30 July 2019

It's taking longer for Canberrans to get to work, according to new data

| Lachlan Roberts
Join the conversation

Move along: Canberrans spent 52 minutes travelling to and from work each day in 2017. File photo.

It’s taking longer for Canberrans to travel to and from their workplace as new data shows commute times have seen a staggering increase over the past decade.

According to the Melbourne Institute’s latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey, Canberrans’ average weekly commuting time has increased by 20 minutes since 2002.

In 2002, it took ACT workers on average 31.3 minutes to commute to and from work each day. That figure has now increased to 51.5 minutes in 2017.

Sydney (71.1 minutes), Brisbane (66.7 minutes) Melbourne (65.4 minutes), Perth (59.3 minutes) and Adelaide (56.3 minutes) had longer commute times than the ACT in 2017.

Workers in the Northern Territory had the shortest commutes in 2017, averaging close to 34.7 minutes per day.

While travel time in the major capital cities only experienced about a 20 per cent increase over the past 15 years, the ACT has seen a staggering 64 per cent increase, the highest in the nation.

Work commute times in the ACT peaked in 2014 at 55.3 minutes but dropped 3.8 minutes over the next three years.

New Transport and City Services Minister Chris Steel believes the increase in commute times reflects Canberra’s rapid growth over the past 15 years and said the data was recorded before the new public transport network.

“The figures from the HILDA survey show that commute times have been steady since about 2011 at about 50 minutes round trip between work and home,” Mr Steel said.

“Since this survey was undertaken several major road upgrades have been completed with an introduction of the light rail system. As our city grows, the Government is building a better public transport network to keep Canberra moving.

Mr Steel said the increase in commute times reflects Canberra’s rapid growth over the past 15 years. Photo: George Tsotsos.

“The ACT Government remains committed to delivering a mix of public transport and active travel initiatives that support Canberrans to make sustainable travel choices.

“The ACT Government is also committed to road improvements and upgrades that support those who need to commute by private vehicle.”

The ACT Government monitors journey times on the major road network in near real-time using a Bluetooth journey time system Addinsight, which Mr Steel said helps the Government to manage congestion to “ensure future commute times are reliable”.

Mr Steel said a number of current and recent duplication projects since the survey was completed will lower travel times, including the Cotter Road duplication, Ashley Drive duplication, stage one of Gundaroo Drive duplication, Horse Park Drive duplication and Coppins Crossing Road duplication.

Mr Steel also expects the ACT Government’s new road projects will also improve Canberrans’ commute times, including the new 6.4-kilometre corridor connecting Gungahlin and Belconnen duplication, which includes new on-road cycle lanes between Ginninderra Drive and the Barton Highway.

The Government also has plans for the duplication of Athllon Drive to add more lanes in each direction, replacing the bottleneck intersection on the Monaro Highway, as well upgrade intersections on Southern Cross Drive and Starke Street, Belconnen Way and Springvale Drive, Kent Street and Novar Street, and Launceston Street and Irving Street.

Daily commuting times have increased across Australia. Graph credit: The Conversation.

The survey, based on interviews with around 17,000 working Australians aged 15 years and older, analysed trends in commuting times in Australia over the 15 year period and the distance between a person’s place of residence and their place of work, including those who work from home.

Average daily commuting times across Australia have increased from 48.8 minutes in 2002 to 59.9 minutes in 2017.

The survey found that Australian workers averaged 3.7 hours’ commuting time per week in 2002, which increased to 4.5 hours by 2017, despite the fact that nearly 28 per cent of workers live and work in the same postcode and nearly 55 per cent of workers live within 10 kilometres of their place of work.

The survey found that though workers in cities may live relatively close to their workplace and may have more transport options, traffic congestion, urban expansion and poor public transport services would have influenced the increase in travel times.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

The government were very clear in their priorities in regards to transport investment and private car transport is low on the list. Walking, cycling, bus, light rail and cars so not surprised.

ChrisinTurner10:43 am 02 Aug 19

“No large metropolitan areas have enough infrastructure to transport everyone who wants to move during peak hours simultaneously; nor do they have enough resources to build it. Hence some travellers must wait until others have moved. That waiting constitutes traffic congestion.” (Anthony Downs – Brookings Institute). Simply adding lanes for cars is like letting out your belt and calling this your weight-loss program.

greensareliars10:58 am 01 Aug 19

“The Government also has plans for the duplication of Athllon Drive to add more lanes in each direction”
What a huge waste of money. They are talking about duplicating Athlon Dr South of Sulwood Dr and claim this will shorten commuting times. The issue has always been the intersection and the cars travelling West of Sulwood meaning that people travelling North of Athlon have to wait for a break. It is 2 lane into the roundabout already and if it only allows (say) 2 cars every 4 seconds to travel through the roundabout, and the cars are arriving at 4 cars every 4 seconds there is going to be a queue. Making the road you wait on 2 lanes wide rather than 1 will only mean you wait next to someone, the time you have to wait till you can go through the roundabout is exactly the same.
All this money for congestion that lasts all of 15 minutes anyway………

