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.


  1. I don't believe in using the hazard lights in advance of stopping as people come to expect it and it is not how tram driver's are taught to drive. There is also the argument that truck drivers on highways use their indicators to indicate to motorists that the way ahead is clear for the motorist to overtake them, that is speed up and pass, which is not what you want a car passing a tram about to stop to do.

    As for connecting hazard lights to the next stop signal, well some people ring for the next stop as the tram leaves the last. Permanent flashing hazard lights?

  2. The particular aspect of using hazard lights is not in the manual as such, but my trainer had no dramas with me using it. I think using hazard lights for a vehicle stopping in the middle of the road is just fine, but we can disagree on this point, as it seems that cars will pass regardless. I enjoy putting it on my reports though.
    The idea of the connection to the next stop light was problematic, so I think we can forget about it. Seemed like a good suggestion at the time, but on further investigation, won't really do much. Cameras on the tram however...

    1. You have a great attitude and far more common sense than the writer of this blog. All vehicles on the road INDICATE THEIR INTENTIONS such as turning, changing lanes and puling off from the curb. Why should a tram be any different? By using your hazards as you approach the stop you are making it clear to traffic around you that you are stopping ahead to let passengers on/off the tram and not merely slowing due to traffic ahead of you also slowing.

  3. One reason you've missed for trams slowing down is when they get stuck behind a motor vehicle that is trying to turn right. The tram can't leave the tracks and get around the stopped obstruction, but the cars behind it can go into the left lane and overtake.

    In both cases the car driver behind does know if the tram will be dropping off passengers, or if the tram is stuck waiting for a car. In reality the second case isn't any different to getting stuck behind a 4WD or truck and not being able to see what is up ahead.

  4. Heh. Melbournians have a "special" relationship with PT. I work trains. People still don't get that if a train is leaving at 1.43pm that's 1.43pm butt on seat doors closed not wander up to window and top up myki.

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  6. To the author of the blog: You are just a lazy, thoughtless individual who is more worried about one extra step when stopping than the safety of your passengers.

    All vehicles on the road give indication of their intentions. Cars do not automatically know you are stopping at a tram stop just because your tram is slowing. There could be a right turning car ahead of you, holding you up, or traffic slowing generally, etc.

    If we all took your views then who would need to indicate when turning or pulling over to park, or pulling away from the curb to enter the road? I'm slowing near a side street, surely you know I am turning and I don't need to indicate. I'm puling off from the curb, you can see I am, so surely I don't need to indicate. I am turning at the lights... you can see my car angle as I start to move into the intersection, so surely I don't need to indicate.

    Get a brain, mate. If you intend to do something on the road then indicate your intentions!!!

    I spoke to a guy at the Brunswick Tram Depot (September 2014) and he told me that a couple of years ago the law changed and tram drivers ARE required to put their hazard lights on now when approaching tram stops. He told me the older drivers are stuck in their ways and still don't do it (i.e. they break the law) and the newer drivers are being taught properly. Well that is a joke too, the new drivers are not indicating when approaching tram stops, even with an instructor by their side!!! I even pointed this out to 3 tram officials at a tram stop right outside the depot and one smart arse's response was, "Bring it up with the drivers". I do, you moron, and they take no notice.

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