Decisive action needed to manage congestion in Sydney and Melbourne: Grattan report

CONGESTION charges should be introduced in Sydney and Melbourne, according to a new Grattan Institute report that provides a detailed look at road congestion in Australia's major cities and calls for decisive action to manage congestion and avoid future gridlock.

'Stuck in traffic? Road congestion in Sydney and Melbourne' warns that with their populations growing strongly, both cities could face traffic gridlock in the future if appropriate action is not taken. The findings are based on an examination of 3.5 million Google Maps trip-time estimates across more than 350 routes over six months of this year.

'Flow (peak hour)', Dandenong Road, St Kilda, Melbourne
Above: 'Flow (peak hour)', Dandenong Road, St Kilda, Melbourne / by Scott Cresswell.

The report recommends congestion charges in the most congested central areas of each city, with people who pay the charge to benefit from a quicker and more reliable trip due to the reduction of cars on the road at peak times. People who can travel outside of the peaks would not have to pay, because there would be no congestion charge when the roads are not congested.

In order to make it clear that the new charges are to help manage traffic flows rather than boost revenue, the report says that money raised should be used to fund a discount on vehicle registration fees and improvements to the train, tram, ferry and bus networks.

The report says that Melbourne's CBD parking levy should be doubled, to match Sydney's and to further discourage city commuters from driving to work, and public transport fares in both cities should be reduced in off-peak periods to encourage people to shift their travel to times when the trains, trams and buses are not overcrowded.

While the report acknowledges the importance of new roads for areas of new growth or substantial redevelopment, it argues that investment closer to the city centres should be focused on smaller-scale engineering and technology improvements, such as traffic-light coordination, smarter intersection design, variable speed limits and better road surfaces and gradients.

"Don't listen to the politicians who tell you big new roads will be 'congestion busters'," said Grattan Institute Transport Program Director and co-author of the report, Marion Terrill.

"We need more sophisticated solutions. 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."

More information about the report, 'Stuck in traffic? Road congestion in Sydney and Melbourne', is available from the Grattan Institute website at <>.

Photo: 'Flow (peak hour)', Dandenong Road, St Kilda, Melbourne / Scott Cresswell / Licensed under Creative Commons BY 2.0.

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