How many crashes can one tram stop take?

On Melbourne’s tramway network, around one third of the stops are provided with “safety zones” – a fenced area in the middle of the road, providing an area for passengers to stand beside the tracks, while still being protected from car traffic. But how much of a pounding can these supposedly protected areas take?

Z3.165 stops for passengers on William Street, at the Collins Street stop on route 55 northbound

In the case Epsom Road in Ascot Vale, stop 30 on route 57 is taking quite a pounding, with cars crashing into the safety zone on a regular basis.

Z3.145 heads north on route 57 past Flemington Racecourse

I first noticed damaged to the tram stop back in March 2012, when a damaged fence panel was replaced with plastic safety tape.

Overview of stop 30 on route 57: only one fence panel missing this time!

Repairs followed and I forgot about it until February 2013, when I found more damage – this time four of the fence panels were gone.

'Safety' zone at stop 30 on route 57: Epsom Road at Flemington Drive

Again, repairs followed, until May 2013 when I found a ute impaled on five metres of the safety zone fence.

Police in attendance, looking over the ute impaled on five metres of tram safety zone fence

Once it was cleaned up, red plastic safety fence replaced the four damaged fence panels, along with a new safety zone sign to replaced that lost in the crash.

Red plastic safety fence and a new safety zone sign mark the site of the crash

August 2013 found another driver ploughing through the safety zone fence, this time taking out five panels, the traffic light post, and a sign.

Another week, another driver has ploughed through the safety zone fence

The end of August saw more repairs completed, but it only lasted a month – three fence panels were taken out by the next wayward motorist.

It only lasted a month - three fence panels taken out by a wayward motorist

October 2013 rolled around, and I stumbled upon yet another car impaled on the fence.

Another week, another car ploughs through the tram stop fence

One would not want to have been waiting for a tram when the car hit.

Overview of the smashed safety zone fence

A few days later, the fence has been completely repaired.

A few days after the crash, and the fence has been completely repaired

Until January 2014 when a a record sized crash took out the tram stop – nine fence panels were taken out!

A record sized spill this time - nine of the fence panels were taken out!

How long until someone manages to take out all 13 panels?

Why are motorists so clueless?

Unlike other tram stops, the one on Epsom Road has a unique feature – no massive concrete prowl to divert wayward cars. In addition, the approach to the tram stop for southbound traffic on Epsom Road is as follows

  • Two lanes of traffic become one between Union Road and the Coles supermarket
  • Single lane of traffic past tram stop 32
  • Two lanes of traffic beneath the Flemington Racecourse railway bridge
  • Another merge into one lane of traffic, due to kerbside parking
  • Slew to the left, as the parking is replaced by a right turn lane for Flemington Drive
  • Dodge the tram stop on the far side of the Flemington Drive intersection

All of the above requires a motorist to be paying attention and follow the road as it slews around the tram stop – but given the intelligence of the average Melbourne driver, no wonder so many fail to do so!

Sources

From “Towards a More Accessible Tram System in Melbourne – challenges for infrastructure design” by Andrea Macdonald and Selby Coxon:

4.1.2. Safety zone

The rest of the stops are safety zones comprising 1/3 network or nominally 400 stops. Waiting and boarding is in a separate fenced refuge in the centre of road adjoining the tram track. Widths vary and there may be a shelter and a timetable. Open railings have been replaced by fencing excluding informal access.

Footnote

Soon after publishing this post a journalist from Melbourne newspaper The Age dropped me a line, which resulted in
an article appearing on their website on February 7, 2014. Yarra Trams had the following to say:

Yarra Trams spokesman Simon Murphy conceded that the number of repairs at this stop was “higher than average”.

There isn’t space to install a concrete “prow” to divert traffic, Mr Murphy said, because of the volumes of traffic going in and out of the racecourse.

“This stop is outside the entrance to Flemington Racecourse, presenting a challenge in terms of the space requirements available to install infrastructure,” he said.

Passengers generally wait at the other end of the stop, and Yarra Trams had no reports of passenger injuries.

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19 Responses to “How many crashes can one tram stop take?”

  1. Mathew James says:

    Great Article Marcus – that’s an astounding number of crashes, and whats even more surprising is you were on site at all of them to take pictures! Imagine the sheer cost to taxpayers it has been for routine repairs; they couldve built the stop underground by now.

    This would be how the discussion would go:

    -PTV “Its not our fault, we’re not fixing our tram stop”
    -Vicroads “But it’s not our tram stop, its yours…or it’s Moonee Valley councils bill to pay”
    -Moonee Valley council “This is not our fault, we are merely the local council, it’s PTV’s mess to fix.”

    Rinse and repeat.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      I’ve photographed the aftermath of seven crashes, and seen three of them with my own eyes. The two crashes I photographed both occurred on a Wednesday morning around 6.30am, the one I missed was on a Wednesday night after dark.

