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Could congestion charging in CBDs work?


A new report has recommended state governments introduce cordon charging as a way to better manage busy urban areas.

The Grattan Institute’s Why it’s time for congestion charging: better ways to manage busy urban roads report recommends a three stage reform to introduce the concept.

Within the next five years it suggests state governments should introduce a system that would involve drivers paying when crossing a boundary in to the capital city CBDs in the morning and out in the afternoon peak.

In the following five years the report proposes drivers should pay to access the busiest urban freeways and arterial roads at peak periods. It then indicates eventually people should be charged on a per-kilometre basis for driving across the city’s entire network at the busiest times.

A modest cordon charge could mean 40 per cent fewer cars entering CBDs in the morning peak, with speeds up to 16 per cent faster on roads in the CBD and up to 20 per cent faster on sections of major arterials leading into the CBD, according to the report.

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Modelling from the institute shows speeds across the entire Sydney and Melbourne road networks could increase by about one per cent.

Despite this seemingly low number, the report states Sydney’s WestConnex and Melbourne’s North East Link are predicted to increase network speeds by three and one per cent respectively.

Grattan Institute’s Transport and Cities Program Director Marion Terrill said everyone wants less congestion.

“It would make life easier for individual drivers and make our cities work better, too. Our plan tackles congestion without asking communities to pay billions of dollars for major new roads,” she said.

“New York, London, Beijing, Singapore, Stockholm, Milan, and Jakarta all have congestion charging or are heading that way. It’s time for Australian cities to embrace the idea.”

The report recommends that if well executed public transport is a pre-condition for congestion charging, there has never been a better time in Australia.

It highlights there is investment in public transport and road running at more than $30 billion in 2018-19.

The improvement of technology such as Automatic Number Plate Recognition is seen by the report to be accurate enough to use as the primary detection technology for congestion charging.

Addressing concerns that the charges would hurt those that could least afford it the report suggests people who drive to the city every day for work are more than twice as likely to earn a six-figure salary as other workers.

“In the end, if particular roads are in high demand, it’s fairer that people who use them a lot pay more than those who rarely or never use them,” Terrill said.

The report concludes that congestion charging should come with a ‘safety net’. It proposes there should be discounts for low-income people with impaired mobility who need to get to the CBD in peak periods.

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