• Fri
  • Dec 26, 2014
  • Updated: 10:38pm
NewsHong Kong

Bus operator calls for priority lanes as 'private cars are clogging up the roads'

Operator seeks bus lanes and right of way as it blames rise in private cars for congestion that has increased journey times by up to 30pc

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 4:14am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 January, 2014, 9:42am

The largest franchised bus operator is calling for new road rules to give its vehicles priority, saying excessive private car growth is causing congestion that has increased its journey times by up to 30 per cent.

Kowloon Motor Bus says traffic jams, aggravated by big construction projects, are occurring across the city and affecting almost all of its routes.

"It is now everywhere … not just the busy urban corridors, but even far away like Yuen Long, where congestion is a daily norm," KMB corporate affairs director Vivian Chan Pik-kwan said.

Changes sought by the company, which now runs 3,800 buses, include more bus lanes and rules that require private vehicles to give way at bus stops.

Chan said the number of licensed private cars had risen from 370,000 to more than 470,000 in the past five years, while the number of KMB buses had dropped from more than 4,000.

In the same period, journey times on 99 per cent of its routes had increased by an average of 17 per cent. The biggest increase was 30 per cent, but Chan did not name the route.

She said congestion on Nathan Road, in Tsim Sha Tsui, alone affected up to 800,000 commuters a day.

"I am not saying all [the extra] cars are running on the road on a daily basis, but even if 3 to 5 per cent of them do so, it can still have a serious impact on us," she said.

But a member of the Hong Kong Automobile Association questioned whether private cars were being used as a scapegoat for companies that failed to operate efficiently and make profits.

"The fact is that that bus operators are now facing heavy competition from the mass transit systems and they have not done enough to reverse the trend," said Ringo Lee Yiu-pui.

Chan also said KMB, with 70 per cent of its 400 routes making a loss, hoped to rationalise its routes by merging or cutting under-patronised services.

KMB had recently reorganised its routes in North District and would do so in four more districts later this year, she said, but progress had not been satisfactory.

"No matter how far we go in rationalisation, the benefits it delivers will not materialise if there is serious congestion on the roads," she said.

A spokesman for the Transport Department said it had been in talks with KMB to devise traffic management measures so that the firm could provide efficient services.

Aggravating the problem were construction projects that left less and less space on the road for vehicles, Chan said.

She cited work connected with construction of the cross-border express railway near Austin Road in Tsim Sha Tsui and of the Sha Tin-Central MTR link, which has blocked three of six traffic lanes along part of Ma Tau Wai Road in Ngau Tau Kok.

KMB is seeking a 4.3 per cent fare increase, even though it raised fares by 4.9 per cent last year. Its daily patronage has dropped from 3.1 million in 2002 to 2.6 million.

Meanwhile, the company is in talks with the Environmental Protection Department over sites to house charging facilities for eight electric buses it plans to introduce by the end of this year.

The single-deck buses, using mainland-developed "super-capacitor" technology that enables them to be charged en route, will run a five-kilometre service between Ping Shek and Eastern Road near the old Kai Tak airport.



