What ever happened to tram cams?

Yet again, the issue of motorists illegally overtaking trams has been highlighted – by Channel 9 on Tuesday, and the Herald Sun on Wednesday.

This follows on from reports as recently as January of motorists hitting tram passengers while breaking road rule 163.

Educating motorists has a role here. There have been education campaigns in the past, and it sounds like this will be happening again.

So does infrastructure – the deployment of platform stops (at least apart from the kerb extension/easy access stop design) can physically prevent motorists coming into conflict with tram passengers.

But there are also quicker fixes. The Herald Sun story notes some of the worst locations for incidents are stops at Toorak Road and Chapel Street in South Yarra. At these locations, southbound (and until not too long ago eastbound – the tram stop has recently been moved) passengers have to cross two lanes of traffic between the tram and the footpath. This is also the case at the South Melbourne location shown above.

This has been a problem for years. Why? Because apparently car throughput is more important than safety – otherwise they would have widened the footpath and reduced the number of traffic lanes.

Apart from education and infrastructure, another essential element is enforcement.


What ever happened to using cameras mounted on trams to routinely fine motorists illegally overtaking stopped trams?

Back in 2007 The Age reported that cameras were being trialled by Yarra Trams.

This included the installation of cameras on Z-class trams.

In 2013 there was another trial, using E-class trams which have cameras installed, including some that give the driver a view along the side of the tram.

Apart from the E-class trams, the C and D class trams also have external cameras built-in – this covers every built in the past 20 years, or about 40% of the fleet.

But nothing seems to have come of the trials.

Tram drivers can report incidents, but there are so often that many don’t get reported. Tram drivers themselves note that there’s little they can do.

“At road side stops, motorist(s) don’t stop. … At that moment as a tram driver you feel very useless and try to help people. You gong and they don’t listen.”

Exploring the key challenges in tram driving and crash risk factors on the Melbourne tram network: tram driver focus groups – paper by F Nanzin, G Currie, D Logan, 2016

What’s missing here is any kind of automated or semi-automated system to routinely report motorists, in the same manner as Red Light Cameras, as an effective deterrent to breaking this law. Either use the cameras on the trams, or locate them at hot spot tram stops.

It’s 2021. Just about everybody has a camera phone in their pocket, and many motor vehicles have dash cams. It astounds me that cameras on trams aren’t used to enforce this rule, and help keep tram passengers safe.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

9 replies on “What ever happened to tram cams?”

They need something more obvious than a piddly little red sign flipping out on the door. Cheap and nasty solution.
Needs to be some sort of flashing red LED display saying something like STOP. Passengers disembarking.
There should be signs on the back of trams indicating the fine costs to make people aware.
I assume a person hit can sue the car driver?

Also how many international tourists would know of that law, there almost needs to be a brochure in hire cars with a summary of local laws.
I drove in the US, and didnt know that traffic on the opposite direction to where a school bus disembarks ,have to stop.

Tram drivers often have to jump out for a least a minute to change the points at Glenferrie Rd, meanwhile the doors remain open and I’m counting down to when an impatient motorist gives up waiting and drives past.

Watching some of those incidents is horrifying. There are certainly some deeply stupid motorists on the road. Taking away licences for a prolonged period may be a good deterrent but somehow the courts never do that.

I’ve sent a few reports of to Crimestoppers with phone footage that the police have followed up on (just warnings, I think) saying they’ve contacted the offending driver, etc.
But this is a systemic problem – it can’t rely on random phone reports from passengers, it needs a systemic solution.
Should be pretty straightforward – dashcams have systems where the driver can push a button to reference a segment of footage. Trams could simply have the same thing, the tram driver gongs, if the car driver don’t stop, the tram driver pushes the camera button to tag 1 min prior and after, and the incident goes on file and is pulled off and followed up/referred to police at the depot later that day.
Modern dashcams cope well with vibrations etc so should be fine, or use the tram’s current cameras… only 5-10% of the fleet would need to have them for the deterrent/enforcement effect, same as not every intersection has red light cameras.
There’s just too many people that know the rules but don’t care / accelerate to “beat” the tram but don’t and keep going anyway, and that isn’t going to change without a genuine risk of enforcement. And the rule 164 is for 10 penalty units which is a LOT – which says the legislature knows the risk/significance of the offence, but unfortunately it doesn’t mean much if it’s not actually enforced.

Automatic hail of bullets into the adjacent vehicle is the appropriate deterrent. It churns my stomach to see this – as I have had many near misses coming off trams myself in known hot spots.
Once again – cars rule and pedestrians don’t matter.

Not defending drivers here as there is no excuse to driving past while a tram has stopped – but some of th eolder trams ive noticed don’t start flashing their lights until the doors open, i think they should begin signalling as they approach the stop, gives a driver more time to recognise what is going on. Unfortunate we have to treat drivers as idiots but the more notice they have the better.

What we need are pop up bollards, or even some tyre spikes. Another option is to physically prevent cars from passing by closing the left hand lane at every stop or cutting the road down to one lane entirely where cars who use it must follow the tram. The attitude of neglect from Vic Roads towards pedestrians and public transport users in this state has to stop.

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