Friday, December 05, 2008

34.8km/h: not too bad

Today's Herald Sun is reporting Vicroads figures stating that average morning peak hour travel speed has fallen to 34.8 km/h. This is a decline from 37.5km/h in 1999/2000. The tone of the article was generally critical of the government for 'not doing enough to fix road bottlenecks' and complaining that 'drivers were spending more hours per year getting to work'.

What the article does not do is compare the 34.8km/h average speed with the situation in other cities or with alternatives such as public transport. If it did it might find that 34.8km/h in a large city might still be rather fast.

Let's look at other cities. Generally CBD traffic is slower than suburban traffic, and definitions of cities and urban boundaries around the world vary. But here's a few examples from around the world:

* Los Angeles (highway speeds as low as 5 or 10 miles/hr)
* Dublin (average 13km/h)
* Various UK cities (We're faster than London, faster than Bristol and comparable with Birmingham) Average for English urban centres approx 15-20 mph
* Sydney (22km/h on major roads - article from Herald Sun's Sydney sister
* Perth 30km/h on Mitchell Freeway

The quick survey above is not definitive, but compared with those places, our 34.8km/h (21 mph) does not compare unfavourably.

What about public transport? Travel speeds vary greatly, so here's a 'basket' of trips to provide a range. The Metlink journey planner was used to calculate travel times, selecting the quickest trip departing the origin around 8:00am. Distances are approximate. Waiting times are not included, but neither were parking times in the driving speed statistics reported above.

* 50 Jukes Rd (Fawkner) to Broadmeadows Town Park: 8km @ 55 min = 9km/h
* Durham Rd/Glengala Rd (Sunshine West) to Victoria University Ballarat Rd (Footscray): 10km @ 45 min = 13 km/h
* Glendale St/Whitehorse Rd (Nunawading) to Doncaster Shoppingtown: 10km @ 40 min = 15km/h
* Pascoe Vale Rd (Oak Park) to Melbourne Exhibition & Convention Centre (Southbank): 17km @ 1hr:08 = 15km/h
* 1000 Glenhuntly Rd (Caulfield South) to 600 St Kilda Rd: 8km @ 31 min = 16km/h
* Tooronga Rd/High St (Glen Iris) to Monash University (Clayton): 14km @ 52 min = 16 km/h
* Beach St/Dandenong Rd West (Frankston) to State Library (City): 40km @ 1hr:06 = 36km/h

Looking at these trip times, it is difficult to achieve a travel speed of more than 20km/h by public transport. For these transit passengers, a 34.8km/h average travel speed would halve commute times and seem in the realm of fantasy.

Public transport at its best (eg frequent express trains) can exceed the average peak driving time, as the Frankston example shows. The gap in favour of public transport may be even wider if 'to CBD' roads move slower than the 35km/h average. However as soon as either the origin or destination ceases to be almost next door to the station or a transfer is involved, travel speeds might fall by a third or more and driving becomes faster.

To summarise, Melbourne's 34.8km/h average morning peak road traffic speed is not necessarily slower than elsewhere and is about twice the speed of public transport for all but direct train trips. Contrary to the Herald Sun article, maybe our drivers don't have it too bad after all!


Anonymous said...

the radio encourage it with their freeway travel times. Unless you live near a freeway and park near its city end, not a lot of use. A guide to how bad the day is, not an accurate predictor of total time. Eg Jacksons Rd to Punt Rd on Monash. 30 minutes some mornings. But what is it from Punt Rd to say 5th floor, parking station, Exhibition and Lonsdale? and say Police and Springvale rd corner to Jacksons Rd onramp?

Probably an hour all up.

Rail will be as bad too, but commuter perceptions worse for rail than road.

Anonymous said...

Dear Peter & all,

It has been an interesting 2008, as petrol prices yo-yoed & PT put under pressure due to global & environmental economics.

As a PT user, Melbourne's PT system can be commendible compared to 3rd world standards. However some neigbouring states in Asia have managed to have better PT i.e in Singapore, Hong Kong & Japan.
Intermodal connectivity is within 5 mins of any mode at most times of the day. Thier off peak services are still very reliable even though wait times are less annoying compared to Australia in general.

Having said that, personally a commute on the push bike at average 15 to 20 km/h, sometimes almost as fast as the peak speeds mentioned, & most of the time beating or equaling PT usage door to door within a 20km commute minus the convenience of a boot space.On top of that a cardio rate of 45min each way is much to the doctor's prescription for daily physical activity.

Car makers & petroleum giants may say otherwise, but it would apply to commutes that are more than 30km which may make sense to use PT or personal transport.

At the end of the day, it is us the commuters who must make the decision & apply pressure with our wallets & political will to affect change for the better...or worse.