Ministry planning to move against traffic jams, public transport delays

Strict policing, the extension of bus lanes, further parking restrictions, the rescheduling of bus routes and timetables, restrictions on store supply hours as well as improved street signs were some of the proposals discussed at a recent meeting between Transport and Communications Minister Michalis Liapis, Ministry Secretary-General Yiannis Golias, transport experts and representatives of the Technical Chamber and local governments on a plan for Athens’s new public transport map. Proposals were presented on all problems faced by the city’s residents on a daily basis, and it appears these will soon be resolved. The main issues raised were stricter policing, lanes for the exclusive use of public transport, particularly on main highways in and out of the city, such as Vouliagmenis Avenue, as well as the re-establishment of the practice on avenues such as Kifissias, where it had been abandoned during the Olympics and Paralympics. There is also a need for transport hubs at metro and suburban rail stations, tram and trolley intersections, as well as a rescheduling of bus routes and timetables that will take into consideration the new rail transport systems, car parks and transport terminals, as well as changes to road signs and traffic lights for better traffic flow along main roads. Combating illegal parking will be a major factor in the new strategy through centralized planning and substantial participation by local government agencies. It was generally agreed by all present that without a solution to the city’s parking anarchy, no proposal could be successful. Meanwhile, restrictions were also suggested regarding the times for loading and unloading commercial vehicles in the city center. Another possibility is the establishment of a central coordinating agency that will function more as a working group than a purely decision-making center. Sources say the successful extension of public transport hours during the Games might not continue as hoped due to the absence of a feasibility study. But a public information campaign is on the cards, as well as an advertising campaign urging people to use public transport. «We have heard and taken note of the experts’ particularly interesting positions on urban transport,» said Liapis after the meeting. «Our goal is to make it even more reliable and more effective so that people will choose to leave their cars at home.»