27 July 2015, The Conversation, Don’t panic! Traffic congestion is not coming for our cities: There is a new fear on the block. Not just ISIS, home invasions, wind turbines and the budget deficit, but now we must fear … traffic congestion. The Infrastructure Australia report on the future needs of our cities emphasises the growing problem of urban traffic congestion all over the country. It is echoed by the State of Australian Cities report. Congestion, it warns, will overwhelm our futures, making them unlivable, uneconomic and ungovernable as we fight for every piece of road space. But do we have to accept that congestion trends will overwhelm us? Is it really right to fear congestion? The fear: According to the IA report travel times are going to increase by at least 20%. The total cost of such congestion will increase from A$13.7 billion a year to A$53.3 billion by 2031, an increase of nearly three times. The loss of time will apparently cripple us.
The public policy reaction to fear is to jettison economic analysis and throw money at it. No benefit-cost ratio is needed as we need to act now or it will overwhelm us. Kneejerk reactions like this are usually regretted in hindsight but at the time we have no choice, it must be done. In this climate of congestion-fear big roads are not being assessed, just announced. The congestion peril is coming. We must honour the Abbott government’s election commitments to around A$40 billion of high-capacity roads such as the East-West Link in Melbourne (now discredited and dropped by the Victorian Government), the Connex West system in Sydney (causing similar pain with communities subject to its impact) and most recently the Perth Freight Link (which looms as the biggest election issue facing the Barnett government that never actually wanted it). All of these roads have benefit cost ratios that make them very questionable. Read More here