Yarra’s residential population is expected to increase by 60% by 2041, and business is also growing, bringing more workers and commuters. The City of Yarra has an obligation to maintain a functioning city as our population increases. This includes managing congestion, so that we retain the ability to get around.
Population is good for business
One advantage of an increased population (and population density) is that there will be more business for our local traders. Also, with more people living within a 20-minute walk to the shops (i.e. in 20-minute neighbourhoods), traders will be less dependent upon customers arriving by car.
Congestion is bad for business
The disadvantage of a 60% higher population is that our streets can’t fit 60% more cars – it’s a simple problem of geometry. We don’t have the space for more cars either driving, or parking. Infrastructure Victoria has shown, via the KPMG Melbourne Activity Based Model (MABM), that multiple streets in Yarra are already at capacity.
Congestion costs us money
Congestion on our streets costs us all time and money. The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics has quantified the increasing costs of congestion, projecting that they will increase from ~ $16 billion now to ~ $30 billion by 2030.
Gridlock before 2030
Congestion is a non-linear effect; it increases at a faster rate than population, and then transitions suddenly to gridlock. Considering that some streets are already at capacity, with our forecasted population growth it is clear that many of Yarra’s streets are facing gridlock before 2030. This would be a bad outcome for residents, ratepayers and businesses.
As other world class cities have proven, the best way to decongest a city is to invest in infrastructure to support safe, active travel, as well as introducing decongestion charges and changing planning schemes to impose parking maximums. It takes time to plan, consult, design, finance and build alterations to our transport infrastructure (and our planning scheme). It’s not professional or pragmatic to delay investment until gridlock has occurred. Considering the investment required, If we wish to avoid gridlock before 2030, we need to start now, investing $10m per year in active transport.
It’s pro-car to invest in active transport
Many people prefer or need to own, use and park a car. The same applies to business (deliveries) or essential services (emergency vehicles). If we maintain ‘business as usual’, and gridlock occurs on many streets by 2030, these people, businesses & services won’t be able to get around and our economy will be impacted. To maintain at least some ability to drive through Yarra in the 2030s, we need to enable many other people to choose to walk or cycle. People won’t choose to walk or cycle unless it is safe, convenient and enjoyable, which requires investment in infrastructure for active transport. Thus, it’s pro-car to invest in active transport.
Guidance for city leaders
Guidance for Mayors and other City Leaders is available from the book ‘Decongestion‘ by Rachel Smith: