Commuter behaviour change prices lower Congestion Victoria

While the COVID-19 pandemic is seeing a significant reduction in road users, congestion remains a major challenge for Melbourne’s rapidly growing population. New research released by Infrastructure Victoria has demonstrated that promoting behaviour change in commuters is the best solution to reduce the state’s growing congestion.

The report from Victoria’s long-term infrastructure planning agency also shows that up to 85 per cent of Victorians could pay less for transport, when concessions and subsidies are included to ensure the approach is fair and equitable. 

The cost of these would be more than offset by a more efficient and better utilised transport system.

The report Good move – fixing transport congestion shows that a comprehensive change to the pricing of roads, public transport and parking is key to motivating people to change their time and mode of travel, resulting in a more efficient and fairer system for all Victorians.

The research brings together new transport modelling, international case studies and community opinion that establishes strong evidence for comprehensive reform of our transport pricing system.

Infrastructure Victoria Deputy CEO, Dr Jonathan Spear, said there are three big problems with our current transport pricing system – problems that can all be addressed if Victorians change the way they pay and the way they travel.

“Firstly, we have our usual state of congestion on roads and overcrowding on public transport right across the system, then a reliance on new services and new construction to address that congestion, and finally we have no incentive for people to change their mode or time of travel,” Dr Spear said.

Transport network pricing is a system where prices are set to influence how, when and where people travel. Prices can be set to encourage people to travel at different times and by different modes, taking pressure off roads, trains and trams during peak periods.

“Our work shows introducing variable pricing across all modes reduces congestion, motivates people to change their time and mode and also gets the most out of significant government investment in new construction and increased services,” Dr Spear said.

The paper takes an illustrative approach, through various pricing scenarios across roads, public transport and parking.

“Our work shows that with transport network pricing, average speeds in inner Melbourne during the morning peak increase by about one third and under all scenarios, most people are better off in terms of price and travel conditions.”

The paper outlines a number of options for government to consider ahead of major reform, including:  

  • Trials of variable pricing to reflect time of day, mode and distance
  • Introduction of distance-based pricing for electric vehicles
  • Trials of variable pricing for on-street parking
  • A full-scale trial of cordon charging in inner Melbourne and other congestion hot spots

“We think the time to test some of this thinking is now. The community has told us they are ready for a change and given us practical and easy to implement conditions to consider in making this change. We also are seeing a groundswell of support from industry, all calling for change,” Dr Spear said.

“Government has invested significantly in extra services and construction to help ease congestion. A change to transport pricing across roads, public transport and parking complements, and makes the most of, this investment to deliver a better, more efficient and cost-effective transport network for all Victorians.”

Following further consultation and research, Infrastructure Victoria will develop further recommendations on transport network pricing for inclusion in the update to its 30-Year Infrastructure Strategy. The draft strategy will be released in late 2020, with a final strategy due in mid-2021.

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