Wednesday, May 16, 2012


Now and then I'll check out #yarratrams and see what the general mood is across the twitter PT network. Usually it's bad, but this morning something caught my eye. It happens to come from George Salpigtidis (@salheraldsun), the Sports Photographer for the Herald Sun.

"Shouldn't @yarratrams indicate b4 stopping. Not when doors open? Why can't ALL stops be painted #visibility #notrocketscience #safety 1st"

Cue a rather brief discussion where I bet the author had been driving and failed to stop, using his tweet to mask blaming someone else in the name of "safety". My response did include "If you don't like driving with trams, buy a Melways". This is my response to anyone who bitches about being stuck behind or held up by them. If we drove down every street, these complaints would actually make sense. Instead, it's just a lazy motorist having a moan. I can't confirm if the author is a motorist or a tram passenger, but either way he's brought up an interesting point. 

There is no obligation for trams to let cars know they are stopping. In fact, as far as I know, no vehicle is subject to this requirement. It should be patently obvious a tram is about to stop, as it will SLOW DOWN. Tram stop or not, a tram slowing down is a pretty decent indicator that there is someone using the tram, or there's a reason to stop up ahead. Most motorists don't need anything more than this to let them know what's going on, although we've all seen the special cases where one person in a car is willing to risk the lives of others in order to pass.
That said, as I driver I'm one of those who activate my hazard lights as I'm slowing down to let others know I'm stopping. This is COURTESY, not road law. For our indicators to be activated in this way, it has to be done manually. Many drivers don't bother, because a slowing tram SHOULD mean slowing cars behind. When the tram stops and the doors open, the hazard lights are activated automatically. By this stage, vehicles behind have stopped. That is, the drivers who are awake and attentive to their environment.
It has been requested numerous times that hazard lights should be connected to the "Next Stop" light/button to help motorists out. This is a great idea, as it's easier to see those boarding than those alighting. But there's the rub: the presence of pedestrians is the greatest reminder to those less intelligent that they must stop. 

The requirement to stop is completely up to the motorist, and as a good rule, if the trams slows down, so should the other vehicles. If that's simply too complicated or demanding on the small-minded, selfish motorists out there, they are free to use the millions of kilometers of roads out there that don't have trams on them.

Over the years, I've got out of my tram and given a dose to cars that don't stop. I've had time to get out of the cabin and slap their windows as they pass - yes, they're that stupid. I don't do any of this anymore, as it's not company policy, nor have any passengers backed me up. Reports to police need witnesses, and I can do the right thing and make the tram late by getting details, or I can stay on time. I can stay behind after work and complete the paperwork during unpaid overtime, or I can leave the job of traffic enforcement up to the police themselves. In short, the system we have as tram drivers is designed to deter reporting at every stage.

One common defense is ignorance of the law (Queensland don't have too many trams). To a certain point it's fair enough, however if you go tear-assing past a stationary tram, surely you would expect people to be around. Do they slow down? No, very rarely.

Back to the author. The question of all stops being painted is an interesting one. Various attempts across the system to make things consistent and safe have failed over the years. Looking along Sydney Rd, Brunswick, you will see red paint on the road where there are tram stops, indicating to cars that this is a stop. Why wasn't this adopted across the entire system? It's true- some tram stops are poorly signed. However, going back to my earlier statement, a tram slowing down should be the only indication that's needed that something is going to happen. But then what about an incident between stops? Yep, covered. A TRAM SLOWING DOWN IS ALL YOU NEED TO HELP YOU. If you need more than this, you probably shouldn't be operating a motor vehicle. 

Finally, I'm quite used to the Herald Sun making assumptions about things, especially public transport. If you're going to use your employer's name in your twitter name, it's difficult to defend your tweets as "your own". Making assumptions about public transport and then bitching about it is not the sign of an educated person. Next time, try ASKING why things happen: you'll find that many of us are much more helpful. If you're still wondering why I dislike the Herald Sun, feel free to read up some of my earlier posts about Andy Blume. What he did was wrong, but the process of his dismissal and the poor standard of "journalism" displayed was far worse.

SPECIAL THANKS: @JohnDonegan1826 for adding his voice of reason to our little discussion. You accusation about the author's post-retirement activities was spot on and made my day.