The boss of Victoria’s roads authority has thrown his arms in the air this week, suggesting in an interview that Melbourne motorists tired of never-ending congestion could look to public transport and the good ol’ pushbike for relief.
Speaking with the ABC, VicRoads CEO John Merritt said that while investment in Melbourne’s infrastructure is ongoing, the city cannot “build its way out of congestion” with more and more roads.
“We need to invest heavily in public transport, which we are, through Melbourne Metro and we need to encourage people to cycle or to walk and make that feel as safe and as practical as we can,” Merritt said.
Echoing recent comments from Federal Treasurer Joe Hockey that hopeful home buyers struggling for opportunities should simply “get a good job”, Mr Merritt suggested that motorists could also avoid Melbourne congestion by finding a job closer to home.
He added that the Government has already committed to removing 50 level crossings in metropolitan Melbourne and regional areas, reducing holdups on key routes.
“It also means we can run more trains once those levels crossings are removed,” Merritt said.
Finding a solution to the nightmare crawl along Hoddle Street and Punt Road also appears to have the government stumped, as planners battle to deal with disarray and a growing number of road users.
“While it carries a huge [amount] of north-south traffic, more people travel east-west across all those intersections, either in cars or on trams or on bikes, so that’s what makes it such a challenge for us,” Merritt said.
He said that a significant part of the Government’s plan to combat congestion called for encouraging motorists to embrace alternative travel methods, such as “getting people to use public transport and encouraging more people to ride”.
The Victorian Government hopes that a new multi-billion-dollar Metro Rail tunnel project – which essentially replaces the previous government’s commitment to the controversial East West Link – will help to reduce the reliance on cars, although funding is still to be secured.
And, if signed off, the project is not expected to be completed until 2026. With Melbourne’s population growing by around 1800 people each week in 2014, that new tunnel will have its work cut out for it.
Melbourne cycling photo: Savio Sebastian