- Wednesday 7 February, 2007

Easing traffic chaos
Channel 9 - Wednesday February 7, 2007 

Traffic on the Sydney Harbour Bridge approach (AAP)

The Courier Mail reported yesterday that Brisbane City Council's Climate Change Taskforce recommended closing city streets to traffic in an effort to combat climate change and ease traffic congestion.

Brisbane City Council has since rejected the story saying they have no plans to cordon off city streets but it does raise the issue, how do we improve CBD traffic congestion and help the environment?

Federal Labor MP for the Sydney seat of Kingsford-Smith, Peter Garrett, says we could follow the example of other cities around the world by looking to implement a range of measures, rather than immediately dismissing the idea.

He believes we are not doing enough to cut down levels of congestion, and questions the lack of pursuit of light rail and other public transport investment.

Mr Garrett believes such a tax could become a class issue in that only the rich could afford to drive into the central business district (CBD) area, and says this may be a reason why the State Government has been quick to reject the idea.

The NSW State Government says it's not considering congestion tax, even though the results of a six year old R.T.A study shows Sydneysiders might accept a congestion tax if it resulted in less traffic.

In London a congestion tax was introduced in 2003. Registered car owners must pay eight pounds when their car enters, leaves or moves around within the congestion charge zone between 7am and 6.30pm.

The Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics (BTRE) predicts that in the next 15 years traffic congestion will worsen three-fold on Australia’s roads.

Harold Scruby from the Pedestrian Council of Australia says he’d like to see congestion taxes introduced to all approaches to all central business districts across the country.

He says the tax is needed to spread traffic flow as much as possible, and to smooth out peak periods.

Mr Scruby says in an ideal world it'd be great to offer incentives, such as $2 less for every passenger you have in your car, but he says the problem with electronic tolling is there's no way to tell how many people are in each car.

There are also several alternatives to a congestion tax that can help ease congestion and help the environment.

  • Bus lanes: "I want transit lanes to go... bus lanes can be enforced electronically, where as only police can enforce transit lanes" Mr Scruby says He says about 60-70 per cent of drivers using transit lanes are doing it illegally because they know they won't get caught.

  • Staggered work hours: Mr Scruby suggests says the retail trade associations and unions should look at staggered work hours, like those in Italy, so we don't get peak hour traffic. "It also gives parents more of a chance to get their kids to school, and it'll smooth out traffic flow during peak periods."

  • Rewards systems: People should be encouraged to walk or cycle to work.

    "We've also got to look at ways of rewarding people who don't use a car at all. Why is it that someone who has a motor vehicle, getting cars instead of a salary increase, should be rewarded? We should be rewarding people who use public transport."

    He says a way of doing this is for companies to get behind this, and give those who don't drive credit for public transport, such as paying for their yearly transport fees instead of giving them a company car, and a car space.

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