect children from school? (I have friends for whom work barely pays after paying for childcare as it is!)

    And how do we meet pollution targets if we make people drive more?

  • Gopher

    You have to deal with the problem you are dealt with and the resources you have. With Northern Ireland’s limited budget you simply can’t stand on convention. You cannot rule out integrating education both of gender and religion and the subsequent rationalising of locations to generate revenue to spend on infrastructure. Ineffecency in Northern Ireland is rampant nowhere more so than education which as I have proved is the cause of congestion. I’m sure the rationalisation of Schooils would have a positive effect on childcare.

  • AndyB

    With Northern Ireland’s limited budget, you cannot waste money moving schools ten miles away, not only leaving behind inadequate provision for areas whose local schools are already oversubscribed, but also having to spend money on new roads to the site (see also the alterations to the Gransha Road roundabout due to the relocation of Bangor Grammar School, only a short period of time after the last resurfacing and resulting traffic increases, not least due to the inconvenience of public transport.)

    The outlay would be massive – we don’t have that sort of money, and of course it runs into one massive problem:

    They are private property. Unlike secondary schools, and certain other grammar schools owned by the Government of NI, the schools and QUB cannot be forced to sell their premises and relocate except in particular circumstances defined by law, any more than you can be without a lawful reason for a compulsory purchase order.

    Nor can the Department of Education make any serious threat to dispense with their services. I don’t know the full arrangements, obviously, but I believe that the schools comply with the Schools Inspectorate and other legislation made by DENI and in return they are funded to deliver education to age 18 in accordance with the National Curriculum and for GCSEs and A Levels etc.

    If Methody, for example, were to go completely private instead, DENI would have a crisis with school places.

    The other question is whether selling the Belfast properties would actually yield the income you imagine. It may well do, but would it cover the relocation cost, including all the road improvements required?

    You and I can absolutely agree that the divisions in education come at a massive cost in wasteful duplication of services, however moving and amalgamating oversubscribed schools isn’t going to solve that, because of the knock-on effect on schools already over-subscribed and causing significant local congestion outside south and central Belfast.

    In the end, all you’ve shown is that education is a major cause of congestion, which we already knew, but you haven’t identified how to deal with the consequences of moving several schools ten miles away, either to the area where they will be located, or on pupils who would need to be accommodated in non-existent school places closer to home.

    Example? My nephew, who moved to NI last summer, had serious trouble finding a school place in second form – the local secondary had no places at all, and he has to travel several miles each day to the nearest school with space. It isn’t convenient for his mum, as it isn’t economical for Translink (or any other bus company, to be fair) to operate a service from anywhere near his home to his school, but the journey has to be made.

    He lives in Co Antrim, by the way, not North Down.

  • Gopher

    Why bus lanes then if it is the school run not comercial traffic gumming up the roads? There has to be a better way. That is the point I’m making. To be fair today the buses going into town were quite full later in the day, the problem being it was mainly kids who dont drive anyway that were on them! Irony or what.

    Strathearn and Campbell are beside each other, Campbell has plenty of grounds. I’m sure Strathearn would be worth a few quid to developers in leafy East Belfast. No road improvement required as they are on top of each other as it is. We have alot of inefficency mainly in education we could get sorted out, that being one example. With integrated education both of Gender and Religion there are massive savings.

    Once the problem is agreed then a solution can be found. We go to great lengths to fill in Census form every ten years so we know where to put schools and we know land in the centre of Belfast is worth money. Its not rocket science. Like I said the world did not end with Bangor Grammar moving out of town.

    I am very pro Grammar Schools by the way I’m just not pro single gender , mono religous ones founded in the 19th century when people lived beside the actual school or had no bloody choice but to get the train to them. This just does not work nor happen in the 21st century and its strangling commerce in the town centre.

    Online shopping exists, its effiecent and it has largely free delivery. Boucher Road has free parking, all the shopping centres have free parking. You think John Lewis are thick for wanting to go to Sprucefield?

