There you have it: fleets of buses running on dedicated bus lanes. Bucharest’s traffic problems solved. Thank you and goodnight.
It’s not quite that simple, but it would be a huge step forwards. As we’ve said many times before, you can’t expect the good people of Bucharest to give up using their cars until you offer them a viable alternative. And right now, unless you are lucky enough to live close to a metro station and work close to another metro station, public transport in Bucharest is not a viable alternative. Public transport in the Romanian capital is crap. There is no other way of saying it.
As such, laudable initiatives such as that launched recently by PNL senator Valeriu Todirascu, who wants to ensure that drivers leave enough space (two metres, no less) for pedestrians when parking on the pavement, are futile. As long as people drive into the city centre, they will need a place to park. Preventing them from parking on the pavement is placing the cart before the horse somewhat.
Besides, as much as we would like to see the drivers of badly parked cars punished, there is currently very little the authorities can do, even in the case of dickheads who park on tramlines, pedestrian crossings or in front of school entrances. For a couple of years now (ever since the PSD changed the law) local councils have not had the power to remove cars – even when they are directly causing a blockage. Indeed, the only sanction the police can apply is a measly fine of between 100-500 lei. Even then, the police have to hand the fine to the driver in person and carry out a proces verbal. As the entire Bucharest police force can’t spend all day standing next to badly parked cars waiting for their drivers indefinitely, few fines get handed out.
One solution is the use of wheel clamps, which – as we know from experience – are very much in use in Constanta. Clamps however only offer a solution when cars are not blocking traffic or pedestrian access, as most badly parked cars in Bucharest are. Clamps might work in the provinces; in the capital, removal is the only option.
Then there are the fines.
Let’s be honest, the vast majority of drivers who block traffic – rich kids and their parents – are not worried in the slightest about paying the current fine, even at the top end, of 500 lei. Such a fine offers no detterent at all.
Instead, the penalty for having your car towed away should be losing your license: 30 days for the first offence, 90 days (the maximim allowed under the law) for the second and subsequent offences. That – even for the rich kids – is a real deterrent.
Yet to return to our fleets of buses: there has to be both carrot and stick. There is no point introducing anti-parking legislation until you offer drivers a real alternative: fleets of buses running on bus lanes.
Not all day (there is no need). Merely from 07:00-10:00 and again from 16:30-19:00, Monday to Friday. During these times there should be dedicated bus (and taxi) lanes in operation on all major streets (indeed, any street with two or more lanes in each direction). That’s a large number of Bucharest streets. Additionally, bus services which run on these lanes should be far more frequent than they are now: every two-three minutes, not every ten minutes or so as now.