We have some traffic tunnels under Brisbane that aren’t very popular. One of the big ones is called the M7, or the ‘Clem 7’ as it is popularly known, after an old, much-loved previous Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Clem Jones. www.clem7.com.au/
The company that runs the Clem 7 is going broke. It seems a lot of people don’t like paying the toll ($4.16) for a one-way, 6 minute trip. The thing is, it’s worth it, as you avoid heaps of traffic lights, duck right under the central business district and save a lot of hassles.
But here’s the thing: recent events showed that Brisbane drivers hate paying tolls so much they would prefer to sit for hours in traffic instead of taking the easy way out and pay to use the tunnels.
Yesterday there was a very bad accident on the Story Bridge: a four vehicle collision, with one woman in a critical condition as a result. It’s easy to have an accident on the Story Bridge. It’s three lanes each way with only double painted lines to mark the change in direction. Putting up a barrier is apparently too expensive and would increase the congestion because it would reduce the lanes to two each way.
The Story Bridge is a popular bridge, and not just for traffic. It’s a Brisbane icon, part of the landscape. It features in one scene of my novel ‘Plato’s Cave‘ where being able to do a U-turn on the bridge is a vital plot point. Less creditably, it’s been the scene of a number of suicides over the years.
But getting back to my point. The accident yesterday caused major hold-ups for commuters. Traffic was delayed for four hours, with the gridlock extending for kilometres, involving many thousands of vehicles.
Now, the Clem 7 plunges under all of this chaos and provides a quick, non-congested way to avoid stuff like that. But, according to the Courier-Mail, only 3000 extra vehicles used it that morning.
Only 3000 motorists thought, ‘Stuff this, I’m taking the Clem!’
Am I missing something here? The many thousands of people who did not make that simple choice were delayed for up to four hours because they didn’t want to pay $4.16.
How many man hours of work were lost as a result? How many tempers flared? How many incidents of road rage, because people didn’t want to pay?
Now maybe I’m in a better position than some. I use the tunnels all the time, not just the Clem, but I can claim the toll as a tax deduction. A lot of people can’t, I guess. If you were a regular commuter to town, using the tunnels everyday would add up.
But I’m not talking about every day: I’m talking about one day when things were horrendously bad. On this really bad, congested day, only 3000 people decided to make things easier for themselves.
The Brisbane City Council has been trying for years to keep cars out of the central city area. They have boosted public transport, made parking fees in the city astronomical, and Brisbane’s complicated system of one way streets is no doubt designed to discourage the faint of heart. It’s even illegal to stop and drop off or pick up a passenger in the central city. So the Clem offers a way to avoid the city. If you are a city worker, you are encouraged to park in the suburbs and commute in on public transport.
Obviously, a lot of people still don’t. They would rather have their cars with them. They would prefer to pay the huge parking fees to have their vehicle nearby.
Recently I was leaving a client’s inner city apartment and had been able to park in their building’s basement for free. As I tried to leave I was almost prevented from doing so from the huge peak hour traffic congestion at the top of the car park’s exit ramp. It was thousands of vehicles refusing to use the tunnels and drive home above ground.
Why? To save a few dollars?
Brisbane’s traffic problem will not be solved until the drivers learn to use common sense.
– Russell Proctor http://www.russellproctor.com