Should LTA decide to take the "wrong-way" approach, it’s going to be very interesting. What happens is that buses will get their own lane (or lanes) on an opposite-moving direction. If we look at at from a broader perspective, it is essentially a 2-way street, assuming a single-direction road, with buses occupying the lane moving in the opposite direction. However, if we start having specialized lanes for buses, won’t that mean widening more roads (at the expense of road tax payers?)  for only a single purpose?

I’m not sure… this is rather new to me although it’s supposed to be implemented in Taipei. Hmmm… anyone been to Taipei?

IMAGINE a road having traffic headed in one direction and the buses moving in the opposite one in bus-only lanes.

It may seem odd at first, but this system is in place in some cities.

Called the contra-flow bus lane, it keeps buses and other traffic out of each other’s way. It is one of several ideas the Land Transport Authority (LTA) is considering to keep traffic here moving.

Other ideas – such as a tram system and separating bus lanes from other traffic with barriers – have also been raised in the Land Transport Masterplan, which was launched on Sunday.

Besides throwing up such ideas, the plan is also a statement of the direction the Government plans to take in land transport in the next decade.

This includes committing to concrete plans such as increasing the frequency of buses, building new rail lines and cutting road tax.

With better scheduling, buses in bus-only lanes can be timed to arrive at shorter intervals, in a convoy and much like ‘rail-less’ trains, LTA Chairman Michael Lim said last year.

Contra-flow bus lanes, already in use in Taipei, Chicago and parts of Britain, promise faster commutes.

Taipei resident Madam Yang Yo Huo, 46, said such bus lanes halved her usual 40-minute commute when they were introduced four years ago.

Explaining how they worked, the advertising executive said: ‘No cars dare to cut into the buses’ way and cars also benefit because they have more space on their side.’

Several overseas reports have, however, cited safety concerns, in that pedestrians might look the wrong way when crossing roads with such lanes.

The management of traffic flow at junctions, when bus lanes cross with those for other traffic, is also a concern.

MP Ong Kian Min, who is on the Government Parliamentary Committee for Transport, said public education and good signage should lessen the safety concerns, but added that the managing of traffic at junctions would need to be studied.

He said the system would benefit high-traffic Shenton Way and Orchard Road.

Industry watchers have recommended a tram system for these two thoroughfares as well as the new downtown in the Marina financial district.

Trams – found in San Francisco, Bordeaux and Melbourne – are considered high-quality public transport alternatives offering the reliability of a rail network and the flexibility of a bus system.

Orchard Road will have its right-most lane closed as part of its makeover and a tram system could be installed in that lane to move people up and down the strip.

The LTA said motorists are not likely to be squeezed out because that lane is not much used anyway.

But Mr Ong, sceptical about the effectiveness of trams, said they were more a ‘novelty’ than ‘a real way to mass-move people’. A monorail, elevated above the road, might be less disruptive, he suggested.

The other idea raised – that of segregated bus ways – would be an improvement over the existing bus lanes, said the LTA.

It added, however, that because putting up barriers would permanently keep other motorists out of the one or more lanes designated for buses, this idea had to be mulled over.

mariaa@sph.com.sg

Article obtained from straitstimes.com on 1st April 2008 – on this day, Gmail was launched as a beta invite-only service



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