Legislative Council Panel on Transport
Traffic Management Measures to
Alleviate Congestion in Central, Wanchai and Western
The purpose of this paper is to present for Members' information the problem of traffic congestion in Central, Wanchai and Western and the measures to address the problem.
2. The congestion problem along the major corridors in Central has been a cause of concern for some time. The morning peak hour traffic indicates that these corridors, e.g. Queensway and Harcourt Road, have been overloaded by more than 10% over the past few years. For example, the vehicle/capacity ratio in 1997 on Harcourt Road westbound was 1.13 and that on Queensway eastbound was 1.20. Recent surveys indicated that the average travelling speeds of some of the major corridors in Central at morning peak hours were reduced in 1998 and the traffic congestion problem in the area appeared to have worsened.
3. Congestion in Wanchai occurred mainly on Hennessy Road where some junctions occasionally could not operate at their design capacities because of bus movements at junctions and at bus stops close to junctions. In Western District, congestion occurred on Des Voeux Road West and in Kennedy Town during the off-peak hours when loading and unloading activities were allowed.
4. Some attribute the above traffic congestion problem to the proliferation of buses on the road since the change over from China Motor Bus Company Limited (CMB) to New World First Bus Services Limited (NWFB) in September 1998.
TRAFFIC CONGESTION IN CENTRAL
5. A study of the traffic congestion problem at Central has been undertaken to examine the problems and identify solutions. Traffic congestion is measured by the average car journey times and car travelling speeds in the morning peak hour. Figure 1 compares the situation in September 1997 and September 1998 at four major road sections along the main traffic corridors through Central.
6. The comparison indicates that there was no significant change in travelling speed at Queen's Road Central Westbound (from Garden Road to Jubilee Street) and Des Voeux Road Central Eastbound (from Clevery Street to Pedder Street). The reason for the perceived congestion by the public, however, may be that after a continuous decline in traffic volume in late 1997 and early 1998, the traffic through these sections has surged with the opening of the new airport and the Hong Kong Airport Railway Station.
7. The congestion problem at Queensway Eastbound and Connaught Road Central Eastbound worsened in September 1998. For Connaught Road Central Eastbound (from Des Voeux Road West to Murray Road) and Queensway Eastbound (from Murray Road to Queen's Road East), there was a significant decrease in travelling speed from 16.8 km/hr to 10.2 km/hr (by 6.6 km/hr or 39%) and from 32.3 km/hr to 23.3 km/hr (by 9 km/hr or 28%) respectively.
Possible Factors Attributing to Traffic Congestion in Central
8. Apart from the overloading of the major corridors at Central, traffic congestion is a result of a combination of circumstances, including roadside loading/unloading activities, double parking/queuing alongside pick-up/set-down points, etc. in the off-peak period in particular. For the peak hours, the Administration has examined the following factors which may have aggravated the traffic congestion problem at Queensway and Connaught Road Central Eastbound.
These include -
(A) Increase in Volume of Traffic
- increase in volume of traffic through Central;
- change in bus allocation and trip schedules through Central; and
- number of bus stoppings in Central.
9. Figure 2 compares the average weekday traffic crossing the screenline cutting Harcourt Road and Queensway west of Justice Drive in 1997 and 1998, from which it can be seen that the overall average daily traffic dropped by about 4% from 1997 to 1998. Figure 3 compares the morning peak hour traffic crossing the screenline between 1997 and 1998. Similar to the trend of the average weekday traffic, the morning peak hour traffic also dropped by 4% from 1997 to 1998.
10. It can be concluded that the decrease in average travelling speed in 1998 at Connaught Road Central Eastbound and Queensway Eastbound should not be attributed to the increase in total volume of traffic.
(B) Change in Bus Allocation and Trip Schedules
11. A comparison of the bus allocation, scheduled trips and actual trips during the morning peak hour through Central in November 1997, August 1998 and October 1998 was made and the result is presented in Figure 4. The data was collected at a screenline cutting through Queen's Road Central, Des Voeux Road Central, Chater Road and Connaught Road Central.
12. Between November 1997 and August 1998, there was about a 14% increase (from 865 to 983 for westbound and from 796 to 905 for eastbound) in bus allocation while the scheduled trips during the same period rose by about 8% (from 893 to 967). The major increase occurred between mid-1997 and mid-1998 when Western Harbour Crossing bus services and New Airport bus services were introduced which required more buses to operate these long distance bus routes.
13. The comparison seems to indicate that the increase in bus allocation and trip schedules in 1998 because of the introduction of Western Harbour Crossing routes and routes serving the new airport may have a positive correlation with the increased traffic congestion in Central. This is supported by the fact that the average travelling speed of Connaught Road Central and Queensway, which are heavily loaded by buses, decreased in 1998 while the average travelling speed of Queen's Road Central (from Garden Road to Jubilee Street), which carries more private vehicles than buses, remained steady in 1998.
