Thursday, September 25, 2008

No new road regulations ! A letter to VicRoads !

VicRoads is the Victorian government authority in charge of roads, road laws, speed limits, regulations and traffic signal timing. There has been a huge protest over the State Government's proposal to extend clearways in commercial areas to 6am-10am, and 3pm-7pm.

Angry traders and residents took to the streets at Bridge Rd in Richmond, High St in Armadale, Toorak Rd in South Yarra, High St in Prahran East and St George’s Rd in North Fitzroy around 9am.

The latest protests come as the Herald Sun revealed VicRoads received 783 submissions about their plan to extend clearways. Only 20 or 2.6 per cent, declared support for the State Government's proposal.

I encourage all readers to leave VicRoads a complaint on their feedback form.

Let them know that the roads are already over-regulated, that we need less restrictions, less parking and speed regulations, and certainly congesting the road with more mobile barriers (a.k.a trams) is not going to alleviate congestion.

VicRoads use false reasoning to suggest that extending clearways will benefit half the galaxy:
Clearway changes will benefit over 300,000 tram and bus passengers and over 250,000 private vehicle road users in Melbourne every day – this is not reflected in the submissions received.

Thats it.. thats the only reason provided for the clearways which has angered so many local businesses and traders. Here is my letter to VicRoads.


I am writing to express my strong opposition to the proposed extension of clearways. The reasons given for the extension of clearways are very superficial, they are based on assumptions that do not hold up to scrutiny and they do not present a strong case for the new regulations.

On your website, the only defence of the clearway extension was as follows:

"Most submissions were critical of the decision to change clearway times, but it is important to note that the ‘silent majority’, who may be pleased with, or indifferent to, a particular issue, may not be motivated to respond to a call for submissions. Clearway changes will benefit over 300,000 tram and bus passengers and over 250,000 private vehicle road users in Melbourne every day – this is not reflected in the submissions received."

Firstly, those figures and the benefit they convey are grossly overstated. Will every single motorist and public transport user, regardless of what time of day they use the roads, benefit ?

And what is the value of the benefit ? Is the reduction in travel time significant ? Is it negligible due to other bottlenecks in the road system ?

Secondly, it is downright dishonest to assume and declare that the silent majority are most likely supporters of whatever legislation is being implemented.

There is not one public statements where VicRoads has even acknowledged the costs of this new legislation.

Obviously there is the loss of revenue to traders and businesses. There is also the cost of new signage, additional parking enforcement and probably some advertising costs in some "public awareness campaign" to explain the changes.

Then there is the cost to motorists who are looking for parking during these extended times, as well as the threat of being penalised with huge fines at specific times of the day, even if they make an informed judgement that there is very little traffic flow and that parking would be a good use of the public land. The hardship and burden placed on many motorists alone would outweigh the small benefits in travel times.

As it stands, our roads are already over-regulated.

Another aspect that shows that the legislation will not accomplish its so-called intention is the focus on supporting trams and increasing the number of trams in service as a method of reducing congestion. Common sense dictates that trams cause massive congestion, perhaps more than any other vehicle. Trams effectively occupy 2 lanes of traffic, especially when they stop or when they turn corners. They never travel at a speed that matches the flow of traffic, and they seem all too keen to observe the timetable regulations and arrive at a specific time, even if it means travelling at half the speed limit when no traffic is in front of a tram.

The amount of congestion that can be seen behind a tram is astonishing, and I cannot see how more of these mobile barriers can solve congestion when they are the problem itself.

Putting aside the astronomical cost of tram infrastructure, tracks, electrical cables and stops, there is absolutely no justification for the continued use of trams except perhaps in the Melbourne's inner CBD.

The glaring reality is that every single tram can be immediately and easily replaced by a bus service, with not one significant drawback to any commuters.

Buses do not cause congestion, are cheaper, do not require tracks and overhead grids, and do not cause massive blockages when stopping for passengers.

I hope somebody in VicRoads does a serious consideration of these suggestions, and that they consider simplifying our road system, removing trams, and allowing a free community where commuters use their own discretion and judgment to determine the when/how and where of each journey they undertake. Parking restrictions have absolutely no benefit, and a huge cost to society. The idea that employing an army of public servants to impose fines on parked cars, and that society is more prosperous as a result, is yet another underlying assumption that needs to be examined.