May 16, 2008

Video cameras in buses for bus-lane enforcement

"Our road users lack discipline!" is a lament I hear often, especially in developing countries. For example, differing views over road-user discipline have played a big role in the problems of Delhi's BRT project (try googling Delhi BRT discipline).

Alas, respect for most traffic rules depends on consistent enforcement.

It would be nice if all traffic rules commanded so much respect that they did not need to be enforced. But unfortunately most important traffic rules fall outside our internal moral codes. Even the rules with serious safety implications, like speed limits, do not seem like an ethical issue to most people. So without enforcement, many people ignore traffic rules.

Singapore's bus lanes are no exception.

Singapore, for example, is finding the need to beef up its enforcement of its bus lanes. Bus lanes are actually not the toughest enforcement issue in urban transport but they are an important one, despite their humble image.

Soon, Singapore will join other pioneers in using bus-mounted video cameras to record bus lane violations. The cameras are inside the bus and are activated by the driver at the touch of a button.

I wonder if they are using the same system that has apparently worked well in London, where:
... the enforcement of bus lanes has been very successful with the number of contraventions from bus mounted cameras between July 2000 and July 2005 per hour of viewed footage reduced from 12 to 0.1.

Photo by Terence Ong

Here is an excerpt from one of the news reports (temporary link?) on Singapore's bus camera plans:
CUT in front of a bus which has the lane all to its own and you risk getting yourself on tape - and a $130 fine.

Last year's Land Transport Authority (LTA) trial of video cameras fixed on buses to capture those who stray into bus lanes will go full steam ahead from June 2.

Eleven new stretches of road - all in the Central Business District (CBD) - will be made full-day bus lanes by then as part of efforts to get bus speeds up.

Ninety buses which use these lanes will have the cameras installed in front, next to the bus captain's seat.

Bus captains who spot other motorists in their way need only press a white button to record the scene unfolding in front of them.

The time and date will be recorded as well, followed by a five- to 10-minute clip. The video will go to the LTA and the errant motorist can expect a summons within two weeks.

Of course, camera-based enforcement depends on having a reasonably reliable vehicle licensing system with up-to-date driver addresses for mailing the fines out.

One nice thing about bus-mounted cameras is that they capture only violators who get in the way of an actual bus. This seems fair and well targeted.

By the way, Singapore's 'all-day bus lanes' mentioned in the report are a recent initiative that is now being expanded. "Singapore's Land Transport" blog has more on this and a nice map.

Finally, if all this talk of rules and enforcement irritates you, then you might like an earlier post which discusses the shared streets approach. At low-speeds, many road rules become redundant.

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