Twenty-three city buses swing around a local traffic roundabout in one hour – only five people get on the buses, and just six hop off. One resident would like the government to do the maths.
Gilles Demaneuf and other Chung Hom Kok residents are urging officials to reduce the number of buses that travel down a 150-metre stretch of Chung Hom Kok Road, then circle a roundabout and motor back up the same strip again.
The residents say the 6, 6X, 63, 65, 66 and 973 buses are not in demand, and the diesel vehicles cause noise and air pollution, and escalating safety fears. “You have to just have bus traffic that corresponds to what you need,” Demaneuf said.
The financial adviser, 41, estimates 48 buses use the Chung Hom Kok Beach roundabout per hour at evening peak time – which equals 96 bus trips along the 150-metre stretch every 60 minutes. The buses, which are travelling to and from city destinations, visit the small, sloping road at least 350 times a day for an approximate total of 700 passes, he added.
The roundabout stops were the closest to Chung Hom Kok Beach, Demaneuf said, but not many people went there, especially in winter when the beach is closed, or on weekdays.
Demaneuf has circulated newsletters; gained the support of more than 20 other people; created a website; and reached out to Chan Lee Pui-ying, a member of the Southern District Council, the Transport Department and sister companies New World First Bus Services (NWFB) and Citybus Ltd.
Chan held a meeting, but eventually opposed reducing the number of buses on the strip, Demaneuf said.
A bus company service manager defended the routes, and the Transport Department would not release the results of a study it did, he added.
The lack of official concern raised questions, said Jay Chen, another resident. An “easy, effectively cost-free way to improve the neighbourhood is for some reason not getting through to, and within, the government”, he said.
But the Citybus and NWFB public affairs department said the average number of buses running past the beach roundabout was 22 during peak hours and 16 during non-peak hours. Citybus and NWFB said their buses adhered to government requirements, its drivers were well trained and its vehicles were environmentally friendly.
The Transport Department responded that there was a need for the buses after conducting a study in June that showed about 100 people were serviced daily at the roundabout and talking to Chan.
Chan said she had brought the issue to the attention of the district council and a Legislative Council member, but there were residents who “have been complaining about inadequate accessibility” to the Cheshire home for the elderly, the beach and a barbecue area. For that reason, she has asked the government to keep the buses.
Christian Masset, chairman of Clear the Air, said the Transport Department should not be the sole government agency involved. The Environmental Protection Department, he said, should also be involved.
The Sunday Morning Post conducted its own snap traffic study at the roundabout and observed 23 buses, most of them double-deckers, navigate the circle from around noon to 1pm last Wednesday. In all, five people got on and six passengers alighted, including the reporter.
This, said Demaneuf, helped illustrate that the bus traffic was not proportional with the demand.
“It’s a lot of noise and aggravation for limited usage,” he said.
Demaneuf said he could not understand why there would be any opposition to a reduction in service on the small strip, and both he and Chen said that noise and air pollution aside, there were safety issues.
Police do not have figures for the number of accidents at the intersection of Cape and Chung Hom Kok roads, but the two men said there had been a few accidents at the location over the past few years, including a 2007 bus crash that injured 26 passengers.
The Citybus and NWFB public relations department said only one Central-bound Citybus was involved in an accident this year and last.
The Transport Department said it had a record of four accidents, three in 2005 and one in 2007, and one involved a bus colliding with a car.
Demaneuf and Chen had one last concern. There is a plan to build an explosives storage depot hundreds of metres away from the roundabout.
Demaneuf does not object to the site, a temporary magazine for the MTR Corporation’s South Island Line project, but he is worried that a bus may crash into a transport vehicle on the 150-metre stretch.
An MTR Corp spokeswoman said “the routings are still under assessment”, and would be part of the company’s Environmental Impact Assessment report, which is expected to be completed by early next year.