The economic costs of congestion are significant and rising. While the state each year invests in initiatives to relieve congestion, it currently does so in the absence of a statewide plan with clearly defined objectives, strategies and associated agency responsibilities for congestion and travel demand management.
Consequently, the state's approach to congestion management remains dominated by expensive supply-side initiatives focused on increasing capacity with little evident attention to demand management alternatives. While the immediate benefits from these initiatives are clear, the absence of demand management means it cannot be assured that they are the most economical and cost-effective options in the longer term.
Growing pressure on state finances and uncertainty around Commonwealth contributions means there is a pressing need to explore more fiscally sustainable strategies that leverage demand management to tackle Melbourne's growing congestion. However, it is not evident that agencies are actively exploring such strategies.
Agencies manage the transport system to implement a range of legislative and policy objectives and it is recognised that these need to be balanced with any goal to manage congestion. However, the absence of a statewide traffic congestion and demand management framework linked to broader transport and land use strategies means it is not clear whether strategic planning and investment by agencies in congestion relief is soundly based, integrated and aligned.
Recent improvements in planning for road use, land use and public transport have significant potential to assist with alleviating road congestion and improving accessibility and productivity. However, there is currently little assurance this potential will be fully realised without coordinated statewide strategies that include clearly defined agency responsibilities and accountabilities for congestion and travel demand management.