Melbourne’s 30km/h zone is a dumb, tech-less solution to ‘rat-running’

The best solution isn't the easiest

Tesla in the Melbourne

Australian cities suffer from the same congestion problems experienced around the globe. We look to our leaders and our politicians to solve that congestion but this latest solution is ridiculous. When left up to their own devices, drivers will seek out the fastest route possible and often do this by avoiding commonly congested main arterial routes through the city. Instead drivers will often take longer journeys in terms of kilometers that get them to their destination faster.

Apparently Mayor of the City of Yarra, Roberto Colzani thinks this needs to end. To deter commuters from zipping down side streets, also known as, taking a more efficient route, he wants to implement a 30km/hr speed zone, 24 hours a day. A 12-month trial of the ultra-slow speed zone would run in Fitzroy and Colzani justifies it with this gem.

“There’s a fair body of academic literature, particularly internationally, talking about even going down to the equivalent of 20 [kph] in certain areas,”

There’s always multiple ways to solve a problem and the least interesting, least ambitious and frankly the most tech-illiterate is to put a handbrake on everyone and make them go slower. The hope is that drivers will find it so slow, they’ll avoid the area, pushing the problem to another area.

Instead what the Mayor should be doing is promoting the benefits of leveraging today’s technology to reduce traffic congestion and encourage drivers to follow directions that provide them the most efficient route, based on live-traffic data. That’s the fastest way to get cars from A-to-B, not artificially slow them down.

For years enthusiasts have leveraged services like Waze, Google Maps or even Apple Maps to make sure they avoid road works and accidents, but the problem for the city is, not enough people use GPS for familiar routes. Most people won’t plug the same destinations (work and homes) into the GPS every time they get into their car and fair enough too, you know best as a driver right? Wrong, you can never compete with the live traffic and emergency information, populated by other drivers and updated every second.

While new fancy cars have voice commands and integrated navigation systems that would make this easier, the reality is in 2016, most don’t, so we use our phones. It certainly should be in a phone cradle mounted in a safe position, to see and hear directions. App developers could come to the party as well, leveraging location information and historical data to automatically determine if the driver is heading on a regular commute.

With technology we can actually improve the congestion in our cities and delay or in some cases eliminate the need to spend millions of dollars upgrading road infrastructure to decrease commute times. One thing’s for sure setting up a trajectory where street by street we reduce the speed of vehicles until we’re walking faster, is no solution at all.

Thankfully this plan for a trial does require approval from VicRoads before it can commence. Hopefully they see more sense.

More information at ABC.

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