While were on the subject; a good example of a perfectly fine road ruined by Roads ACt is Drake Brockman Drive at the back of Holt. It used to be a nice wide road with ample room to turn off without impacting the traffic; and it was also 80 kms where there are no adjacent driveways. But now they’ve improved it – its 60 kms the whole way (uncessesary in my opinion) and narrowed to 1 small lane that doesn’t allow overtaking of vehicles turning left or buses stopping frequently (which stops the entire line of traffic to a crawl most afternoons). A major value project with no obvious benefits.

Ever thought the reason they narrowed it and slowed it down was because of the frequently stopping buses?
But intersections there was space to make dedicated turning lanes though.

rationalobserver9:02 am 31 Jul 19

We moved to Canberra to get away from over population and congestion; seems like we just delayed it. Wonder how much time is wasted driving around looking for a car park in Civic? And before the cyclists start crowing, not everyone is able to ride or catch public transport.

In all seriousness you (and everyone else who has moved here) are the reason why the commute times have increased! It is what happens when a city grows.

New suburbs are built that a further out which increases average commute times. New suburbs further out also creates congestion on existing roads. I know many would say expand those roads but realistically that isn’t an option as a certain level of congestion is allowed for in road design and our main roads are nowhere near that point just yet even though they do get busier.

rationalobserver5:32 pm 31 Jul 19

We moved here a long time ago, when peak hour was said to be when you were not in the front row at the traffic lights. Me thinks that altered bus timetables, road works for the toy train and light phasing to accommodate it, on road cycle paths, and more traffic lights have made a bigger difference than we have. Don’t forget it is ACT government policy to discourage personal motor vehicle use at every opportunity, and that comes at a cost of inconvenience and time.

ChrisinTurner10:45 am 02 Aug 19

The car parks in the Canberra Centre are never full.

There is no magic solution to allow people to commute one person per car.
Needs more incentive like increased parking costs, pay as you go rego and more transport options.
A lot of this problems can be fixed with more motorbikes or cyclists.
Everybody’s quick to blame the government but congestion falls right into the hands of the driver.

It could be argued that the increase in commute times is due to more people cycling. The cycling time is generally much greater than that for driving, but also the changes to road rules to accommodate them, such as dropping speed limits by 10 and 20 kph and removing or narrowing lanes etc has increased commute times for motorists.

As a result traffic density has actually increased in greater proportion to any increase in population.

michael quirk7:13 pm 30 Jul 19

It is unlikely the new bus network would have reduced travel times as travel times savings from areas such as Weston Creek would have been more than offset by increased travel times from Tuggeranong and Belconnen. The government continues to fail to pursue policies that disperse employment closer to homes and that encourage increased working from home.Light rail could even result in increased travel times if it diverts funds away from increasing the frequency and coverage of the bus network.

Nailed it. I just can’t fathom why Canberra Transport thought that increasing the travel time for bus commuters in Tuggeranong and inner west Belconnen would lead to increased bus use in those areas.

I reckon they actually knew what they were doing and the real reason is Canberra Transport happily dumped certain areas on the Canberra map, so as to provide regular services to the easy to serve trunk routes.

It’s like a public hospital only choosing to attend to the easy to cure patients.

Where have travel times increased in Belconnen.l? And where by the way is inner west Belconnen? I lived in West Belconnen for a good 30 years and never heard of that place before.

This shows the complete failure of the ACT government to plan as well as the insidious impact of them doing whatever developers want.

The whole point of Canberra is it’s supposed to be well planned to avoid long commutes like this which. This government has completely failed- this city is becoming awful in places.

My house will be on the market when I tidy work up and I’m out of here .

Spot on. ACT government should be introducing incentives to encourage businesses to operate out of Gunghalin and Tuggeranong. Not infrastructure and development in Civic to encourage yet more businesses into the city.

Think you will find the ACT government has little control over most of the issues that have lead to increases in congestion. Main one is population growth.

Canberra had 320,000 people in 2002 and about 400,000 now. That’s 1/4 growth in 17 years.

The solution for fixing congestion is the very same solutions that the government IS doing and many (older people) in Canberra hate. Which is increase density in inner areas so people need to travel less and introduce higher capacity public transport like light rail to cater for them.

But solutions like that will take years.

Rubbish, the new suburbs at the outer edge of Canberra are the cause of most of it.

The government has allowed development everywhere it could – some higher density, some new builds, a tram to make developers happy… but overall it’s about selling property not making the city better

Certainly taking people in Tuggeranong longer to get to work since the Bus network changes.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.