Big ideas to keep the city moving
As Melburnians get back on the road, experts predict traffic could rebound to worse than pre-COVID levels. How can we avoid a road congestion crisis?
Remember traffic? As Victorians enjoy the first weeks of easing restrictions it turns out there is good and bad news. First the good. A recent Monash University study found that as more and more people work from home, one in five white-collar workers will stop travelling into Melbourne’s CBD.
The bad news is nine per cent of the state’s public transport commuters are likely to switch to cars, raising the prospect of CBD gridlock.
It’s a problem around the world. In Beijing peak-hour congestion returned at heavier levels than in pre-COVID times as the city emerged from lockdown and many other Asian cities reported huge spikes in air pollution post lockdown.
Back in Melbourne, the Monash study’s lead researcher Professor Graham Currie has said a decline in public transport use combined with an upsurge in commuting by car would lead to more and different congestion hotspots. “Crowding and infection fear are now major concerns for users,” he says.
In June the Victorian government announced a $340 million package to deal with the looming traffic challenge of 20,000 extra cars on the roads, including installing 700 CCTV cameras to identify bottlenecks as soon as they start and more than 200 wireless travel-time sensors. Meanwhile some business leaders have called for giant parking lots to be built on the CBD fringe to cope with the traffic influx.
But RACV's senior manager for transport, Peter Kartsidimas, says there’s “no silver bullet”. He says with average car-occupancy rates of just over one person per vehicle in Melbourne, the mega car-park idea doesn’t stack up. “If you have 2000 car parking spaces and only 2000 people parking their cars there that’s not really moving many people. You need a lot of land for that and one car with one person in it can take up a lot of space.”
So what else could we do to avert a congestion crisis? We asked some of the brightest minds working on the issue for their big ideas to keep the city moving.