    Other things beside rationalizing education need to be considered to raise money to get decent infrastructure. Selling one or more of the airports, whether “all” civil servants should get free parking at their work when the private sector have to pay for theirs. Would reciprocal toll booths near the border to compliment the ones in the South, benefit or hinder finance generation.

    Once you have the money you consider what scheme to put in place, then you have to consider should we use routes that exist like the Connswater, like the Greenway, like the Lagan, like the Foreshore. Should the needs of the many outweigh the housholds affected?

    One thing I am sure we are stuck with useless bendy buses and the problem will get worse unless somebody shows some guts and starts making the correct choices.

  • AndyB

    Why bus lanes if it’s the school run? Because it never was the school run, it has always been the practicalities of moving everyone at once. Your solution would actually increase the number of people needing to be moved at once.

    Moving Strathearn into Campbell’s grounds is unlikely to get past the planners, and if it did, a lot of people would be complaining to their Councillors. Perhaps if they hadn’t closed Cabin Hill, but that’s another story, but there are definite benefits to traffic in having them half a mile apart at the moment (and yes, I have driven that road at the wrong time – I dread to think what Belmont Road would be like if all the buses arrived at Campbell at the same time, given that 1.5 times the number of buses, or even more, would be needed to serve a united school. The Holywood Road is bad enough with the two Ashfield schools…)

    The evidence is that bus lanes aren’t putting people off coming into town – there was even a queue of people crazy enough to pay over the odds to park in Victoria Square this afternoon!

    Things to sell… Fewer civil servants have parking spaces than you realise. It’s mainly concentrated in Stormont, which suffers from poor public transport connectivity – I can’t even remember if staff working in Airport Road West get free parking unless they meet the criteria (incidentally, disabilities first, and senior grades and those who need to travel for work in no particular order), but in the city centre the vast majority of civil servants, including (especially?) the ones in Castle Court have to use commercial car parks at proper prices.

    Only City of Derry Airport is in public ownership, and selling it would only benefit Derry and Strabane council. I’d personally be in favour of road tolls, actually – they would have to be carefully placed, as the success of the ones in the south is their placement relative to something people don’t mind paying a couple of euro to avoid like the plague.

    So the short version is that things to sell are surprisingly few. Selling Belfast Harbour has the problem of selling the family jewels – you can only sell them once, and you lose the income permanently. It’s very short term. Similarly, I reckon that if Translink could be sold off to the advantage of NI, Stagecoach or First would have got it years ago, with or without the railways.

    An argument I’d use against giving up the Lagan, for example, is that properly used, it should be a tourist trap. The foreshore is devoted to industry, pretty much (and there’s something at the back of my mind about difficulties with using the former landfill site for building anything.)

    The greenways have the power to lose politicians real votes, and leisure cyclists can become commuter cyclists (but please not lycra louts) – but again, in come environmental targets. More roads and more vehicles using them is bad for environmental targets which are binding on us.

    I don’t see us getting the money. Giving up on the tram idea was bad, and I would love to know more about the methodology and how much value it attributed to reducing the number of vehicles in peak traffic.

  • Gopher

    1/ You cant get it past planning law reform the law, your the government for crying out loud. Sorry I forgot ours are useless

    2/ Christmas. Its a provable fact people take leave of their senses at Christmas come mid January tumbleweeds will be blowing through Belfast

    3/ Stormont is an ideal place to test civil service parking charges and that brings them into line with their comrades in Belfast. Schools also have plenty of teachers that drive that should really be paying for their parking.

    4/ Compulsory purchase order backed by legislation for selling one or more of the airports. Or if you feel a bit Machiavellian just give one airport a shed load of benefits and put red tape in the way of the others until they go bust and get them cheaper.

    5/ The case for toll booths at Newry to tax traffic especially those using Dublin Airport a pound or two I think is worth considering. Considering they are doing it to us!