NSW urged to enforce driver congestion tax
NSW and Victoria have been urged to implement congestion charges for motorists in a report into the growth of Australia's major cities.
A Grattan Institute study found average commuting distances and times barely increased over the five years to 2016, even though the populations of Sydney and Melbourne grew by some of the highest rates in the developed world.
But congestion was a problem, leading to overcrowded public trains, buses and trams and delays for drivers using "bad" routes.
Grattan Institute transport program director Marion Terrill called for Sydney and Melbourne to introduce congestion charges to encourage drivers who don't need to travel at peak times to stay off the worst-affected roads.
"With these changes, the benefits that draw people to live and work close together can outweigh the congestion and crowding that trigger demands to shut new people out," Ms Terrill said.
The NSW and Victorian governments were advised in the report to introduce "time-of-day congestion pricing in the most congested central areas of each capital city".
Motorists would be charged a low rate during peak periods in return for a "freer-flowing road," the report said.
It also advised offsetting the cost to drivers with a discount on vehicle registration, with revenue from the charge to flow towards improving public transport.
Despite calls for Australia's intake to be cut to address congestion, the research found migration had not brought cities to a standstill.
Cities have coped even though major new projects including WestConnex in Sydney, Melbourne Metro and Brisbane's Cross River Rail have not yet been completed.
"So far, the impact of rapid population growth on commuting distances and times has been remarkably benign, despite regular media coverage claiming the opposite," the report says.
"The average commute distance barely increased over the five years to the most recent Census in 2016, and there has been little or no change in the duration of commutes."