You can’t build your way out of congestion, the Grattan Institute has said in its latest report, though state governments in Australia seem to be trying their hardest to prove the think tank wrong.
Sydney and Melbourne in particular are engaged in massive city road buildings agendas, but the Grattan Institute’s latest report, Stuck in traffic? Road congestion in Sydney and Melbourne, warns this could all be for naught.
“Don’t listen to the politicians who tell you big new roads will be ‘congestion busters’,” Grattan Institute transport program director Marion Terrill said.
“You can’t build your way out of congestion. We need more sophisticated solutions.”
The institute’s solution is to levy controversial time-of-day congestion pricing at the most congested central areas of each city, which would be funnelled into public transport and car registration fee cuts.
Using data from 3.5 million Google Maps trips for 350 routes over a six-month period, the report found that commutes to the the CBD were often twice as long during the day than at night. On average, in the morning peak CBD-bound trips in Sydney took 70 per cent longer than if completed in the middle of the night, and about 80 per cent longer in Melbourne.
Key blockages for Sydney included the Spit Bridge and the commute to the CBD from Drummoyne via Balmain. In Melbourne the worst delays were for commuters from north-eastern suburbs, such as Heidelberg, Kew and Doncaster, as well as those using the Eastern Freeway and Hoddle Street.
“Some of the great cities of the world have successful congestion pricing schemes, including London, Stockholm and Singapore,” Ms Terrill said.
“For Sydney and Melbourne, congestion pricing would deliver city-wide benefits: not only reducing the amount of time we spend stuck in traffic, but also funding better public transport and a cut to car registration fees.”
The report also recommended that:
- Melbourne’s CBD parking levy be doubled to match Sydney’s (from about $1400 to $2400)
- Off-peak public transport pricing be cut to incentivise shifting travel times to when trains, trams and buses are less crowded
- More frequent and detailed public information about road delay be provided by governments for individual roads and routes
- Economic analysis of non-construction alternatives to road infrastructure be published
“These reforms would deliver city-wide benefits, easing how long we spend stuck in traffic,” the report said.
While is noted that roads were sometimes needed, city freeways were labelled as typically poor value.
“There is a place for new roads, especially in new suburbs and in areas with major redevelopments, but close to the city centres it is often more effective and always cheaper to invest in smaller-scale engineering and technology improvements such as traffic-light coordination, smarter intersection design, variable speed limits and better road surfaces and gradients,” the report said.