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Tuesday, October 24, 2006

HOV 3 Lane Project a complete failure

Many of us travel on the N1 Ben Schoeman highway from Pretoria to Johannesburg during peak traffic hours to get to work in the mornings.

Those that do were met with a traffic jam worthy of writing home about yesterday morning, 23 October 2006! I was so fed up by the time that I arrived at work that I wrote the following letter to the South African Department of Transport and also to the Pretoria News letters page.

Re: the article by Trevor Goshi called "N1 dedicated lane aims to change behaviour."

I travel to Woodmead from Pretoria every day. I leave at 05:50 every morning and get to work usually at 06:45. Sometimes I get to work a little earlier at 06:40. However, my average travelling time is 55 minutes. This morning was the first morning of the HOV 3 Lane Project. I decided to remain in the middle lane for the duration of my trip.

Instead of travelling for 55 minutes, this morning it took me a full 1 hour and 55 minutes. That is more than double the time it usually takes!!!

In my opinion, this idea is like a still-born baby. It is a dead project from the beginning.

Most cars with less than 3 people tried to stay in the first two lanes, and as a result the right-hand lane moved much faster than us. Yet, there were empty taxis, empty buses and trucks with only the driver that travelled in the right-hand lane! It is quite pointless to have these High Occupancy Vehicles (HOVs) use the right-hand lane when they are empty!

This is most certainly one of the most profoundly stupid ideas that the government has ever come up with yet!

Existing road usage laws could have been used to ease the traffic currently on our highways. The one that would have been most effective would have been the 3 second "following distance" law! The highway gets congested because people do not keep their distances and as a result the traffic does not flow but "concertinas." If people kept their following distances then the flow from entrances onto the highways would be easier when they merge with highway traffic. This law should have been enforced, rather than disadvantage 90% of cars travelling between Pretoria and Johannesburg!

That is my piece for now!

Well, a reporter from the Pretoria News called me this morning and wanted to know more. He asked me some questions and then asked me to keep in touch in order to give him more info about how it is going with the HOV 3 Lane Project.

Click picture to enlarge

The amazing thing is that yesterday afternoon when I left work for home, I reached the Buccleuch Interchange and we really travelled through that interchange at a snail's pace. It usually takes me one hour to get home in the evenings. However, it took me one hour just to get through the Buccleuch interchange!

And you would never guess what the cause of this delay was! Oh, you know?! The Johannesburg Metro Police!

If you look at the map you will see that there are three circles on the map. The circle at the top marks the Allandale exit. There was an accident just north of the exit. Now, the idea with this HOV 3 Lane Project is to give preference to vehicles with 3 or more people. However, with this accident blocking the first two lanes we just could not move. The Metro Police had a new baby project to enforce, and enforce it they would! The first two lanes were practically standing still.

However, the right hand lane had very few cars in it and these cars were really motoring. What these police officers would do is to stand on the edge of the third or right-hand lane and force cars with less than three occupants to move over to the first two lanes.

With an accident ahead, I would have thought that it would be MUCH MORE important to get traffic flowing than to enforce such a puerile idea as the HOV 3 Lane Project!

This government of ours is trying so hard to create car free days instead of organizing CRIME FREE days!!! Read about the crime in my suburb!

At the bottom of the map you will see a big circle surrounding the Buccleuch Interchange and a red line with an arrow pointing in the direction of traffic flow. From the left-hand edge of this circle on the N1 to the first little circle with the N1 sign in it, it took me an hour! One of the square blocks on the map equals 1Km (0.62mi)! The distance covered in that one hour is less than 2Kms (1.24mi)!

The most amazing thing of all is that the officials from the transport department and the Metro Police saw the first day of this foolish endeavour as a success!

The problem with deciding that it was a success is that these people do not ride this road everyday to get to work and back! So, it is easy to make such a horrendously foolish statement!

The government wants less cars on our roads, so they want us to ride in lift-clubs. My problem with this idea is that:
  • I am the only one in my company that travels to Woodmead from Pretoria.
  • We all work on different time schedules. With my extra-curricular involvement, I can have up to 3 meetings in one week after hours. I need my car in order to make these meetings. These meetings can be anywhere from Pretoria to Alberton.
  • If I am part of a lift-club, then I will always have to wait for others before we go, or if I need to get home for one or other reason I will have to wait for the driver of the day.
Further, the government also wants us to use part of the proposed Park&Ride facility. There are three pick-up points in Pretoria and three drop-off points in the larger Johannesburg Metro. We are expected to leave our cars at the pick-up points and then to travel with these vans to Johannesburg. Three vehicles leave every 15 minutes from 06:00 to 08:30. Each will take you to a different drop-off point: Jhb CBD, Sandton and Rosebank. From there we are expected to put our lives at the mercy of kamikaze taxi drivers that we all too often see manoeuvering their mini-van taxis very daringly on our roads. Next, we have to somehow make it back to these three drop-off points that become pick-up points at 15:30 in the afternoons. See the schedules here.

It has been said of this government:

"Everytime they make a joke it is a law, and everytime they make a law it is a joke!"

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