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Implementing an inner-city congestion charge and higher parking rates within the CBD might be the only way to solve Sydney and Melbourne’s worsening traffic problems, new research has shown.

The Grattan Institute recommends that Melbourne introduce a “CBD cordon” congestion charge, similar to what is in place in London. Meanwhile, the report suggests that Sydney should add similar charges in key areas such as the Spit Bridge, and areas between the CBD and Drummoyne.

“Don’t listen to the politicians who tell you big new roads will be ‘congestion busters’,” Grattan Institute Transport Program Director Marion Terrill said.

“You can’t build your way out of congestion.”

The new plans would see people paying the charge during peak hours having a quicker and more reliable trip, given there would be fewer cars on the road. Those that were travelling outside of peak hours would avoid the charge, as they wouldn’t be driving into the cordon during peak hours.

From a parking perspective, the new report suggests that Melbourne’s CBD parking levy should be doubled to match that of Sydney. Such a move would be designed to discourage city commuters from driving to work and to take up public transport or cycling instead.

“New roads are important for areas of new growth or substantial redevelopment, but close to the city centres it is often more effective and always cheaper to invest in smaller-scale engineering and technology improvements such as traffic-light coordination, smarter intersection design, variable speed limits and better road surfaces and gradients,” the report said.

Ms Terrill said that “more sophisticated solutions” were needed if Australia’s major cities were to catch up with London, Stockholm and Singapore – all of whom have successfully introduced congestion charges in recent years.

“For Sydney and Melbourne, congestion pricing would deliver city-wide benefits: not only reducing the amount of time we spend stuck in traffic but also funding better public transport and a cut to car registration fees.”

For more information about the research, click here