Athens buses shift up a gear

Police launched a crackdown on cars illegally entering bus lanes yesterday as the government steps up attempts to improve the city’s transport network and get more commuters onto buses. Sources said that Transport Minister Michalis Liapis has requested the assistance of Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis to help with the stricter policing of bus lanes. Bus lanes operate in different parts of the city, however, parked cars, along with drivers who try to save time by illegally using the dedicated area, limit the advantage public transport was meant to have. Some 15 traffic policeman took to the streets of the city center yesterday during peak-hour traffic with the purpose of freeing up the lanes. The operation also involved 15 tow trucks from OASA, the Athens Urban Transport Association, accompanied by police. Government officials claim that this will be a daily event and that drivers found to be in violation will receive an 83-euro fine. One-off measures by traffic police in enforcing laws are a regular sight for the city’s residents – measures that are quickly forgotten soon after being enforced. A recent study showed that if the lanes were clear, buses could travel nearly twice as fast. A study conducted by OASA from December 2004 to June 2005 showed that buses can reach a speed of about 21 kilometers an hour when the lane is free of other cars. Otherwise, buses travel at a slower 12 to 15 kilometers per hour. In normal traffic, a bus travels between 7 and 10 kilometers an hour, according to the study. Traffic cameras – a relatively new concept to the Greek driver – have helped police keep an eye on bus lanes. Fourteen cameras have been placed to monitor Athens bus lanes and normally result in 950 fines per month. Traffic police, on the other hand, normally write about 150 fines per month.

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