A report from the Grattan Institute has suggested Melbourne and Sydney impose a 'congestion charge' to combat worsening traffic on city roads.
The report, entitled Stuck in traffic? Road congestion in Sydney and Melbourne, says new freeways and road projects don't provide a solution to persistent traffic snarls affecting commuters in both cities, based on a six-month study of 3.5 million Google Maps trip-time estimates on 350 routes.
"Don’t listen to the politicians who tell you big new roads will be ‘congestion busters’," says Grattan Institute Transport Program Director, Marion Terrill. "You can't build your way out of congestion."
According to the report, commuters travelling to the Melbourne CBD on the Eastern Freeway and Hoddle Street often deal with delays of more than 20 minutes, while those commuting from Balgowlah or Hurstville in Sydney are frequently forced to spend an extra 15 minutes sitting in their cars.
Of course, these times are just a guide. Some days, commuters will get a dream run, while the wall of cars will feel impenetrable on others.
"We need more sophisticated solutions," Terrill said. "Some of the great cities of the world have successful congestion pricing schemes, including London, Stockholm and Singapore.
Above: London Congestion Charge, mariordo59, via Flickr
"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 institute is calling for a 'CBD cordon' charge, essentially throwing a blanket over the area flanked by Hoddle Street, Royal Parade, City Road and Olympic Boulevard in Melbourne. It also suggests Melbourne double its parking levy.
To encourage more people to leave their cars at home, the Grattan Institute has suggested money raised by the congestion charge be used to fund cheaper peak-hour public transport. The Institute hasn't, however, provided any indication of how much the charge should be.
It told CarAdvice the potential charge should start off small, as toll roads have proven small charges can have a big impact on people's willingness to drive. In London, it can cost up to $20 for drivers to enter the city centre, thanks to the congestion charge.
Victorian Minister for Roads and Transport, Luke Donnellan, quickly rejected the idea, telling the media "we have no plans to introduce a congestion charge of any kind".
The institute also said calls to double the cost of parking spaces in Melbourne comes in response to growth in the number of people driving into the CBD. In Sydney, the number of people driving into the city is on the decline.
The Grattan Institute isn't the first body to call out the reliance on cars in Australian cities. Arcadis, an Australian design and consultancy firm for natural and built assets, has created the Sustainable Cities Mobility Index, analysing the way transport in 100 of the world's leading cities impacts on its people and the planet, along with data about its overall efficiency.
Hong Kong was ranked first in the study, with Melbourne coming in 55th, Sydney 51st and Brisbane 48th. That's right, the 'World's Most Liveable City' lagged behind Brisbane and Sydney.
"One of the largest factors affecting Melbourne’s mobility is its rapid recent growth," the report states. "It is projected that Melbourne’s population will double to around eight million in the next generation, overtaking Sydney as Australia’s largest city."
"While Sydney is well on its way to global city status, its middle-of-the-road ranking in this index reflects historic under-investment in mass transit, compounded by increasingly rapid population growth," the study said of the New South Wales capital.
What do you think about paying to enter the CBD in Melbourne and Sydney? Let us know in the comments below.
Images: Patch Clapp, used with permission