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Friday, October 27, 2006

HOV 3 Lane Project a complete failure - Part 3

I am hoping that this would be my final installment on the HOV.

Yesterday, while driving home, I decided to use my phone a little bit constructively. I took some pictures of the cars and traffic around me.

We were traveling slowly most of the time, so I thought that I'd get some pics for this post.

Here I am going through the Buccleuch Interchange at a snail's pace.

Naturally, while sitting in traffic like this, there is a lot of time to do some thinking. I was wondering why the government would want to come up with an idea like this. Who would really benefit from this? Surely, when they thought of this idea, it must have crossed their mind (I hope) as to who would benefit most from HOV?

Asking that question in the negative may also be a bit revealing. Who would benefit the least from such an arrangement?

In this pic on the right you can see one of our "highly esteemed" taxis dashing across a solid yellow and white line. This is one of the "small" taxi infractions. They would usually come from behind on my right from the highway, ride on the right-hand side of the solid white line till they get to the position in this pic and then decide whether to go to the left or the right. In the past, before the HOV started, they would get to the front and then dash across to the yellow shoulder on the left of the left-hand lane at this position. That way they would cruise as far as they could without being stopped by the Metro Police (MP).

In fact, these taxi drivers have become quite pushy on our highways to the extent that they will drive on the outside of the white or yellow lines and simply shove the noses of their taxis in front of the car where they would want to push in. It has come to the point where it seems that they feel it is their right to drive
anywhere and anyway they like to.

Again, I noticed the police standing on the right of the HOV lane. In this case, they were just standing there doing nothing. In fact, I saw several MPs standing there having a good chat ignoring the traffic.

However, there were those MPs who deemed it their job to instruct non-compliant vehicles to move back to the middle lane. This became a bit of a laugh, since many drivers simply ignored the police and carried on driving in the HOV lane. Like this vehicle on the right, there is just no way that it could have had 3 or more occupants!

Other drivers would quickly jump back into the middle lane about 100m
or so from the police and then only meters after passing the cops would they get back into the HOV lane! There is very little regard for the cops or this new HOV lane. And, it is not a case that only whites or only blacks showed contempt, but all kinds of people ignored the rules regarding the HOV lane!

What frustrates people is that the left and middle lanes are sometimes jam-packed while the HOV lane is free flowing with large gaps between cars! Then it is expected of non-HOV vehicles to just keep moving at a snail's pace while the HOV lane is quite capable of taking more traffic. Traffic rules should be used to keep traffic flowing, not stifle it!

Back to the question I asked in the beginning: who would the HOV benefit the most? It seems to me that it certainly would not benefit people with their own cars most. As I have explained in part 1 of this series, I am the only one in my company that travels from Pretoria to Johannesburg. I would even venture to say that there are many cases similar to mine. The point is, if those who drive this route everyday are compared as a percentage of all people working in Johannesburg, then I am sure it would make up a small percentage of the whole.

What does that mean? The chances of finding someone who lives relatively close to you in Pretoria and who works for the same company or another one close by, are quite slim. Include into that the fact that most people, even in the same company simply do not work the same hours.

If you are wondering what happened to the answer to the initial question: I am getting there!

Now, the reason given by the Department of Transport for this "brainy" project, is to minimize the amount of vehicles on the road and the stress they cause on the existing road infrastructure. The fact is that this will not happen until we have a good public transport system (PTS)! Without a good, reliable PTS, people that have their own vehicles will not opt for anything else. Yet, I am sure the government knew this even before they thought of this plan.

So, what remains? Who will then really benefit from this?

Who cannot currently afford their own vehicles and MUST make use of the currently dismal public transport system or buses and taxis? It is sad to say, but the black people of this country cannot afford it yet. Further, the voter base of the ANC led government is mainly black. It is my contention, that the HOV project seems to me to be more a political venture in order to secure the loyalty of the ANC's voter base, than it is to make life better for all South Africans!

Almost all taxi drivers are black, and therefore make up a considerable amount of the ANC's voter base. They are the ones that would break the laws on road use most flagrantly. They are also the ones that, in my opinion, are the most dangerous drivers in this country. Obviously not all of them! There are those that stick to the rules of the road. However, every single day, as I travel through places like the Buccleuch Interchange, these taxis would be traveling on the yellow shoulder to bypass the traffic. And, it is never just one or two of them! I have counted as much as 15 at a time doing this! With the new HOV, they would no longer have to jump from lane to lane, or even yellow shoulder to lane, in order to get to their destination as quick as possible. They would have their own lane to use with no interference from those pesky car owners!

Just yesterday, there was a taxi strike in Cape Town that turned violent. These taxi drivers complained about cops giving them fines. Why would cops give them fines? For a total disregard for the rules of the road and for unroadworthy vehicles! Do they not get it? Break the law and you must be punished. I guess they would rather want to, as taxi drivers, have the right to drive what they want, where they want, anyhow they want without fear of the law! The fact is that taxi drivers like to see themselves as a law unto themselves!

It amazes me that, when the government shows its incompetence in creating better, affordable traveling infrastructure, they would rather punish the people of this country than provide real solutions. They hardly punish the ones who cause the problem, and would rather like to make it easier for the unruly voter base to be appeased. This concept of government is quite glaringly obvious in the fact that this government is doing their best to remove guns from the hands of law abiding citizens while criminals run around with AK47s! Yet this is another subject not at hand right now.

I just hope that the government will sit and think hard and continuously for more than 5 minutes before they decide that the HOV pilot project was successful and then to implement it!

The real challenges are still ahead!

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