Is this the most frustrating drive in Melbourne?

Moving Well | Sue Hewitt | Posted on 25 September 2019

New Driver Frustration Index ranks some of the most annoying drives in Melbourne.

The drive from Preston via Northcote to Port Melbourne is Melbourne’s most infuriating commuter route, according to a new Driver Frustration Index.  

The route along High Street and Brunswick Street, through the city to Port Melbourne, where the  Australian Road Research Board (ARRB) has its headquarters, scored 88 out of 100 on the board’s new index. 

In an Australian first, researchers from ARRB’s new National Transport Performance Centre tested six initial routes around Melbourne, representing a broad geographic spread to gauge driver frustration. 

Sydney Road in Melbourne's north in peak hour with trams, cars and cyclists

The ARRB’s chief research officer, Dr Mike Shackleton, says frustration is a hidden cost to families and workplaces when commuters carry their anger through the door. 

“While we have been measuring and placing a cost on congestion for decades, we have not been measuring the problem that Australian households want solved – frustration,” he says.

Anthony Germanchev, who is spearheading the research, says driver frustration is measured not only by traffic snarls but also by the motorists’ experiences. So the Driver Frustration Index considers such factors as the actual speed of cars compared to the posted speed limit, the overall condition of the road surface and space on the road. Cramped or narrow roads can feel intimidating, especially when shared with heavy vehicles, and may be a factor in a “nightmare” commute, he says.

Rough, potholed or slippery road surfaces can also contribute to driver frustration levels. 

ARRB researchers plan to test numerous routes to pinpoint the road conditions that cause frustration and need fixing.

Initial tests starting at various locations and ending at the ARRB’s headquarters in Turner Street, Port Melbourne, recorded frustration levels ranging from 54 to 88 out of 100. The scores were calculated using specially equipped survey vehicles to record road surface conditions. This data was then run through an algorithm along with information on road widths, travelling speeds and lane space to arrive at the final score. 

The Preston route is the most frustrating because there is no relief from the congested conditions for the entire 15-kilometre journey and the roads are in worse condition compared to other routes.

“The Preston route is the most frustrating because there is no relief from the congested conditions for the entire 15-kilometre journey and the roads are in worse condition compared to other routes,” says Anthony, the centre’s principal professional leader.

“The roads are also rougher, about 1.5 times rougher than Beach Road, and the average speed on this journey is 25kmh.” 

The second-most annoying route was the 24-kilometre drive from the eastern suburb of Vermont South via Burwood Highway and Toorak Road to Port Melbourne, which scored 72 on the index.

“In comparison to the Preston route the conditions of these roads were much better,” Anthony says. “[But] for this journey the road space was the worst between Camberwell Road and Glenferrie Road and the roughest road section occurred after the rail crossing on Toorak Road near the Monash Freeway underpass.”

Coming a close third was the 37-kilometre trip from Doreen in the north via the Greensborough Bypass and Heidelberg Road, which rated 68 per cent.

Anthony says while roads on this route rated better than average for smoothness, frustration levels rise as the road space narrows on the approach to Heidelberg Road.  

“Traffic speed reduced upon reaching High Street and the average speed for the entire journey was 35kmh or about 10kmh slower than those travelling from the east,” he says.

Frustration on the 30-kilometre commute from Craigieburn along Sydney Road and CityLink rated 62 while the route from Narre Warren via the Princes Highway scored 60.

The route from Berwick via Lower Dandenong Road and Beach Road scored the lowest frustration level with just 54 out of 100, despite pain points including tight road space and congestion through Dandenong and St Kilda.