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Comments on Proposal for Relaxation of Traffic Restrictions on South Lantau

i Jul 21st 1 Comment by

The Living Islands Movement has received a number of comments on the “Proposal for Relaxation of Traffic Restrictions on South Lantau” as mentioned in http://www.livingislands.org.hk/2015/07/10/proposal-for-relaxation-of-traffic-restrictions-on-south-lantau/. See the link for how to make your submission on or before 22 July.

Here is a selection of those comments:


 

It all depends on what relaxations are envisaged. If we are talking about a modest increase in the number of permits, e.g. allowing private bus companies to bring people over to South Lantau, allowing delivery of goods, allowing more than one permit per household, then ok, but a general free for all where anyone can apply for and obtain a permit will be a disaster. Parking in Mui Wo is getting difficult, the South Lantau Road is a nightmare already (due to appalling driving habits) and the whole of South Lantau is already getting much busier.

What is behind the TD initiative? What do they have in mind. It’s all a bit vague.


 

Dear Sir / Madam

As a resident of South Lantau, I do not believe that it makes any sense to allow general vehicle access to South Lantau road.

The roads are too narrow and winding to allow more traffic – especially:

  1. from the circle at the bottom of Tung Chung Road to Mui Wo, and
  2. from Shek Pik to Tai O.

This is just inviting calamity and danger.

And for drivers who do not know to look out for feral cows and water buffalo, this will be a real hazard. Any accident causes major delays are there are no alternate routes.

I believe that a far better solution is:

– more frequent fast ferries on the weekends

– more frequent busses on the weekends.

– a park and ride parking area in Tung Chung that connects drivers with busses

There is insufficient parking to accommodate additional drivers – especially at the beaches and other “tourist” destinations.

Please do not proceed with this plan.


 

If I read the TD’s proposal correctly, they seem to think that there’s plenty of parking during the weekdays. This shows they haven’t tried hard to understand the situation. There’s parking (well, ILLEGAL parking) available in villages during weekdays, but that’s because many cars have been moved to Mui Wo. TD needs to know (because obviously they haven’t bothered to look) that Mui Wo is absolutely overwhelmed with cars during day. There’s no longer any room on the pavements even, least of all on the streets (all of which is illegal parking, of course). There’s just nowhere to park. So, unless their weirdly assume that all 50 cars and busses will NOT go to Mui Wo, you might ask them whether they plan to build a parking garage there before this new policy goes into effect. And could they at least get agreement from the parking wardens not to do sweeps every few months? Those just make people angry; there’s no option but to park illegally. The same will apply to the 50 new cars.

Also, who will take responsibility for the inevitable accidents? It’s already hazardous enough driving on the S Lantau Road — hazardous to cars, to be sure, but also hazardous to pedestrians, dogs, buffalo and so forth. It’s scary to think that, ON TOP OF ALL THE NEW CARS DRIVEN BY NEW RESIDENTS (just a few new houses finishing up in Shap Long will result in about 20 new cars — because each house is being made into three flats), there will be 50 virgin drivers of cars plus more speedy bus drivers. It’s just not a good idea.

While you talk to them, maybe you could ask why Anthony Cheung cannot use his supposed expertise in public administration to get Housing (which approves the village houses, I think) and Transport (which approves the road permits) too talk to each other. The former should know that the latter will approve up to three permits per house. Where will all these cars park when they go to Mui Wo to catch the ferry, shop, etc.?

In short, I hope you muster all the arguments you can to oppose this plan. But they’ll do it anyway, I’m sure…


 

Dear Sir / Madam

Proposals for Relaxation of Traffic Restrictions to promote Tourism and other Development in South Lantau – Your Ref L/M to TD NR 146/169-4

With regards to your letter, dated 3 July 2015, regarding proposals to relax the current traffic restrictions and closed road permit arrangements for South Lantau Island, I am writing to submit my commentary, as a resident of Mui Wo, South Lantau Island, N.T.

The road network in South Lantau is predominantly of a single carriage way nature, with significant ‘bends’, steep inclines / declines, and limited road distance visibility, in a substantially rural and remote country-park area. For example, Tung Chung Road involves a climb and descent of up to 1000 feet for vehicles.

Given the current physical limitations of car parking availability and the limited capacity and questionable safety record of the roads in South Lantau (notably South Lantau Road, Tai O Road, and Tung Chung Road), at present, it would be inappropriate to relax the current traffic restrictions and Lantau closed road permit arrangements, until extensive further capacity expansion and safety improvements have been made to these roads.

I therefore strongly recommend to the Commissioner for Transport that the Transport Department instead considers, as a matter of urgency, increasing the number of Lantau Island (Blue) Taxi permits from the current 50 licences to 250 licences, as a means of providing increased transport capacity within Lantau Island to support any efforts in increasing tourism and other development in South Lantau.

Furthermore, I would strongly advise the Transport Department to work closely with the New Lantau Bus Co., (1973) Ltd and New World First Ferry Services Limited, in increasing the capacity and frequency of Lantau Island bus and Lantau Island ferry services (Central – Mui Wo), respectively, to support the aforementioned increased tourism efforts. Where appropriate, the Transport Department may be able to provide financial incentives and subsidies to both firms, in order for them to assistant them in providing increased capacity.

