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Trips on Melbourne’s major highways could blow out by half an hour compared with traffic before the COVID-19 crisis, as city-bound commuters face gridlock once lockdown measures are lifted.
A 70 per cent drop in public transport trips into Melbourne’s CBD because of infection fears could result in thousands of extra cars flooding the West Gate, Eastern and Monash freeways during morning peak hour.
Trips into Melbourne's CBD via public transport once the city's lockdown ends are expected to drop by 70 per cent drop compared with pre-COVID-19 levels.CREDIT:EDDIE JIM
Modelling by Movement & Place Consulting warns CBD-bound traffic could increase on these roads by 68 per cent, 46 per cent and 27 per cent respectively, compared with traffic before COVID-19, adding 20 to 30 minutes to trips.
The forecasts have sparked warnings by transport experts and public transport users that a return to a CBD dominated by cars and car parks would reverse decades of work by planners to make the city more liveable, cleaner and safer for pedestrians and cyclists.
They have called on the state government to promote a return to safe public transport over a reliance on cars.
As Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews eases coronavirus restrictions by allowing gatherings of up to 10 people outdoors and opening hospitality and retail by November 1, modelling prepared for The Age predicts car trips into the city will soar by 33 per cent in coming months. There will be an 90,000 daily car trips to the CBD alone.
Car journeys to the city will rise, despite all travel to the city falling 25 per cent due to an increase in working from home and unemployment. This is because most trips still made to the CBD would probably be by car, the modellers predict.
This follows the pattern in cities across the country. Car use has returned to pre-COVID-19 levels in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth, while demand for public transport has remained 30 to 50 per cent below.
Car traffic in Melbourne is currently 66 per cent of pre-pandemic volumes, while public transport use is 17 per cent.
Car travel times could also become increasingly unreliable, as people start travelling in unpredictable ways. This could have a flow-on effect for tram and bus services.
But walking and cycling – expected to increase substantially – would provide inner-city dwellers with the most reliable travel times, the analysis found.
Movement & Place Consulting modeller William McDougall said he expected a rise in local trips with more people working from home during the day, but predicted a greater increase in peak-hour car trips to the CBD.
He said that if a vaccine was found, some commuters would eventually return to public transport, but even then car trips to the city would remain at 11 per cent higher than pre-pandemic levels. Public transport commutes to the city would remain 31 per cent of what they were, but return to 80 per cent capacity across Greater Melbourne.
The analysis proved the key role public transport played in reducing car traffic, Mr McDougall said. “The conflict is that we need to keep people safe while also getting as many people onto public transport as possible,'' he said. ''It’s going to be a difficult balance, at least initially.”
This article first appeared on www.theage.com.au
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