The city of Sydney is proposing a plan to improve bus transportation by altering traffic light sequences and allowing buses to smoothly navigate through crowded intersections, in hopes of encouraging more people to choose public transportation.
The New South Wales government’s bus industry taskforce has proposed a plan in its white paper to improve bus services. This plan aims to address common passenger frustrations, such as lengthy waiting times, delays, and being stuck in traffic.
The white paper discovered that Sydney’s traffic congestion is discouraging employees from taking buses, resulting in the NSW economy losing tens of millions of dollars annually due to wasted time.
According to the research, the impact of traffic on buses in the greater Sydney area is causing residents to lose $53 million in productivity. This cost is projected to increase to $140 million by 2036 and $230 million by 2056.
According to the white paper, implementing “bus priority” measures like bus lanes and adjustments to traffic light signals would encourage people to use buses instead of cars by improving the frequency and reliability of bus travel.
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John Lee, leader of the taskforce and former head of the NSW State Transit Authority, compared the proposal to the biblical tale of Moses dividing the Red Sea.
Lee stated that instead of using the Red Sea, they plan to use red paint to designate bus lanes. This will involve reducing the amount of space on the road for cars and allocating it for buses.
The current priority lanes in Sydney use a “B light” system that gives buses the first chance to accelerate. The proposed technology would function similarly to the way trams on the light rail network control traffic lights. “The bus communicates with the upcoming lights and they change automatically, eliminating the need for bus drivers to wait.”
Lee suggested that the preference for train infrastructure in development plans may need to be reevaluated due to the increasing expenses of construction. He also proposed that implementing rapid bus routes could be a more cost-effective and efficient alternative.
The document outlined a total of 39 potential fast bus routes with frequent service across the six cities of greater Sydney, including Newcastle, Illawarra, and far western Sydney. Lee is optimistic that approximately five of these routes will be chosen and implemented in the coming years.
He stated that the majority of traffic intersections are capable of implementing bus priority, they just need to be activated.
The main focus of the article is the effectiveness of the B-Line, which is currently the only rapid bus route in Sydney that runs from the CBD to the northern beaches. These buses, which have two levels and are given priority at lanes and traffic signals, operate every three to four minutes during peak hours, every 10 minutes during off-peak times, and every half hour from midnight to 4am.
After its launch in 2018, the B-Line was found to decrease travel times by approximately 15%. Studies show that the B-Line has led to a 5% decrease in the number of cars used for daily commutes between the northern beaches and the city, according to Lee.
“The evidence lies in the results: the number of people present,” stated Lee.
The taskforce has identified a significant issue of a shortage of bus drivers throughout the state. This shortage is expected to worsen during the upcoming construction on the Bankstown train line.
To prepare for the growing scarcity, the government has implemented rewards for drivers, including complimentary use of public transportation and a $6,000 cash reward for new employees.
David Babineau, the secretary for the New South Wales division of the Rail, Tram and Bus Union, supports the widespread implementation of special traffic signals. This would prevent buses from being subject to unpredictable traffic conditions.
“He likened it to the contrast between riding your bicycle in Sydney versus riding in designated cycleway areas – you have the assurance of safety,” he stated.
Harri Bancroft, the Committee for Sydney’s mobility adviser, expressed that implementing rapid bus routes is an affordable and effective method for improving our public transportation system.
The Minns government established a taskforce after receiving complaints about inadequate service due to contracted companies. This led to the elimination of multiple routes and accusations that private operators were deliberately canceling services to maintain their on-time performance goals.
Natalie Ward, the spokesperson for the opposition on transportation, expressed disapproval of the white paper and Lee’s salary. She stated that the proposals offered no help for commuters.