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Police ramp up efforts to fix taxi mess

10 Jul 2019

Police ramp up efforts to fix taxi mess Image

By David Schout

Police will introduce a new “taxi feeder station” to alleviate congestion around Crown Casino on Friday and Saturday nights.

In what Southbank Police Sergeant Chris Marsh said has been a “20-year issue”, police will soon divert taxis to a feeder station at the Kings Way underpass in a bid to fix the gridlock on Clarendon St on busy evenings.

From here, drivers will pick up a ticket at a soon-to-be-created booth, and present it at the Crown taxi pickup zone.

Those without a ticket will be moved on swiftly.

Sergeant Marsh, who has been dealing directly with the issue for several years, said the logjam of fare-searching drivers from the intersection at Clarendon and Whiteman streets caused congestion, safety and noise issues.

“We’ve known about it for a long time, identified it as a problem and we’re trying to fix it,” he said.

“We can fine them and move cars on but when we walk away the issue returns. It’s frustrating.”

The new system is a complex operation between numerous stakeholders, including Victoria Police, Crown, VicRoads, the City of Melbourne and Commercial Passenger Vehicles Victoria (CPVV).

Police will initially run a two-week trial operation, followed by two weeks of enforcement before it is officially rolled out.

“Once the word is out what the new process is, hopefully it’s business as usual. Obviously, there will be teething issues, but we will work through that.”

In addition to the operation, VicRoads will begin to change traffic light sequencing outside Crown to ensure a better flow of cabs at busy times.

Sergeant Marsh said all parties remained committed to getting on top of the problem.

“We’ve certainly had complaints over the years and we’re doing our best to fix the issue, and getting all stakeholders together to tackle it. So hopefully the plan we have in place can do that. If not, then it’s back to the drawing board and we’ll try again.”

Southbank’s taxi issues, however, aren’t merely confined to Clarendon St.

Further reports have emerged of taxis blocking certain streets near Eureka Tower.

Readers have told Southbank Local News of overcrowding on Riverside Quay and even complete blocking of nearby Cook Street.

The general manager of Eureka Tower, who wished to remain anonymous, said not only were taxis making excessive noise, but they often blocked residents coming out of the driveway onto Cook St.

“They’re a law unto themselves,” she said.

“I’ve had to go on the street and move the traffic along myself. I can’t work in this environment. They’re out there honking horns sometimes at 7am in the morning. There’s a mass of taxis that just don’t move.”

A sign on Cook St reads “No taxi stopping in Cook Street” but the manager said taxis were often stopped in no-standing, loading and keep-clear zones waiting for fares.

During a recent fire evacuation drill, drivers had reportedly blocked Cook St, preventing would-be fire trucks from entering.

She said that despite the daily offences, the City of Melbourne would not accept photo evidence of offending drivers.

“The only way to hit them is in the hip pocket, otherwise nothing will happen. The City of Melbourne come out and fine people but they can’t be here all the time and I understand that. So there needs to be a way of policing it when no one is here.”

Sergeant Marsh confirmed that police were also aware of illegal activity on Riverside Quay, and were now “actively patrolling” the area.

A council spokesperson said the City of Melbourne were working with relevant stakeholders to address the issue.

“At the moment there is a surplus of taxis and rideshare operators competing for work and needing somewhere to park while they wait for patrons.”

The spokesperson said a “mega taxi rank”, like that in place on Queen St in the CBD, was not necessarily the answer.

“Introducing larger taxi ranks is not feasible in all areas. A solution for the issue of taxi congestion needs to take into account the competing needs for curbside space in this area including loading, parking and disability parking.”

When contacted for comment, CEO of CPVV (formerly the Taxi Services Commission) Aaron de Rozario said: “Victoria Police, the City of Melbourne, Crown Casino and Commercial Passenger Vehicles Victoria are continuing to work together to address ongoing traffic issues and taxi congestion in the area”.

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