AAA report points to worsening congestion across our cities
Average speeds have slowed by up to eight per cent across Australia’s capital cities since January 2013, according to the nation’s first congestion benchmarking report from the Australian Automobile Association.
Road Congestion in Australia uses mapping and location data to monitor and benchmark road congestion in all capital cities. The AAA has produced the report in partnership with HoustonKemp Economists, using data from HERE Technologies.
The report shows that in the five years to 30 June 2018, average driving speeds declined markedly in Australia’s capital cities. Speeds in Sydney and Brisbane fell by 3.6 per cent and 3.7 per cent respectively. In Melbourne, the slow-down was 8.2 per cent.
The report also measures variability of travel times. Highly variable average speeds make travel times less predictable and less reliable. Variability across the major capital cities has increased since January 2013, with Brisbane experiencing the largest increase at 1.2 per cent.
The report draws on anonymised trip data collected from a variety of devices, including: vehicle sensors, smartphones, portable navigation devices, road sensors and connected cars. This offers a clear picture of travel patterns while also respecting user privacy.
AAA Chief Executive Michael Bradley says the report confirms what most people living in major cities know all too well.
“But we hope it also help stimulate discussion and problem-solving so that Australia can develop smart measures to address our worsening congestion,” he said.
The AAA has been calling on the Australian Government to guarantee a minimum of at least 50 per cent of net fuel excise revenue be invested in transport projects, but says over the next four years the proportion of net fuel excise returned to infrastructure is projected to decline to just 32 per cent.
Northern sections of M80 Ring Road upgrade out to market
The Expressions of Interest process to design and construct the two northern sections of Melbourne’s M80 upgrade closes next week (October 25).
The upgrade includes a four-kilometre section between Sydney Road and Edgars Road and a two-kilometre section between Plenty Road and the Greensborough Highway. Once completed, the project will add approximately 20 kilometres of new lanes.
Victorian Minister for Roads and Road Safety, Luke Donnellan, said entry and exit ramps at Sydney and Edgars Roads would be widened to increase capacity and a dedicated exit ramp from the Hume Freeway to Edgars Road would be built to improve safety and eliminate dangerous weaving manoeuvres.
An intelligent freeway management system will also be installed, featuring overhead electronic signs, which will provide real time travel information for drivers and help manage traffic flow.
Construction on the two northern sections of the M80 Ring Road is expected to begin in late 2019 and be completed by early 2023, weather permitting.
Future Transport Technologies Office will pave the way for national approach to CAV roll-out
Deputy PM and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Michael McCormack, used the occasion of RA’s Sydney industry lunch earlier this month to announce the establishment an Office of Future Transport Technologies to help prepare for the pending arrival of automated vehicles and other transport innovations
Mr McCormack said the new Office would enhance the Federal Government’s strategic leadership role, to coordinate more cohesively with other governments and agencies to implement future transport technologies in Australia more successfully and responsibly.
In his address to the Roads Australia event in Sydney, Mr McCormack said Australian governments and industry needed to collaborate effectively in order to develop the right policy, regulation and infrastructure, to adapt to future technology use.
“Getting Australians home sooner and safer is a core focus of our government and the emergence of automated vehicles represents a significant opportunity to realise safety and productivity benefits while supporting Australian industry and innovation,” he said.
“The Australian future transport and mobility industry is expected generate more than $16 billion in revenue by 2025.
“While representing an emerging business opportunity for the national economy, these technologies also have great potential to reduce the $27 billion cost of road crashes in Australia each year.
“These advances can also help to reduce the significant social impacts that road deaths and injuries have on families and the wider community.”
Roads Australia President, David Stuart-Watt, said the Deputy PM’s annnouncement ‘….sends all the right messages to governments, industry and the community at large’
“It’s critical to the community’s confidence and acceptance of automated vehicles that we achieve national consistency in standards and regulations, not just around the technology itself but the infrastructure that will support it,” Mr Stuart-Watt said.
“The states, territories and Commonwealth are already working closely together on this, but this initiative further solidifies the approach.
“Roads Australia has recently led delegations to Asia, Europe and the United States to examine how international jurisdictions are managing the roll-out of automated vehicles.
“The message, loud and clear, is that strong, national leadership and co-operation across state and Federal borders is an imperative for realising the full benefits of new transport technologies.”
Mr Stuart-Watt also welcomed the recent Memorandum of Understanding reached between the Australian Government and the US state of Michigan to collaborate on new automotive technologies.
“In many ways, Michigan is the home of automotive innovation, and we can learn and share much through this collaboration,” he said.
“Australia has an opportunity to contribute to, and adopt, an internationally consistent approach to standards around the safe operation of new vehicle technologies, and we should grasp opportunities like this with both hands.”
Victoria to appoint City Controller to keep traffic moving during Big Build
The massive transport infrastructure program being delivered in and around Melbourne has prompted the State Government to announce it will appoint the city's first City Controller to keep the movement of people and goods flowing.
The Government says the role will ensure:
- prevention of multiple construction projects and major events from gridlocking parts of Melbourne by coordinating works and delivering extra services, including the extension of free public transport at key times and places;
- better coordinate future state and local government construction programs;
- control the time of day for permits to close major transport arteries to keep people safe around construction areas; and
- develop a Transport Control Centre to support Melbourne as this big build continues.
The City Controller will work with the City of Melbourne, CBD employers and local government to reduce the impacts from the over $40 billion of transport projects and upgrades throughout Victoria, as well as provide regular advice to Government on network performance to make better transport decisions.
