Olympics a chance to wean us off cars

The Olympic transport program recently presented to the public was drawn up with the aim of getting Athenians to leave their cars at home. A integrated plan for moving people more safely and quickly through the city between July 20 and the end of August, it depends on people’s willingness to cooperate with the authorities (providing they have access to the right information) and above all, their relinquishing their dependence on the automobile. For the duration of the Games, the city will be functioning under a completely different system. For the first time, public transport in Athens will have absolute priority. The suburban railway, tram, metro, buses and trolley buses will have priority, right after the Olympic Family’s coaches and cars. Private cars and taxis will be last and least. Of these, only 7,000 will be included within the Olympic transport system and permitted to use Olympic traffic lanes. Athenians who have bought tickets to events will have to leave for the venue at least two hours beforehand if they want to get there on time (two-and-a-half hours for the mountain bike event). Those with tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies should set out three hours beforehand. Ticket-holders will travel free on all public transport for that day. This marks the first time ever, although for only around a month, that there will be such a widespread network of public transport ensuring faster and more reliable movement across the city. Even the slow-moving buses are expected to speed up. According to the Transport Ministry, the average bus speed on Olympic routes traveling in the special lanes will reach 20-25 kilometers per hour (or 15mph). Buses moving in ordinary bus lanes will also be going faster, as these will be strictly policed and bans on the use of private cars and taxis in them will be strictly enforced. In outlying parts of the city, traffic speed is not expected to be much different from what it is today. The general goal is to ensure an average hourly speed of nearly 60 kilometers per hour (37mph) for the Olympic family. The some 21,600 journalists covering the Games will also be expected to use public transport. Housed in seven press villages ad 100 hotels, they will have at their disposal 530 buses, 100 mini-vans staffed by 1,400 drivers, and 1,000 support staff on duty around the clock. The 2,500 referees and judges will have 110 buses and 50 mini-vans, and the assistance of 300 volunteers. All volunteers and Olympic venue staff will also be using public transport.

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