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Congestion!

You didn’t imagine this – it is taking longer for you to drive to work. Sydney’s roads are becoming more and more congested, peak hour is stretching out, and upgrading roads only makes a short-term difference.

According to Road Reports, issued by Roads and Maritime Services, this is happening because of our growing population, employment patterns and changes in the number of people using public transport. Roads Minister Duncan Gay, predictably, claims it has more to do with lack of spending on infrastructure by previous governments.

It’s ironic, but some of the slowest moving traffic since 2013 has been on Sydney’s toll roads: M5, M7, and M2. The M2 Hills Motorway costs up to $6.61 for a car or motorbike. The Eastern Distributor, a 6km toll road starting at Anzac Parade, costs $6.65. We are paying extra to crawl.

On the M2 (North Ryde to Carlingford), which recently had a $550 million 3-year upgrade, average afternoon peak hour speed was only 46kmh in 2015, a huge 25kmh less than in 2013. The M2 accounts for half of the most sluggish 10 segments.

Unfortunately, governments cannot build away congestion. Michelle Zeibots, UTS’ Institute for Sustainable Futures, says upgrades have only short-term effects:

“As people are attracted to the network, speeds deteriorate before flattening out, returning to what they were before the new capacity was added.”

So what is the answer to congestion?

First of all, be thankful, because many other cities are worse! Mexico City, Bangkok and Istanbul are the top three most congested cities in the world, where travel times can double during peak hours.

Maker of GPS navigation systems, Tom Tom, estimates traffic has increased by 13% globally since 2008. If you want to reduce congestion in your own travel, Tom Tom has these five tips (slightly skewed to its technology):

  1. Use real-time traffic and dynamic navigation while driving
  2. Explore new routes suggested by your navigation system
  3. Look at the traffic situation before you leave
  4. Try to avoid departing during typical peaks
  5. Consider bikes, public transport, or even walking.

In the last 5 years, even the number of cyclists in Sydney is claimed to have doubled. No wonder it’s becoming difficult to share increasingly congested roads.

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