Institute News


Time to build the western bypass

Published: 02/06/2020

Time to build the western bypass.

[Published as “Western bypass our best hope”, The Mercury, Thursday 21 may 2020]



Bob Cotgrove.


On which projects should the government focus to stimulate its post-corona recovery?


Projects chosen for the reconstruction phase should be those with the highest benefit to cost ratio.


Foremost among these is the proposed western bypass around the central area to connect the Southern Outlet, Brooker Avenue and Tasman Highway.


At present all three arterials, together with their cross arterials from Antill Street to Campbell Street funnel traffic onto and from Macquarie and Davey Streets.


As a result the whole of Hobart’s central road system is clogged not only by city-bound traffic but importantly by traffic trying to bypass the centre to reach other destinations.


Hobart is unique among Australian capital cities in forcing bypass traffic through the city centre. By doing so it isolates the city from its waterfront, causes impact damage to its rich colonial architecture, impedes pedestrians and inconveniences cyclists.


A 2007 study by the Bureau of Transport and Regional Economics put the estimated median cost of congestion in Greater Hobart in 2020 at $400 million per year.


But the study based its estimate on the assumption that Greater Hobart’s population would fall from 194,000 in 2005 to 192,000 in 2020.


In fact, Hobart’s population has grown substantially since 2005 and is expected by the ABS to pass 240,000 in 2020.


Post COVID-19 several urban trends will be accelerated. Working from home, shopping online, and the preference for low density single dwelling residential development will increase.


Almost all of Greater Hobart’s population growth, as in other Australian capital cities, is occurring in the outer suburbs.


Thus while trips to the city centre and work trips are likely to decrease, bypass traffic trying to get around the city centre will increase as people make more trips for non-work purposes such as visiting friends and relatives, accessing beaches and recreational facilities, and attending cultural and entertainment events.


Those who advocate reducing congestion by improving public transport services fail to consider the changed nature of daily travel behaviour in post-industrial societies.


Most urban people today work in professional service occupations. The biggest growth of employment is the entry into paid work of women with dependent children.


As a result women and men juggle work commitments with home and family responsibilities within the tight time constraints of a typical working day.


Non-work duties, such as dropping the children off at school and picking them up after school for dental appointments, haircuts or sporting events, attending to the needs of elderly parents, maintaining social contacts and shopping all have to be done either on the way to work, while at work or on the way home from work.


Non-work commitments are typically spatially dispersed and need to be done at specific times. They can only be accomplished effectively by using a car.


Public transport necessarily is confined to particular points along a linear route and is available only according to timetables. It cannot cover areas at all times.


Although men are improving their share of cooperative tasks, social surveys repeatedly find that most non-work duties are performed by women.


Many women approaching middle age now find themselves in the double bind of having to look after the needs of ageing parents while still attending to the demands of their own children.


For the past 60 years planners, architects and engineers have been attacking car use and advocating a return to high density living with dependence on public transport.


This concerted attack by professionals with considerable policy power has influenced governments into failing to attend to the growing problem of congestion.


Nowhere in the world have planners’ prescriptions achieved the twin aims of slowing car use and low density settlement.


Now is the time to take action and deal with reality rather than ideology.


Unless Hobart is to become choked by traffic congestion at considerable cost to society and the economy it is imperative that a western bypass, similar to that proposed by former HEC engineer and project manager Tony Denne, be commenced as soon as possible.


Separating through traffic from city bound traffic in Hobart is not only necessary but inevitable.


Bob Cotgrove is an urban geographer and transport economist with special interests in the land use and travel activity patterns of post-industrial societies.

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