Open bus lanes to trucks: transport academic

By: Jason Whittaker

Governments should open bus lanes to trucks as well as introduce a variable road user charge to reduce urban congestion,

Governments should open bus lanes to trucks as well as introduce a variable road user charge to reduce urban congestion, according to a transport academic.

Professor David Hensher, who heads up Sydney University’s Institute of Transport and Logistics Studies, says opening bus lanes to trucks will have an immediate impact on congestion levels.

He says many bus lanes are underused because there are not enough buses on the road, meaning motorists are forced to wait behind slow-moving trucks while empty lanes capable of carrying heavy vehicles are empty.

According to Hensher, simply focusing on taking trucks from the road will not solve congestion issues, which the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) estimates will cost more than $20 billion by 2020.

He says the bus lane option should be used until the states and territories put more buses on the road.

During the recent BITRE Colloquium, Hensher also supported a Dutch initiative which, from 2011, will charge road users a certain amount depending on what time of day they use the road and how far they travel.

"Let people pay for what they get," he says.

A paper, titled Managing congestion—are we willing to pay the price?, released by the Institute says the current approach by governments to tackling congestion—by building more roads—is not the answer, and new thinking is needed.

The authors argue free roads need to be taxed to give motorists as well as businesses a financial incentive not to travel unnecessarily.

They say a pay-per-kilometre system scheme should replace toll charges, the fuel excise, the GST on fuel and possibly registration charges. All revenue, the authors argue, should be invested in public transport initiatives.

Another option governments should consider is banning trucks during peak periods, according to the authors. Although there are more cars than trucks on the road, the authors say the latter is responsible for rising congestion levels.

"Because trucks have a much greater impact on the traffic flow than the equivalent number of private passenger cars, increases in truck traffic have a disproportionately larger effect on traffic flow and, hence, congestion," the paper says.

However, banning trucks during peak periods may severely impact upon industry productivity. Mike Moylan, the general manager of port carrier Johnston’s Transport, says clients do not accept deliveries all hours.

He says this leads to double-handling because Johnston’s needs to take deliveries back to its yard and wait to drop them off at the relevant depot when it opens.

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