Building Our Way Out of Congestion
Government policy explicitly states that we will not try to build our way out of congestion. Yet Government transportation spending is at record levels, having more than doubled in the past five years and expected to continue growing significantly. The predominant share of this is for roading, much of it for new roads, and this allocation is not planned to reduce over the next decade. A major motivation for new road construction is congestion levels and travel time variability. To any rational observer, we appear to be trying to build our way out of congestion, contrary to the rhetoric of Government policy. It seems counter-productive to be expanding our road network at a time when fuel prices are increasing at a much faster rate than traffic volumes, and fuel supply itself appears to be no longer guaranteed. The resources involved in expanding the road network could be much more wisely spent on managing traffic growth and providing alternatives to private motor vehicle travel. This paper looks at available data to understand congestion trends relative to roading expenditure, travel time variability, and fuel price and supply. It considers ways to provide more sustainable transportation, and makes recommendations for developing a comprehensive suite of travel indicators that better represents a more sustainable transport system.