How Commuting Became An $11 Billion Problem

Australians love their cars and drive them in ever-increasing numbers. We hate traffic jams but we don’t use public transport. Is there any way out of this mess?

A study commissioned by Siemens suggests that the overall cost of congestion on Australian city roads is $11 billion a year, which could rise to $20 billion by 2020. The study also reminds us that on the whole we’re not showing much interest in alternatives: 85 per cent of us choose not to use public transport. Currently, there are 7.2 motor vehicles registered per 10 people in Australia; by 2030, this could rise to 9.7.

Siemens argues that to avoid this creating a major congestion problem, we need to integrate the current systems more closely, sharing data from different modes rather than treating each of them entirely independently. It proposes what it calls a “Complete Mobility Manager”, which sounds like a super-charged GPS app which provides real-time information on how long different transport options will take to travel along a given route. This seems a sound idea, although the reluctance of city transport authorities to even allow basic access to their operational data suggests it could be a long time coming.

Whatever happens with technology, it seems clear we also need to invest more money in non-car alternatives if we want anyone to adopt them. The study calculates that of the $62 billion in federal government funding spent on transport between 1974 and 2005, just $4 billion was spent on rail.

I know from previous posts on this topic that many Lifehacker readers argue that they’d use public transport more if reliability improved and prices fell. What other changes would make you more likely to choose public transport?


Lifehacker’s Road Worrier column, looking at technology and organising tips for travellers, appears each week on Lifehacker.

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