Thank you for the consultation and I look forward to hearing from you.


 

Hi Lims,

Comments are as follows:

Relaxation can’t be done without infrastructure improvements. Including parking spaces and widening of the road with more pull over passing places.

With respect to parking the survey done by the transport department says 75% free during the week. But fails to mention that it was an observed snap shot of parking during the day light hours. The reality is the parking is over subscribed as soon as it hits 7 or 8 pm and remains so until about 8 am the next morning. With respect to Pui O you also have big busses occupying non-designated parking spots further compounding the lack of parking especially at night. Therefore the extra private vehicles will put pressure on the over subscribed parking spots from 6 pm to 8 am. Also parking in Mui Wo is packed after 8 am and remains so near the business district and ferry pier until the early evening.

For villages like Pui O car parking spots both illegal and designated are over subscribed. Some locals have taken it on them selves to impose self claimed parking bays with violence or vandalism being the result if you unwittingly park in those bays. The vandalism serves as a reminder to not park there again. These social ills are a result of the lack of parking infrastructure. This is also bringing about illegal activities of controlling parking spots on government land and in some cases charging to park in these illegally controlled spots . Some people own the land and charge for parking but will only take cash with no transfer or bank records so one assumes it’s not an income being claimed to the IRD. relaxing the restrictions will only encourage more vandalism aggression and illegal charging of parking.  People do not park in the designated bays with meters as they occasionally get fines, the preference is for parking illegally in non designated bays and further puts pressure on the pedestrian access areas as cars frequently partially obstruct these pedestrian zones. I doubt the relaxation will see an improvement to the lack of infrastructure that is described above and will only make it worse. Sure at 11am during the week it looks like 100 more cars and busses can be supported but the reality when residents return back to their homes in an evening that is when the capacity available is at its worst.

Villages like Pui O are so restricted in parking that some villagers are deciding to park in Ham Tin village and walk across the Buffaloes field. This inconvenience to them is a Small price to pay to avoid the vandalism and illegal charging. But it is just merely spreading the problem to Ham tin that never before had parking issues but is now gripped by similar problems big villages of Pui O face where parking is not available in the evenings and residents are required to squeeze their cars into awkward spots that would hider access to emergency vehicles should a fire break out etc. this is a big safety concern and one that can not be afforded with the current level of infrastructure.

Therefore if additional permits were to be granted it would have to be only daylight permits from say 9 am to 6 pm for private cars. They would need an electric auto toll system to record those cars with permits and to fine those that are outside these requirements rather than rely on police random yet irregular checks. This would enforce compliance and prevent the many illegal road runners that currently drive without permits.

Additionally Lims should push both the lands department and the transport department for allocation in all key villages for increased free parking for residents. With the public transport system being inadequate for these remote villages it would be advisable to look at the change in demographics and the fact that before it was usually locals that lived and worked within South Lantau. With housing affordability driving more city workers out to Lantau Island this brings with it a required reliance on vehicles for mobility. Now it seems 80% of residential dwellings seem to have at least one car. Before that average seemed to be about 50%. With the significant amount of building that has also taken up areas that used to park numerous cars being utilised for housing the infrastructure for parking has been exhausted. No more housing should be granted until this issue has been solved. Just take a look at Mui Wo where cars are parked all over the place. This is not acceptable in any other part of the world and Hong Kong should stop taking such a short sighted view and attitude that it’s not this departments job to consider such things. Everything needs to be coordinated if we are to avoid big problems in the future. It’s time to sort this out now rather than be another Sai Kung where it’s physically impossible to drive on a Sunday afternoon as the road becomes a giant 3 km/ hr slow moving car park from the hours of 3 pm to 8 pm.


 

I have the following points to make

Road System

That of South Lantau are the basics to meet the requirement of villagers/residents and the essential services.  I doubt if it is ever intended for urban-like volume of traffic.  Thus we have dual carriageways only on arteries, in essence, South Lantau Rd and its extensions (Tai O Rd, Keung Shan Rd etc.).  Access to the plentiful of villages, monasteries and beaches, are mostly, if not all, single-lane two-way, a challenge to average urban drivers.  But these remote spots will be precisely where visitors/tourists are flocking and I doubt if the current system can cope. A mishap on a village path can clog up the whole vicinity which may unwittingly cause local resentment.

Parking

There are only limited on street parking on the South.  Situation in Mui Wo is at present already getting out of hand whilst Pui O, Tong Fuk and Shui Hau are struggling, with nearly all open wasteland improvised and squeezed up.  An increase in the number of vehicles allowed in would certainly further exacerbate this problem.  Would-be permit holders would have problems stopping over for a relief, let alone parking.

Tung Chung Road

A superbly designed roadway with bus-bays and passing places.  It has a panoramic view all way through but unfortunately no vantage points are provided for, say, photo breaks or rest out.  Visiting drivers will naturally be tempted to make use of bus/passing bays and that would have an adverse effect on smooth traffic flow.

Unless and until a revamp of these areas, South Lantau is far from ready for opening up.

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