Sydney’s traffic congestion, resulting from years of “political neglect”, can only be resolved with the introduction of a “radical” new system of charges for road usage, according to a University of Sydney Business School researcher.
Transport Economist David Hensher said state government’s current attempt to build its way out of the problem with new tollways will only “buy a few years of growth” before the city’s roads are just as congested as today.
He says massive road projects such as WestConnex and NorthConnex have positive value, however, his research indicates that a complementary user pays system of road charges could cut peak hour traffic further by up to 10 per cent or to school holiday levels.
“Our research has suggested that we ought to move to a distance based charge of five cents a kilometre during peak hours but no charge at all in the off peak,” Professor Hensher said. “In order to ensure that people don’t pay more for their travel, we would also reduce registration charges.”
A recent survey by the Business School’s Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, headed by Professor Hensher, found that 70 per cent of road users would be prepared travel in off peak periods if given a financial incentive to do so and to save time.
He rejected suggestions that his proposal was similar to the government’s policy of cutting registration fees for vehicle owners who paid more than a certain amount in tolls over a 12-month period.
“All that the government is doing there is subsidising toll operator Transurban by telling users that if they continue to spend money on toll roads, they will not have to pay registration,” Professor Hensher said.
“If my proposal is radical it’s because we need a radical approach in order to make a difference otherwise we will keep building to attract more traffic and we are back to square one in a few years,” Professor Hensher said. “Members of the public will accept the scheme if it can be demonstrated that they are not financially worse off but they get a time saving.”
He proposed a trial of the usage charge system involving several hundred opt-in travellers who would pay a fee per kilometre in peak hours in return for reduced registration charges. They may also choose to stay in the peak and drive or switch to the free off peak time and drive or even consider using public transport.