For a while now, VicRoads has been working on a plan to allocate different priorities to different roads around Melbourne. Rather than the free-for-all we sometimes see now, some roads would be setup to emphasise pedestrian priority, some bus, some tram, and some would be “preferred traffic routes” and lesser “other traffic routes”.
I suspect it was inevitable that this would be launched under the title “SmartRoads“.
Here’s the glossy VicRoads video with Roads Minister Tim Pallas:
One of the positives is to encourage through-vehicle-traffic onto particular roads and off others, and with my sustainable transport hat on, hopefully it means better pedestrian facilities (eg crossings and low traffic speeds) and priority for public transport vehicles where it counts.
The detail about where the principal bike routes will be isn’t clear yet, and of course for cycling to really take off, these preferred routes need to be much more closely spaced than they are for cars.
The down side of the plan is that if you live on a road which is deemed to be a preferred traffic route, you’re probably going to see more traffic coming through. But then, it does seem to formalise trends which have been ongoing for some time now, so you may not notice a huge difference. It’s been obvious for some time now that the Nepean Highway and Punt Road are traffic sewers.
One of the big questions will be what happens when two priority routes intersect? Anybody who’s caught a tram that crosses Alexandra Parade, for instance, will know you can spend minutes waiting at the lights. Hopefully the view that the higher priority is the number of people moving through the intersection, not the number of vehicles, will be the prevailing one.
I saw a draft of this thing in 2008; things have changed a little bit since then. In my area (which is still under review), happily, there are no preferred traffic routes, though there are some “other traffic routes”.
I think this is a step forward; recognition that the car is no longer king, at least not on every single road, and that more efficient movement of people means giving priority to trams and buses, as well as pedestrians in some areas.
But the devil will be in the detail — and to take full advantage of it and really cut traffic congestion, the government needs to push much harder on upgrading the alternatives to car travel.
How will it affect your area? Download the maps from VicRoads.