14. However, the increase in bus trips itself should not be a key factor attributing to the traffic congestion problem in Central. As shown in Figure 4, the total number of peak hour bus trips in Central increased by only 83 in 1998, and this only accounted for a very small percentage of the total volume of peak hour traffic (about 0.5%) as indicated in Figure 3. In fact, the increase was more than offset by the decreased number of trips made by other vehicles during the morning peak hour in 1998.
15. The transfer of bus services from CMB to NWFB in September 1998 (i.e. change between August 1998 and October 1998) also did not result in any significant changes in total bus allocation or trip schedules. It follows that the perception that the traffic congestion problem in Central was caused by a proliferation of buses after NWFB had taken over CMB in September 1998 could not be sustained by available statistics.
(C) Number of Bus Stoppings
16. Unlike private vehicles, franchised buses need to pick up/set down passengers at bus stops along the major corridors. The number of bus stoppings and buses weaving into/out of bus stops would have implications on the traffic flow and hence would reduce the average travelling speed. The effects are magnified in peak hours where the roads are already overloaded as in Central.
17. Among the major corridors, Queensway carries the bulk of franchised buses in Central. In September 1997, it was estimated that an average of 624 franchised buses stopped at Queensway during the morning peak hour while the figure for September 1998 was about 690. The increase was mainly due to the introduction of more cross harbour routes and airport buses after the opening of the new airport, Western Harbour Crossing and Tai Lam Tunnel. This matches well with the change in the average peak hour travelling speed at Queensway which indicated significant reduction in the average travelling speed from September 1997 to September 1998. Similar observations were made at Connaught Road Central.
18. The increase in the number of stopping activities made buses occupy the road surface for a longer period and they would also need to queue longer for stopping. This, coupled with the weaving into/out of bus stops, might have aggravated the traffic congestion problem and became a vicious circle.
REMEDIAL MEASURES FOR CENTRAL
19. To tackle the congestion problem at Queensway and Connaught Road Central caused by the increased bus stopping activities, a special task force comprising representatives of the Police, bus operators, tram operator, Central and Western Provisional District Board and Transport Department has been set up to monitor and address the problem as well as to consider measures to improve the overall traffic condition in Central. Short term remedial measures have been formulated by this special task group, some of which have been implemented to provide immediate relief to the problem. Further measures are also being planned.
(A) Transport Management Measures Implemented
20. Various remedial measures were implemented between 25 October 1998 and 10 January 1999. These included diversion of bus routes, rationalization of bus stops resulting in a reduction of about 1,100 stoppings for buses in a peak hour, traffic re-routing and traffic signal adjustments. Details of these measures are set out in the Annex.
21. The results of the interim measures were satisfactory with an increase in the average morning peak travelling speed by 3.7 km/hr to 6.2 km/hr at the four major road sections in Central. Details of the comparison of the car travelling speeds observed in September 1998 and January 1999 are shown in Figure 5.
(B) Further Measures Being Planned
22. The Administration is working on other measures to further reduce the traffic congestion problem which may be caused by bus stopping activities. These include -
- Rationalization of bus stops on Connaught Road Central. (To be implemented in mid-99)
- Diversion of westbound bus routes to use Connaught Road Central. (To be implemented in mid-99)
- Improving bus circulation at Admiralty East Bus Terminus. (Under study)
- Diversion of eastbound bus routes originating from Admiralty Bus terminus from Queensway/Arsenal Street Flyover to Harcourt Road. (Under study)
- Truncations, shortworkings and frequency reduction of bus routes. (Progressively from mid-99 onwards)
23. At the same time, the Administration is also working on a number of other traffic management measures to address the problem of overloading of the major corridors in Central. These include -
- Construction of a 2-lane temporary road linking Connaught Place to Lung Wui Road via Edinburgh Place for one-way eastbound traffic (Sketch A), which is planned for completion by end 2000.
- Widening of westbound carriageway of Connaught Road Central at Gilman Street Footbridge from one lane to two lanes (Sketch B), which is planned for completion by end 2000.
- Provision for U-turn movement from Airport Railway Hong Kong Station drop-off to Road P2 eastbound (Sketch C), which is under planning to tie in with the completion of Phase 2 Airport Railway Hong Kong Station Development by 2002.
- Local widening and provision of proper bus laybys on Connaught Road Central eastbound outside City Hall (Sketch D), which is planned for completion by mid 99.
- Re-routing of traffic on side streets between Queen's Road Central and Connaught Road Central to improve traffic flow. (This is being investigated by the Hong Kong Island North and Kowloon West District Traffic Study which shall also investigate the loading/unloading problems in Des Voeux Road Central and Queen's Road Central.)
