Today, traffic congestion is one of the top ten concerns of people living in urban areas. It affects the quality of our environment, land use and the amount of fuel we consume, in addition to impacting on where one lives, works and travels. As we head towards an information-based, global economy, the safety, speed and reliability of the movement of people and goods becomes increasingly vital to our progression as a society. This movement often reflects the potential economic growth and development of a region.
Traffic congestion can be defined as a situation where participants cannot move in a desirable or usual manner, and is the result of insufficient capacity of an infrastructure to support its transportation demands. As a result, users are delayed beyond a length of time that they consider reasonable. Problems associated with congestion involve the loss of productivity, decreased mobility, increased travel time and unperceived costs.
As in many regions around the world, growing congestion is a problem in South East Queensland. Its three major transport nodes are the cities of Brisbane, the Gold Coast and the Sunshine Coast. Current trends indicate that the existing transport infrastructure will be unable to cope with future transportation demands. The growing population and increased urbanisation in the region have prompted transport agencies to develop integrated transport plans and to improve the planning, design and management of the transport network. Without intervention, traffic congestion in the area will worsen, resulting in a traffic gridlock by the year 2011.
The most effective means for governments and transport agencies to mitigate transport problems is by introducing strategic policies, and through developing and promoting targeted action plans. Policies are primarily used to set specific goals with regards to transport use. These can then be realised through the execution of action plans which instruct the public on suitable solutions that will realise specific goals.
The traditional answer to solving the traffic congestion problem was to simply increase road capacity through additional infrastructure. However, due to economic and land use constraints this solution is no longer the only answer to the problem. As a result, investigations have been conducted into the feasibility of other solutions. Research has shown that these alternate solutions are the key to solving the problems associated with the safety, speed and reliability of the movement of people and goods.