OPINION

New habits in public transport

Respect for the Olympic traffic regulations by Athens’s drivers demonstrates that the city’s inhabitants are receptive to a new mentality with regard to getting around in Greece’s highly congested capital. Only a limited number of drivers flouted the emergency traffic regulations, crossing into the Olympic lanes reserved for Olympic athletes and officials. Drivers of private vehicles and taxis should display equal respect for the city’s bus lanes while traffic policemen must be as strict in imposing fines on unruly drivers – on a permanent basis, and not just in extraordinary circumstances like the Athens Olympics. Furthermore, the spectacular invasion, en masse, of our everyday lives by a plethora of new means of public transportation like the tram and the suburban railway, together with the extension of existing networks, has encouraged many people to leave their cars at home and try out these new means of transportation. We must not let their enthusiasm fade. The Athens Olympics offer a unique opportunity that is unlikely to present itself again in the near future. If the government wants to inject a new mentality into people and reduce car use, it must first take a number of measures: increase the number of services, improve credibility, extend service hours, and introduce a pricing policy on the basis of Athens’s diverse needs and not on the profitability of each transport means alone. The government must also create more car parks, to counterbalance more stringent police measures and hefty fines. At the same time, they would ease the traffic woes that dog the lives of all Athenians. Responsible officials must, above all, be consistent. They must give instant solutions to the problems that emerge. Tram services should become more regular and faster. So far, the tram is more of a novelty rather than a practical solution for getting around. Similarly, it makes no sense to revoke the decision to extend the service hours of the Kifissia-Piraeus electric railway (ISAP) and the metro before even implementing the measure. Should things remain unchanged, people’s behavior will soon lapse into the previous troubled mode. We must take measures so that we do not take steps backward.