Tough decisions needed to cut congestion

by Marion Terrill

Published by Property Australia, Tuesday 30 July

Plenty of people think that the biggest threat to mobility in Australia is urban congestion, and they may well be right. Whatever new technology may be just around the corner – shared mobility, autonomous vehicles or drones – the competition for scarce road space is real and growing.

The difficulty is that any meaningful reduction in congestion is only going to come about if we’re prepared to make hard choices. Hard choices like fewer people driving to work alone in their cars, or hours of work and school changing enough to take the ‘peak’ out of peak hour. Hard choices like deterring people from flocking to the big cities, or cities becoming dense enough that walking, cycling and public transport outperform driving.

To date, governments’ main strategies have been to build new roads, upgrade existing ones, and add new public transport services. They have mostly shied away from making peak-hour driving less attractive. The result is the level of congestion we see today.

We need new strategies, such as charging drivers on congested roads in peak periods, so that new technologies don’t just give us more gridlock, but unlock genuine benefits for the whole community.