Age online article Transport revolution to get city moving REID SEXTON February 7, 2010 THE state government will unveil a ground-breaking transport plan, conceding that it can no longer simply build new roads to fix Melbourne's congestion crisis and must instead transform the way existing roads are used. In draft guidelines, obtained by The Sunday Age, that outline the government's latest attempt to solve Melbourne's transport woes, VicRoads warns that unless innovative action is taken, population and economic growth will cripple the city's road network within a decade. ''Maintaining the road quality and adding capacity by building new roads is reaching the limits of affordability, practicability and political acceptability,'' the report says. ''Into the future, Melbourne's road network cannot hope to cope with ever-increasing demands from a range of users. A more active approach to allocating priority is needed that separates … many of the conflicts by route, place and time of day.'' The plan, expected to be released by the government this month, centres on the creation of a ''road use hierarchy'' that gives priority to cars, cyclists, pedestrians and public transport at different times of the day to improve travel times. The proposal is expected to have a profound effect on how road users move about Melbourne in the future, with the RACV saying the new measures will encourage drivers, walkers, cyclists and public transport users to alter their behaviour to make travel more efficient. Congestion-busting measures in the draft strategy, dated late last year, include: ■ Limiting the building of new roads. ■ Creating designated times along every major road when certain modes of transport are given priority over others. ■ Encouraging cars to avoid shopping strips during the day. This could be achieved by lowering the speed limit. ■ Giving priority to more tram and bus services. This could be achieved by using traffic lights and by removing street car parks. ■ Encouraging pedestrians to use activity centres with public transport and bicycle route access. Traffic congestion costs Victoria $2.6 billion every year, but that figure will double to $5.2 billion by 2024 the report warns, unless radical change to road use is embraced. Monash University transport expert Professor Graham Currie said the plan - an Australian first - marked a crucial change in thinking by the government. ''We've got to the point where we have to draw the line somewhere to get the best use out of our resources,'' he said. ''Road space is precious. We're not getting any more, but demand is soaring … This is a turning point.'' Every major road in Melbourne has been assigned a ''priority road use'' in consultation with councils and the Transport Department. Plans based on local government areas have been combined into a network-wide map that will underpin how the strategy is executed. VicRoads has confirmed that scheduled road projects, such as the tunnel linking the inner-west with the Port of Melbourne, will proceed. But the authority refused to reveal ahead of the plan's launch how it would encourage different modes of transport to use particular routes at specific times. RACV chief engineer traffic and roads Peter Daly said the strategy could be achieved with lower speed limits and better crossings in pedestrian areas, traffic light priority for public transport on relevant routes, and more spacious roads with linked traffic signals to create better flow where cars have priority. ''Road users may notice local incremental changes in how roads operate, but over time, more significant changes will emerge,'' the report says. Draft VicRoads maps show Williams and Punt roads in South Yarra will be designated as a mixture of car and bus priority while large parts of High Street and Toorak Road will be given tram and pedestrian priority. Brunswick Street, Fitzroy, is designated tram priority, mixed largely with pedestrian priority, while Victoria Parade gives priority to cars, buses and trams. A large number of suburban shopping precincts are to be designated pedestrian zones. Mr Daly said the plan provided Melbourne with its first strategic blueprint to underpin future decisions about road priority and ensure thinking and implementation was consistent across municipalities. The RACV had advocated this approach for years, he said, and the plan would belatedly recognise that road space is scarce and can't be everything to everybody. ''In the past we've pretended it could and that approach clearly can't work and is not sustainable,'' he said. He said some freeway links and roads in outer areas were still needed but it was time for tough decisions, such as removing car parks on certain routes to create bus clearways and potentially lowering some speed limits. ''This is more than platitudes … It should mean faster and more efficient transport.'' Bicycle Victoria's Jason den Hollander said he hoped the plan would ensure an improved cycling network with greater separation from road traffic, more bike lane connections and traffic light priority for cyclists. ''A route that is highlighted for cycling means that we no longer have to compete for road space behind other modes,'' he said. Public Transport Users' Association president Daniel Bowen said it was a recognition that the car should no longer receive priority by default. VicRoads would not release the latest versions of the road hierarchy maps or their guidelines but said plans would be released shortly that ''[combine] key road infrastructure improvements with a comprehensive plan of how our metropolitan road network will work sustainably into the future''. Opposition transport spokesman Terry Mulder said road congestion had soared over the past 10 years under Labor's poor management of Melbourne's road and public transport networks.