The Government says the newly created role within Transport for Victoria will increase coordination across transport agencies, local government, major sporting events, essential services and the construction and freight industries.
Victoria’s move borrows from NSW, where a similar role was created in 2015 ahead of the start of works for the CBD and South East Light Rail.
Marg Prendergast currently serves as the Coordinator-General, Transport Coordination, within Transport for NSW, overseeing the Sydney Coordination Office and Transport Management Centre and leading the planning and coordination for proactive real-time management of the traffic and transport network and special events, and managing traffic and transport disruptions for major construction projects including WesConnex and Sydney Metro.
Victorians spoilt for rail choices ahead of next month’s poll
The Victorian state election is shaping as a winner for transport, regardless of who comes into government.
Coming off the back of the Government’s recent announcement of a $50 billion suburban rail link and the Opposition’s $19 billion regional rail link project, the Andrews Government this week announced details of its flesh-out Western Rail Plan for a fast, high-capacity rail network servicing suburbs and regional cities.
The main planks of the Plan are:
- Two new electrified metro rail lines through the western suburbs to growth areas in Melton and Wyndham Vale. It would separate them from the Ballarat and Geelong lines. A potential connection from Wyndham Vale to Werribee would also be considered. This link could potentially become the western section of the proposed Suburban Rail Loop.
- Increased track capacity between Sunshine and the CBD to cater for faster and more frequent metro and regional trains. This will be developed in conjunction with the Airport Rail Link which would also utilise the extra capacity.
- Major investment in the Geelong and Ballarat lines to run trains faster than 160km/h. This will include exploration of electrification of these lines and new, fast electric regional trains.
The Liberal-National Coalition meantime unveiled its $19 billion plan earlier this month for a European-style High Speed Rail network between Melbourne and key regional centres, with the aim of easing the population squeeze by decentralising jobs and homes.
The plan would be delivered in three stages over 10 years, starting with Melbourne to Geelong – scheduled to be operational by 2022.
Under the plan, existing rail lines would be upgraded to allow trains to run at speeds up to 200 kilometres per hour. There would also be signalling upgrades, timetable changes and procurement of two fleets of new-generation rollingstock.
The lines would be upgraded between Melbourne and major centres (with connections to smaller regional towns), including Geelong, Ballarat, Bendigo, Shepparton, and Traralgon.
Mr Stuart-Watt said the recent spate of rail announcements put transport ‘front and centre’ in the minds of voters ahead of next month’s poll.
“We’re especially pleased to see all major parties recognising the importance of rail in the context of an integrated transport system – particularly in terms of moving people efficiently across regional Victoria and around suburban Melbourne,” Mr Stuart-Watt said.
“Victoria is already building a great road network, and by complementing it with improved rail infrastructure and services, Victorians will be well placed to meet the challenges posed by population growth in the future.”
Mr Stuart-Watt said the business cases for major transport projects proposed by both parties would need to be rigorously tested by both Infrastructure Australia and Infrastructure Victoria.
“Regardless of who wins in November, it’s important that we examine these projects clinically and critically, with a view to ensuring Victorian taxpayers get the best bang for their buck,” he said.
US guidelines on autonomous vehicles released
In an important signal to regulators and vehicle manufacturers worldwide, the US Department of Transportation (USDOT) has this month released its landmark Federal guidance for automated vehicles.
Preparing for the Future of Transportation: Automated Vehicles 3.0’ (AV 3.0) incorporates the results of extensive stakeholder engagement to provide updated voluntary guidance and policy considerations for a range of industry sectors, including manufacturers and technology developers, infrastructure owners and operators, commercial motor carriers, bus transit, and State and local governments.
AV 3.0 seeks to support the safe development of automated vehicle technologies by providing new multi-modal safety guidance, reducing policy uncertainty and clarifying roles, and outlining a process for working with USDOT as technology evolves.
The guidance is underpinned by six fundamental US DOT automation principles which align closely with the priorities of Australian regulators and stakeholders like Roads Australia:
- Prioritize safety.
- Remain technology neutral.
- Modernize regulations.
- Encourage a consistent regulatory and operational environment.
- Prepare proactively for automation.
- Protect and enhance the freedoms enjoyed by Americans.
It also announces and discusses several upcoming rulemakings and other actions being taken in the near future by the Department’s operating administrations, including:
- The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) will request public comment on a proposal to streamline and modernize the procedures it will follow when processing and deciding exemption petitions.
- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will initiate an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to address automated vehicles, particularly to identify regulatory gaps, including in the areas of inspection, repair, and maintenance for ADS.
- The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announces plans to update the 2009 Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), taking into consideration new connected and automated vehicle technologies.
- The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is initiating research to develop and demonstrate a concept of operations, including system requirements, for the use of automated and connected vehicles to improve safety of highway-rail crossings.
- The Maritime Administration (MARAD) and FMCSA are evaluating the regulatory and economic feasibility of using automated truck queueing as a technology solution to truck staging, access, and parking issues at ports.
- The Pipelines and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA) is researching the ability to enable the digital transmission of information to first responders before they arrive at an incident that involves hazardous materials.
- The Federal Transit Administration (FTA) has published a five-year research plan on automating bus transit.
Roads Australia President, David Stuart-Watt, said regulators and stakeholders around the world would be closely reviewing the US DOT’s guidance document.
“Given US leadership in the motor vehicle industry and the need to ensure that jurisdictions worldwide work together to achieve consistency in standards and regulations, it’s important that we take note of the route US regulators are taking,” Mr Stuart-Watt said.