Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Line Up

We've had them for a couple a months now and I've resisted the temptation to talk about them.  The new Give Way rules, that is.  But I think two months is enough for me to form an opinion, and here it is.  I don't like them.
As an undergraduate in the 1990s I was taught the theory behind the old give way rules.  It seemed sound, but there's nothing like field data to prove a theory or otherwise.
Blenheim Road is now atrocious.  It used to be bad.  The queues of people waiting to turn right now extend to block the centre lanes, because they are required to give way to all straight-through traffic and all left-turning traffic.  The capacity of the road has, effectively, been halved.
Elsewhere I've noted people changing their routes to jump queues.  I'll avoid a complex description of the network arrangement, suffice to say that people are choosing a longer route through what were previously quiet residential streets, in order to get the right-of-way turn into a merging queue.  If I lived on one of those streets I'd be a little miffed.  And the extra distance needs a little bit more fuel.
I have an enormous amount of sympathy for truck drivers.  The ones I've seen stuck at traffic lights with no right turn phase, waiting for a gap big enough for their truck, seem to be boiling over with frustration.  I expect they have adapted fairly quickly and now take routes that minimise their chance of being held up.
The justification for the changes was pretty poor.  Firstly, everywhere else in the world uses our current rules.  And secondly, it will stop tourists dying on our roads.  There are some benefits, then.
But there are costs.  I've observed that the rules have changed congestion patterns and, in my opinion, have made traffic flow less smoothly.  Over the next two to ten years, traffic engineers will work this out and reconfigure the network control to address the problems, because they can, and should.  And this will come at a cost.  Investigations, monitoring, data analysis, identifying the scope and nature of the problem, developing solutions, picking the preferred one, evaluating the impacts elsewhere, consultation, design, consenting and then finally building the thing.  It all takes time and money.
The Regulatory Impact Statement estimates the total cost across the country for the changes to the roading network to be $1million.  I think that is orders of magnitude too low.

Elastica - Elastica, 1995

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