Opinion piece by UDIA WA CEO Tanya Steinbeck published in The West Australian on Wednesday November 20.

Anyone who drives to and from work in peak hour has experienced the immense frustrations of dealing with the merge-aphobics, the tailgaters, the stickybeaks and the impressively timed roadworks to coincide with the majority of Perth trying to get to work on time.

According to Infrastructure Australia’s 2019 Audit Report, without action, the cost of road and public transport congestion in Australia could double to nearly $40 billion by 2031. And is it any wonder when you consider that Australians drive the equivalent of 1000 times from Earth to the Sun every year.

So for decades one of the most logical and employed responses has been to expand existing freeways and highways as an obvious method of reducing traffic congestion. Which works, until it doesn’t.

There’s a hotly debated term in transportation called “induced demand”. The basic theory is that if you continue to expand your freeways, highways and major arterial roads, you are attracting more people who otherwise would use an alternative mode or route to travel to their destination or even choose an alternative destination.

In fast-growing areas, there can be a significant amount of latent demand — that is, people who were anxiously waiting for the new lanes to open so they can quit using public transport and jump in the car and quickly clog them up again.

The question is, how much wider can our freeways become before we start to think creatively about how we get around our city? In Perth we are planning for a city of 3.5 million and have been identified by Infrastructure Australia as one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities.

We are also planning for Metronet, which is intended to maximise opportunities for infill and greater density in a city that has more cars per capita than any other Australian capital city. Anticipative and visionary public transport, including rail, buses and cycling infrastructure is required to not only respond to the growing pains Perth will continue to experience based on what we know now, but to be ready when automated vehicles become the norm.