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One of the reasons I understand for the slow progress of bus route rationalisation is the reluctance of District Councils to give into the idea of taking something away (I.e. Underutilised bus routes) from its constituents irrespective of whether they use it or not. Like former KMB route 70 which ran from Sheung Shui to Jordan which ran (roughly) parallel to the MTR East Rail line and that took a while to reach an agreement to get it cancelled. People also don't like the idea of interchanging because of the convenience of a door to door service, and not having to change from having a seat at one service to standing at the next service for instance, especially if you are already near your destination.
150 people riding on a bus vs 1 self centered imbecile in a car... now who should get priority?
The bus companies have to start to think out of the box and rationalize their operations. E.g. ban all bus routes from roads like Nathan Road, have only one high frequency shuttle route going up and down Nathan Road and exchange terminals in 3 dedicated areas where people can interchange between the Nathan Shuttle and all other routes. The majority of passengers on buses which pass via Nathan Road don't get on or off at Nathan Road. This majority of passengers needs to by-pass Nathan Road which will reduce the number of buses in Nathan Road significantly and in particular the jams caused by multiple bus routes fighting for a spot at bus stops at the same time.
Apply this principle to all similar location e.g. Hennessy Road, Queens Road, Connaught Road to name just a few. Only passengers getting on and off in those roads are "inconvenienced" but they make only a small percentage of patrons of the routes that pass through today. The majority of passengers are "through" passengers.
The photo with this article says it all: there are simply too many buses vying for space on the roads as routes and schedules need to be rationalized. I don't see any private cars in the photo. With Octopus card data, bus companies should be able to know which routes and which stops are not needed and when passenger traffic is high or low.
I used to drive from Sai Kung to Wanchai daily but finally gave up. Sure there are many private cars on the roads creating traffic issues but cars and buses tend to be on different roads. Hennessy Road, where the photo was taken, is the LAST road I would drive on due to the congestion of buses as shown. The reason I gave up driving is congestion at the tunnels and getting tunnel traffic sorted out would make major improvements in the Island's traffic (2 new tunnels are needed: North Point to Kai Tak and Tseng Kwan O to somewhere on the east end of the Island).
That's a gross generalization - bus utilization is rather low due to route overlap and proliferation of bus lines. The photo says it all - there are so many busses on the roads that they clog up some of the major arteries.
They already know what needs to be done. This has been studied for ages. But there are politics getting in the way: you cannot take away the route because of local officials that want to keep it as a "benefit".
One of the main reasons for traffic jams in Hong Kong is merging traffic. Each merging process slows down traffic. In particular when drivers don't allow other cars merging. We need regulations and a change of traffic arrangement to overcome this.
1. Prohibit lane jumping. It's a typical HK habit to jump from one lane to other and back. Each time the traffic slows when the jumping car merges.
2. Reduce lanes for toll booths at tunnels. Have only as many Autotoll lanes as lanes in the tunnel plus 1 lane for cash which charges higher than the Autotoll lane and let the cash lane merge via a traffic lights. Improve the Autotoll system to make everybody using Autotoll e.g. taxis.
3. Have dedicated merging areas and make it an offense if the zipper principle is not applied.
4. Make it an offense if drivers don't allow merging.
With such measures many traffic jams won't happen in the first place.
Although a car owner, I always use public buses when visiting Central and Causeway Bay. Why? Because I am not selfish.
1. Central and its environs can be totally clogged by vehicles, many privately owned with a driver who parks with impunity, and often at bus stops.
2. Where lay-bys are provided at bus stops, these lay-bys are invariably too small for the modern super large double decker so they are forced to occupy a thru lane. If the bus uses the lay-by, it is not given priority in rejoining the traffic stream.
3. Ice House Street is virtually a one lane road due to parked cars.
4. Chater Road between the Mandarin and Princes Building is virtually a one lane road due to double parking at Princes Building, and unloading at the Mandarin.
5. All these roads have double yellow lines. Where is the enforcement?
6. And now the Government is proposing selling off the Murray Road and Rumsey Steet carparks for more office space. This will bring more private vehicles to Central, and also drastically reduce car parking spaces.
7. Park and Ride, or shuttle buses through Central, require considerable space for interchange, and are not really a practical option. Just imagine the transferring passengers from, say, 10 super large double deckers (1,000 passengers) to 50 twenty seater shuttles.
8. What is required is (a) enforcement of existing traffic laws, (b) enhancement of existing traffic laws, and (c) road pricing which was initially proposed in early 1980.
Just like they have pedestrian zones they should have bus only zones. Cars should be banned from Mong Kok between 6 am and 9 am and 5 pm to 7 pm. Or something similar to UK where they pay to enter zones or receive a ticket. this would cut the number of cars in those zones substantially and make public transport faster.
There also needs to be bus rationalization. I don't bother running to a bus as I know another will arrive in 2 minutes (or less). I think they could cut buss routes by 20% and increase times by 30% and also more people will use busses if they are faster (increased revenue for decreased costs)
That was not the point.
Again: what if a bus is full?



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