- Adjustment of traffic signal timings along Des Voeux Road Central, Connaught Road Central and Pedder Street, which is an on-going exercise.
24. All the above measures would provide short to medium term relief to the traffic congestion problem in Central. However, since the major corridors in Central have reached its full capacity, the long term solution would rely on the provision of new roads under the Central Reclamation Phase III Project to increase the road capacity as well as the provision of bus-bus interchanges and rationalization of bus terminal facilities to reduce the traffic through Central.
TRAFFIC CONGESTION IN WANCHAI AND REMEDIAL MEASURES
25. Congestion in Wanchai is not as critical as in Central. This may be the result of diverting 6 bus routes from Hennessy Road to Johnston Road since March 1998 in connection with the implementation of a bus-only lane scheme on Hennessy Road. However, congestion on Hennessy Road still prevails and according to our observation, the cause is mainly attributed to the large number of bus stoppings along the road. To reduce the number of buses pulling in and out of bus stops, the Administration has a plan in hand to rationalize the bus stops on Hennessy Road in mid 1999. Upon implementation, bus stopping activities along the road could be reduced by about 20% from about 2,900 to 2,300 stoppings in a peak hour.
TRAFFIC CONGESTION IN WESTERN AND REMEDIAL MEASURES
26. Unlike Central and Wanchai, traffic congestion in Western is due to the heavy kerbside loading and unloading activities in the relatively narrower roads physically constrained by the tram track and tram shelters. Therefore the problem is most critical during the off-peak period when loading and unloading activities are allowed and widespread.
27. After the implementation of the Kennedy Town Traffic Management Scheme Stage III together with the completion of the Belcher Bay Link and Smithfield Road Extension in January 1998, traffic conditions in Kennedy Town has improved significantly. No traffic congestion problem in Western is reported except on Des Voeux Road West where there is a shortage of kerbside loading and unloading spaces. Whilst it is practically difficult to further restrict kerbside activities, the problem is contained through the self-restraint of shop owners and enforcement action of the Police. The situation is being closely monitored and will be examined by the Hong Kong Island North and Kowloon West District Traffic Study which has just commenced in October 1998.
28. Members are requested to note the problem of traffic congestion in Central, Wanchai and Western and the measures to address the problem.
Remedial Measures Implemented between 25.10.98 and 10.1.99
(1) Public Transport Management Measures Implemented on 25.10.98
These measures include -
- Diversion of 7 Western Harbour Crossing (WHC) westbound routes from Des Voeux Road Central to Connaught Road Central.
- Diversion of 2 Eastern Harbour Crossing westbound routes from Des Voeux Road Central to Queen's Road Central.
- Relocation of bus stops for 11 WHC eastbound routes from Queensway eastbound to new bus stop on Cotton Tree Drive outside Lippo Centre.
- Rationalization of existing bus stops on Queensway eastbound resulting in a reduction from 332 stoppings (52 routes) to 259 stoppings (41 routes) in a peak hour.
(2) Public Transport Management Measures Implemented on 22.11.98
These measures include -
- Diversion of 6 local eastbound routes via Airport Railway Hong Kong Station to avoid the junction of Connaught Road Central/Pedder Street.
- Cancellation of bus stop on Connaught Road Central eastbound outside Shun Tak Centre for 12 routes departing from Macau Ferry.
(3) Public Transport Management Measures implemented on 14.12.98
These measures include the rationalization of existing bus stops on Queensway westbound outside Pacific Place resulting in a reduction from 377 stoppings (55 routes) to 299 stoppings (46 routes) in a peak hour. There was an overall reduction in both car and bus journey times.
(4) Public Transport Management Measures Implemented on 10.1.99
These measures include -
- Rationalization of bus stops on Des Voeux Road Central eastbound for 34 routes resulting in a reduction from 817 stoppings to 623 stoppings in a peak hour.
- Rationaliztion of bus stops on Des Voeux Road Central westbound for 42 routes, resulting in a reduction from 1 502 stoppings to 991 stoppings in a peak hour.
- Rationalization of bus stops on Chater Road and Murray Road for 18 routes, resulting in a reduction from 282 stoppings to 177 stoppings in a peak hour.
- Rationalization of bus stops on Pedder Street for 27 routes, resulting in a reduction from 145 stoppings to 101 stoppings in a peak hour.
(5) Traffic Management Measures Implemented
These measures include -
- The banning of right turns from Rumsey Street southbound to Des Voeux Road Central westbound which was implemented on 18.12.98.
- Adjustment of traffic signal timings along Des Voeux Road Central which was implemented in November 1998.