  2. Adrian says:

    I drive past that one all the time (Live in Kensington and shop at the Showgrounds Coles). To be honest I’ve never paid attention to all the damage that’s been happening to this stop but I think your summation of why is excellent. I’m surprised that the concrete prowl has not been installed – just for some extra protection for the tram users.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      The Age dropped me a line yesterday, they talked to Yarra Trams and published an article today – apparently a concrete prowl hasn’t been installed because the entrance to Flemington Racecourse is in the way.

  3. Frank says:

    Ha! A friend of mine crashed into that tram stop last year! He’s not an absent minded person at all.

    I think adding a prowl in that location would be even more dangerous. Could you imagine a car launching and getting airborne? Hardly anyone obeys the speed limits on Epsom Rd. I regularly get tail-gated going 60km/h.

  4. Richard Collett says:

    No mention of that pole blocking the driver’s view of the “Keep Left” sign?
    (The one with the “Push to walk” button for pedestrians.)
    Note they keep putting it back in the same spot every time it gets flattened.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Putting the “Keep Left” sign behind the traffic post isn’t perfect, but the sign is still somewhat visible. At night the retroreflective layer makes it stand up much better.

  5. Patrick says:

    I live close to that tram stop.

    While I agree with your analysis, Frank’s point about the speed on that part of Epsom Road is very valid. For whatever reason, motorist are unusually aggressive in their driving in the part from the Coles at the Showgrounds to the roundabout where Epsom, Racecourse and Mount Alexander Roads meet. When driving the limit, I am regularly overtaken by speeding cars who like to swing wide and use the right hand lane as though it is a straight through lane. I am yet to see a crash but I have seen many cars go through the intersection along the tram tracks and to the right of the barriers. I think part of the problem is, as you point out, the lack on consistency in the road leading up to that point but think the perception of wide open road after the frustration of the roundabout (one way)and the sets of lights (the other way) gets some peoples’ juices flowing.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Speeding and driver aggression does seem to be an issue there – as you mention, drivers see the road finally open up and put their foot down. Seeing drivers go through the tram stop to the *right* of the barriers would be something to see!

  6. mich says:

    It seems like very poor lane-marking. If there weren’t people standing there, you’d think that drivers would often be driving straight through over the tram stop.

    It still seems a bit ridiculous that people will barge straight into a solid metal pole.

  7. mich says:

    There should be more visible lane marking to direct people to swerve left around the tram-stop, and there should also be very visible lane-marking at the other end of the tram-stop to divert traffic out of the kerbside lane and back into the middle lane. Because of the gradient of the road, this would be even more visible to the approaching motorist, and draw their attention to the fact that they need to swerve around the tram stop. The existing straight, dashed lines tend to create the misleading and false illusion that to proceed straight ahead is OK.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      The line marking is a tad ambiguous there: if the start of the right turn lane was a crosshatched island instead of an angled merge, then the slew to the left might become more obvious. Whether all drivers would actually pick up on that is another matter!

  8. Tranzit Jim says:

    Will they remove that stop to avoid a death at it?

    Perhaps they need to do something to the layout of the road to make it more simple.

    Although from what I can see, just before the stop there are two lanes.
    #1, Right lane, which is right in line with the stop, is a ‘right turn lane’
    #2, is the straight through lane, and should be in line with the lane as it goes past the tram stop.

    Has this lane been made too narrow to fit the typical item of road traffic?

    • Marcus Wong says:

      The lanes along Epsom Road past the racecourse are a tad tight compared to others in the area: just before the Ascot Vale Road roundabout citybound traffic in the lane beside the tram tracks sometimes overhangs the yellow lane, delaying passing trams.

  9. rohan says:

    Hi Marcus, great observations and great example of blog journalism ! The article was practically word for word in parts. Im sure its happened before but first time ive seen it. Ps I guess you are following the stories on National Mutual and Total Carpark possible demolitions. I have some good photos of yours of both – ok if melb heritage action uses them at some point ?

  10. Andrew S says:

    I took this photo in South Melbourne last year of a tram super stop that was protected by an impact attenuator which itself had been put to the test …
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/8636074565/in/photolist-ea996k

    In this case the stars of bureaucracy between PTV and VicRoads aligned correctly and the platform stop was deemed a traffic hazard if a vehicle hit it and the attenuator was put in. It seems the Epsom Road stop is impact absorbing along with anyone waiting there so no barrier!

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Impact attenuators before platforms stops appear to be deployed based on the speed limit of the adjoining road. Racecourse Road and Flemington Road both have 60 km/h speed limits, and have impact attenuators fitted, while on Abbotsford Street with a 50 km/h limit, only white bollards are provided.

      Said bollards have not fared well at the new platform stops at Elizabeth Street!

      Damaged northbound tram stop at Elizabeth and LaTrobe Street

  11. […] week I wrote about an unlucky tram stop in Ascot Vale that gets hit by cars every second week. Shortly after it went live, Denham Sadler from Melbourne […]

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