The sorry history of the Hoddle Street bus lanes

Today we read yet another announcement for one of Victoria’s many ‘zombie projects’ – the (in)famous full-time bus lanes and clearways for Hoddle Street.

Current situation

I have not been able to find when the current part-time bus lane was introduced along Hoddle Street, but I suspect that it would have been around the time that the Doncaster Area Rapid Transit (DART) project was completed.

Whatever the date, the present situation on Hoddle Street has been untenable for quite some time. There is one southbound bus lane for the morning peak that only operates from 6.30am to 9:30am. Bizarrely, there is no associated bus lane for the afternoon peak in the other direction. There was a T2 transit lane up to the early 2010s but this was removed, presumably to make way for more cars.

Moderate traffic on Hoddle Street - On the Clifton Hill 246 bus from Richmond Station

Even with this almost total absence of priority, the single inbound bus lane carries more people per hour than the other four general traffic lanes combined. Yet again, this proves the superior efficiency of public transport in moving people much more efficiently than private motor vehicles.

Dawn of the Living Bus Lanes

As far as the internet’s short memory is aware, the proposal to introduce full-time bus lanes along Hoddle Street between Victoria Parade and the Eastern Freeway was first seriously entertained by VicRoads in 2010. However, Hoddle Street/Punt Road had been identified for bus priority measures by VicRoads in 2008 after the Eddington Report and its associated data were released. This resulted in the 2010 ‘Hoddle Street Study‘ which is eerily similar to the current website and consultation process over seven years later.

The project was then re-announced in 2011 just before the upcoming state election. But after election and subsequent change of government, the new minister announced in 2012 that the plans would not go ahead due to the removal of car parking.

Then before the 2014 election, the government announced that the plans would be resurrected and bus lanes implemented by the end of 2016. With the change of government, the plan was postponed in favour of a car-focussed transport focus yet again (this time the continuous flow intersections).

In 2015, the new bus lanes on Victoria Parade were introduced as part of a larger plan to reconfigure traffic flow along the Hoddle Street/Punt Road corridor. These have had mixed success.

At this time, plans for Hoddle Street were put on hold yet again. I sent an email to VicRoads in September 2016 asking when we could expect the Hoddle Street bus lanes to be implemented as announced. The response was that “…the project team was not able to give me a definitive timeline for when all this will happen”.

Nothing was heard until today when the project was announced in conjunction with the release of other information for the Hoddle Street/Punt Road corridor. This includes more detailed visuals for the Swan Street continuous flow intersection, 24-hour clearways and traffic light signal changes. Interestingly, it does not include any mention of a northbound bus lane on Hoddle Street. Hopefully this is an oversight in the media release and not indicative of the actual project.

At last count, this latest announcement would make it the fifth time in almost 10 years that this project has been announced.

A worthwhile project and all credit to VicRoads for pursuing this, but please excuse me if I do not hold my breath.

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