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Australia’s billion-dollar problem: congestion

Congestion is costing Australia's cities billions of dollars each year, how do we solve the issue?

Congestion is costing Australia's cities billions of dollars each year, how do we solve the issue?Road congestion isn’t so different to the common cold.

Avoiding large, populated areas is one way of keeping the illness at bay, but it’s not solving the issue. There’s no one-off pill to fix it, but your doctor can do some tests and recommend treatments.

The test results on Australia’s road illness are in, and the prognosis reveals some challenges for the country’s cities.

Independent statutory body Infrastructure Australia released its national audit report this past May. According to the audit, congestion cost Australia’s capital cities an estimated $13.7 billion in 2011. That number is expected to increase to nearly $53.3 billion by 2031 as the nation’s population grows to more than 30 million. How the issue of congestion is approached and how the nation avoids this ballooning figure are now the big questions.

“In terms of congestion and the report from Infrastructure Australia, it is important to understand that there are two different drivers of congestion,” says Dr. Charles Karl, ARRB National Technology Leader for Congestion, Freight and Productivity. He explains that recurrent congestion is the day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year element. This is the regular flow of commuters from ‘a’ to ‘b’ on any regular working day. Non-recurrent congestion is the road works, accidents and events that close roads and change the normal traffic flow.

Dr. Karl says that how these two types of congestion are dealt with comes down to supply and demand. This is, what can be provided for road users and what road users want. He says that understanding both is part of the process in addressing congestion.

“If you look at a road on the supply side, you can try to use technology to stretch the asset as much as possible,” says Dr. Karl. Technology is giving road users a better way to deal with both recurrent and non-recurrent congestion. Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking through mobile applications such as Google Maps can provide road agencies with the appropriate information on how Australia’s roads are used. That data is then relayed to the public. VicTraffic, for example, is the official VicRoads live feed app. It updates drivers on travel times, road closures, traffic alerts, road works and more.

To read the article in full, see the latest issue of Roads & Civil Works Magazine, click here to subscribe https://roadsonline.com.au/subscribe-2/

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