BITRE sees congestion cost of up to $37bn by 2030

Burden for 2015 is $16.5bn, including $8bn in business time costs

BITRE sees congestion cost of up to $37bn by 2030
Congestion report spurs another road pricing reform call.


The Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) has released a complex and highly qualified information sheet valuing congestion costs and forecasting trends for the next 15 years.

Updating a similar working paper from 2007, the Traffic and congestion cost trends for Australian capital cities report puts congestion costs for society as a whole in 2015 at $16.5 billion.

"This national metropolitan total (given in terms of 2010 Australian dollars) is comprised of approximately $6 billion in private time costs (losses from trip delay and travel time variability), $8 billion in business time costs (trip delay plus variability), $1.5 billion in extra vehicle operating costs, and $1 billion in extra air pollution damage costs," the report states.

And, if nothing changes, the social and economic blight looks set to worsen consistently under a business (BAU) as usual scenario to a maximum of $37.3 billion in 2030.

"Under currently expected patterns of metropolitan population growth, an overall trend of relatively linear increases in aggregate urban traffic is likely over the next decade and a half, with total vehicle-kilometres travelled (VKT) forecast to increase around 2 per cent per annum out to 2030 (roughly similar to the average historical trend experienced over the last three to four decades)," the report states.

"These traffic delay increases have BITRE base case projections of the avoidable social costs of metropolitan congestion rising to around $30 billion by 2030—with the various baseline modelling scenarios conducted giving aggregate 2030 results of between $27.7 and $37.3 billion, depending upon the chosen input assumptions.

"The upper value of this plausible range for BAU congestion cost increases (reaching $37.3 billion, totalled across all 8 Australian capital cities, by 2030) is composed of: estimates for Sydney rising from current (2015) levels of about $6.1 billion to approximately $12.6 billion by 2030; Melbourne values rising from around $4.6 billion (2015) to $10.2 billion (2030); Brisbane rising from $2.3 to $5.9 billion (2015–2030); Perth rising from $2 to $5.7 billion; Adelaide rising from $1.1 to $2.3 billion; Canberra rising from $0.2 to $0.4 billion; Hobart rising from $0.09 to $0.16 billion; and Darwin rising from $0.03 to $0.07 billion."

Construction industry lobby group Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) says the BITRE finding bolster the case for road pricing.

"Avoidable congestion is inefficient and wasteful and impacts upon economic productivity," IPA CEO Brendan Lyon says.

"We have spent a decade attempting incremental fixes to fundamental flaws in the current approach.

"We hope that the release of today’s statistics, will signal to political leaders that we are up for a discussion about real reform, and that a process to properly consider pricing reform will be actively supported by motorists.

"Charging drivers dependent on when, where and how they use their vehicles can change demand patterns.

"If implemented effectively, it can cause reduced congestion in peak periods allowing city to function effectively in turn reducing the avoidable costs of congestion."

The full report can be found here.

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