Helsinki Regional Transport Authority wants the right to issue fines to those misusing bus lanes
Introduction of surveillance cameras operated by municipal authorities would require amendment to the law
The Helsinki Regional Transport Authority (HSL) would like surveillance cameras that issue fines to motorists driving illegally on the dedicated bus lanes to be introduced in wider use in the capital area.
HSL could take over the entire monitoring process, suggests Ville Lehmuskoski, the director of the HSL Planning Department.
The public transport authority would install the surveillance cameras, take care of the maintenance of the system, and issue the fines.
HSL’s eagerness to introduce the system in wider use is based on experiences received from the use of an automatic surveillance camera monitoring the Mannerheimintie bus lane at the corner of the Opera House [where Mannerheimintie crosses Helsinginkatu].
When the infrared camera detects a car misusing a bus lane, the police is immediately informed of the offence.
The trial use of the surveillance method that was introduced earlier this year has proved highly efficient - at least in the sense of catching people.
The number of those driving illegally on the dedicated bus lanes has been so huge that so far the police have managed to send a fine to only every tenth of them.
For years the Helsinki authorities have looked for a better way to monitor the use of the city’s bus lanes, which are unfortunately chronically abused by motorists.
“The police, however, lack resources to grant this wish”, Lehmuskoski says.
Consequently HSL would like to step in and shoulder some of the responsibility by paying for the installation of more of the “metal watch dogs” to observe the bus lane use.
In Lehmuskoski’s opinion the best alternative would be if the authority were granted the right to monitor independently the misuse of the bus lanes and to issue fines to the culprits.
This, however, would require an amendment to the law.
Already a year ago, Finland’s large cities (led by Helsinki) proposed that the large municipalities be given the right to issue fines to motorists committing offences such as bus-lane abuse, running red lights, or speeding within city limits.
The penalty fees would be used to finance the installation and the upkeep of the camera systems.
The amendment has got stuck within the ministries.
HSL’s other alternative would be to help finance the police, who would take care of the surveillance.
The essence of the whole surveillance business is not the money accrued from the fines but the fact that the deterrent is working.
Unlawful driving on the bus lane in the vicinity of the surveillance camera has gone down.
“This has sped up the buses’ journeys and improved their keeping to the timetables”, Lehmuskoski explains.
The easing of the public transportation headaches is important, because that is what attracts people to opt for a bus instead of a car.
The monitoring also has to do with fairness, Lehmuskoski points out.
“Nice law-abiding motorists have to wait on regular lanes, while those breaking the rules overtake them via the bus lane.”
Equally, if everyone were to abandon the public transport alternatives "because they are never on time" and instead take the car to town, the entire city would be gridlocked.
It is not, say HSL, all about idealistic "ecoism" so much as having an efficiently running and competitive city infrastructure.
Even if the cars were strikingly more environmentally-friendly or even electric-powered, they would still jam the place up.
Previously in HS International Edition:
Police to step up camera surveillance on bus-lanes in Helsinki (13.4.2011)
Bus-lane abusers are typically middle-aged men (8.6.2010)
Helsinki Region Transport (HSL)