Listen Westconnex, motorists are just not that attracted to you

I told you so …

After the introduction of tolls the M4 is unattractive.

“However, according to the numbers contained in the EIS and Appendices the widening of the M4 will actually reduce the total amount of traffic in the corridor. The government acknowledges that there will be an increase in traffic on Parramatta Rd as motorists compare the toll to their Value of Travel Time Savings (VTTS) and find it to be too high. However the government does not mention the fact that there will be a total reduction in traffic within the corridor as discretionary or impulse trips are deferred or redirected to other transport modes like public transport.”

Read the full NoW PT submission on the M4 widening (PDF).

Excerpts from the submission:

2010s

Tolls and Patronage

On 16 February 2010, the concession on the M4 Motorway expired and ownership was transferred from Statewide Roads to the NSW Government. The toll on the M4 Motorway was removed at this time. Immediately prior to its removal, the motorway toll was $2.75 for cars and $6.60 for trucks [excluding the Cash-Back program]. ([EIS] – Appendix D – Page 91)

From the RTA’s assessment there was a 500 vehicle drop in traffic on Parramatta Road in the four hours of the morning and a 1500 vehicle increase in vehicles on the M4 (Western Expressway). This represents an induced traffic effect of over one thousand vehicles. The effect is evident by the immediate visible increase in road congestion and reduction in travel speeds experience on Sydney’s roads. After the toll was removed, the average monthly rail patronage started to slide because of the significantly reduced patronage caused by mode shift to private vehicles. With each month, the new reduced baseline pulled the twelve month rail patronage average lower.

You can see quite clearly on the below graph where the slower timetables and removal of the toll on the Western Expressway have significantly reduced the patronage on the Western Line. However you can also see that the trend is holding for over 150% growth (300,000 passengers a month) above the 2001 figures.

Persons shifted from Western Line Trains when the M4 toll was removed.

Tolls

On 16 February 2010, the concession on the M4 Motorway expired and ownership was transferred from Statewide Roads to the NSW Government. The toll on the M4 Motorway was removed at this time. Immediately prior to its removal, the motorway toll was $2.75 for cars and $6.60 for trucks. (Appendix D – Page 91)

We can see from the numbers that there was a significant surge in the number of vehicles using the Parramatta Rd and M4 corridors when the tolls where removed. In fact there was approximately and extra thousand vehicles in the corridor; on top of those who changed roads. This is why the Commonwealth Treasury, Infrastructure NSW and the Productivity commission all recommend the introduction of distance based, time-of-day road pricing.

Parra Rd Before Parra Rd After Parra Rd Difference M4 Tolled M4 Untolled M4 Difference
AM 06:00 – 10:00 2370 1869 -501 8124 9657 1533
PM 15:00 – 19:00 2820 2511 -309 8243 8979 736

Change In Traffic With M4 Toll Removal – M4 Toll Plaza and Parramatta Road, Silverwater (Appendix D Page 72)

Estimated Traffic

Parra Rd 2021 M4 2021 Parra Rd 2031 M4 2031 Parra Rd Diff M4 Diff
AM Peak 2740 12120 3450 12930 710 810
Inter-Peak 2730 9960 3020 10620 290 660
PM Peak 3140 11680 3820 12330 680 650

Traffic By Time Period on M4 Motorway At Toll Plaza (2021 vs 2021)

The government’s model predict an increase of 1520 vehicles in the M4/Parramatta Rd corridor by 2031 if there is no widening of the M4 nor any Westconnex.

This a passenger equivalent load of 1.5 Waratah trains.

There is an expectation of additional vehicles during the majority of the day. Based on the above estimates the widening will cost $300,000 per additional vehicle per day, or 50,000 days to recover the cost charging $6 a day in tolls.

However, according to the numbers contained in the EIS and Appendices the widening of the M4 will actually reduce the total amount of traffic in the corridor. The government acknowledges that there will be an increase in traffic on Parramatta Rd as motorists compare the toll to their VTTS and find it to be too high. However the government does not mention the fact that there will be a total reduction in traffic within the corridor as discretionary or impulse trips are deferred or redirected to other transport modes like public transport.

Increased traffic on Parramatta Road and other roads due to toll avoidance.

Parra Rd M4 Parra Rd After M4 After Difference
AM Peak 2740 12120 3350 10740 -770
Inter-Peak 2730 9960 3310 6610 -2770
PM Peak 3140 11680 2510 8600 -3710

Traffic By Time Period on M4 Motorway At Toll Plaza (2021): Base and M4 Widening Scenario

To put it simply the state can make most of the problem go away by reintroducing tolls. That would improve travel speeds and provide revenue to pay for important capital works like those mentioned below.

Based on their own numbers why was the simple alternative option of levying tolls not thoroughly assessed? Especially if there was only going to be an additional 800 cars per hour and many of them would be scared off by tolls.

The proven carrying capacity of the three lane Parramatta Rd is over 6,000 cars an hour in just one direction in the morning peak.  The theoretical capacity of the six lane M4 Motorway is 14,400 vehicles, while the theoretical capacity of the five lane Parramatta Rd (assuming a clearway) is another 12,000 vehicles. The theoretical capacity of an eight lane widened M4 and Parramatta Rd is an astounding 19,200 vehicles.  Based on the governments numbers for the existing M4 plus Parramatta Rd represents an overprovisioning of 60% – well above industry standards. Meanwhile the proposed M4 widening would represent an over-provisioning of 90%.

It is astounding that the government would spend an estimated $1.2 billion dollars to save 1 minute on a drive westbound, especially when tolls would cut traffic.

What is more, the RMS has not considered the positive impact on traffic by the transfer of east-west commuters on to public transport. The 2011 JTW figures show a substantial of people still drive east-west despite living and working along the east-west rail corridor.  With improvements to the Western Line, the Main Line, and the Inner West Line there will be road capacity released in the Parramatta Rd / M4 corridor. With the construction of the Parramatta-Olympic Park and the Parramatta Rd Light Rail there would be significant capacity transferred from east-west car commuters to commercial vehicles and other commuters. However the leveraging of high capacity public transport to free road capacity has not been properly considered in the EIS.

From the repeated assertion in the EIS, we can conclude that RMS Is concerned that the unreliable travel times on the M4 is leading to a reduction in desirability for their product. This is clearly evident in the loss of transport mode market share from road to rail.

This proposal should be rejected because the predicted travel benefits do not outweigh the predicted costs.

 

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