Traffic congestion banked up in Melbourne along a tram line

Congestion in Melbourne: is it time to consider congestion charging?

Australians love their cars but hate congestion. Most commuters in Melbourne drive to work, and one of the big conversation topics is how clogged the roads have become. Melbourne’s population has grown by 25 per cent in a decade, so it’s no wonder it feels more crowded.

The city has adapted pretty well to the population explosion, according to a recent Grattan report, Stuck in Traffic. Most people who commute by car to work only take five minutes longer than they would if they were travelling in the middle of the night. This is because most people live in a suburb close to where they work.

But some parts of the city are much worse than others, and delays can be acute. People driving into the city in the morning peak can experience long delays, particularly coming in from Doncaster, Heidelberg, Kew and other north-eastern suburbs.

And the future prospects could be much worse, if our population keeps growing, can we keep on doing more of the same?

In this Policy Pitch event, a panel of transport and infrastructure experts explored:

  • How bad is congestion across Melbourne?
  • At what point should we consider new strategies to manage congestion, including congestion pricing?
  • If a government were to introduce congestion charging, what principles should guide the scheme?


Helen Rowe is the Head of Innovation and Strategy at CoDesign Studio. She has over 15 years experience in urban and transport planning, policy and engagement, gained through senior positions with the Victorian State Government in transport, as well as in consulting and research roles. She is passionate about exploring new ideas to drive innovation in our cities and is currently generating more participatory process to create great streets at CoDesign and is also working at RMIT supporting new research on car parking reform.


Catherine Rooney is the Chief Economic and Commercial Adviser at Infrastructure Victoria. Prior to beginning her role with Infrastructure Victoria in May 2017, Catherine was Executive Director, System Reform at the Department of Economic Development, Transport, Jobs and Resources and before that spent a number of years as Assistant Director at the Department of Treasury and Finance. Catherine has extensive experience in Victoria’s public sector as well as the private, having spent a decade working for The Allen Consulting Group

Dr Elliot Fishman heads the Institute for Sensible Transport. He completed his PhD at the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety and his Post Doc at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. He has advised the Australian Prime Minister’s Office on sustainable mobility, as well as the New York City Department of Transport, Transport for London and the OECD. In 2016 he completed two landmark reports for the City of Melbourne and City of Adelaide on disruptive transport technology and the implications for local government.

Marion Terrill is Transport Program Director at the Grattan Institute. Marion came to the Grattan Institute three years ago to establish its Transport Program, from a career in government that ranges from authoring parts of the 2010 Henry Tax Review to leading the design and development of the MyGov account. She has provided expert analysis and advice on labour market policy for the Commonwealth Government, the Business Council of Australia and at the Australian National University. She has published on government infrastructure investment, cost overruns, value capture, congestion and, shortly, discount rates.