The fact that Sydney's roads are clogged, jammed and packed is no surprise. They have been so for quite a while and they continue to be so (actually worsening), despite the government spending "billions" (who knows what the exact sum may be when everything is done) over the last 12 months alone.
A few numbers tell a compelling story:
Average speed on the M4 and M5 drops down to 40 km/h
Congestion in Sydney costs about $5 Giga-AUD (that would be in billions of Australian dollars) per year, today. This is expected to increase up to $7.8 by 2020.
There are very few (if any) public transport options
The "Congestion Busting Fund" of $150 million AUD is a total bust
About 70% of all workers in the area depend of transportation
There is only one rail system (with two being built - slowly)
The infrastructure "backlog" (according to the government) is "only" $30 Giga-AUD
The Western Sydney are have almost no local job and need to commute extensively
Fuel costs are high, up to $150 AUD per week
Commuting times are high (up to 20 hours a week)
And so on. At least, this is what the newspaper The Daily Telegraph reports in its article "Fair Go For the West: There's a costly message in a bottleneck on our congested roads".
Every time a problem is complex, it is a good idea to go back to the basics. The basics are:
Jobs are not located where people lives
People live where there are no jobs because they expect the government to provide transportation
The government is technically broke and does not have the necessary money to build all those new transportation means
THE GOVERNMENT SOLUTION
As usual, when a problem is actually simple, governments come up with complex and very expensive solutions that, on average, do not work.
What is the government solution?
Spend, spend, spend and… oh yes… borrow and then spend.
Well… maybe a train here or there or maybe some sort of initiative here and there.
There you have it folks! Problem solved.
No, not really.
If the government accomplished the incredible feat of actually worsening the situation over the last 12 months by spending untold billions, what do you think will happen over the next years if they spend massive amounts of billions?
Yes, the situation will became even worse.
Is this a surprise?
Not at all.
We know that all transportation means insofar that they are government funded or subsidized are extremely inefficient and expensive. We have written about this fact in Plains Trains And Automobiles and we won't repeat the arguments here.
Whatever the Australian government is planning to do, it won't work or it will backfire or it will be financially unsustainable or all of the above.
Who will pay the exorbitant cost of yet another system that does not work?
You guessed it; all Australians whether they like it or not.
THE MARKET SOLUTION
What is the solution that the market provides?
Simple, privatize everything.
Sounds drastic, isn't it?
Yes, but it works.
Of course, if they would to do so, there would be an instant voter's revolt. People want their "free" roads and "cheap" transportation. They are "entitled" to them because they "paid" for them. Fair enough, then make them shareholders!
More to the point, if all means of transportation would suddenly be privatized, what would happen?
User fees for roads and highways would make private transportation expensive (not overly expensive but expensive)… which will create a large number of private enterprising people to step in. No, again, this is not economic science fiction. There is a place where this was done successfully and strangely enough, this place is Buenos Aires (Argentina).
Over there and after WWII all means of transport were made public (except roads and highways). This, of course, was financially unsustainable and eventually the whole system broke down. Everything was privatized, and made public and privatized yet again.
In the end, everything was privatized (except most road - a few private highways do exist). Guess what? It works!
All trains (urban and sub-urban) work. All busses (urban and sub-urban and long distance) work. All underground trains work.
Granted, they are not luxurious but they do provide transportation from point A to point B anywhere in the province of Buenos Aires at an affordable price for nearly 3 million inhabitants. And Buenos Aires is not a small town, it measures 300.000 square kilometers or 30 times the size of Jamaica, 10 time the size of Belgium or Netherlands, 3 times the size of Iceland, 2 times the size of Greece and about the same size as Poland or Norway. So please, don't tell us it is not possible; it is!
Of course, in Argentina privatization happened by pure economic stupidity. It had nothing to do with planning; it was just pure desperation and blackmail from international financial organizations. But for once, they hit on something that actually works. Consider this. These private transportation companies are regulated; meaning that their profits are tiny and enforced by the government because transportation is a political issue. However, even in a condition where they are forced to have tiny profits, the system still works and it is financially viable and profitable. Of course, it could be better. If prices would be made totally free and there would be no requirements to license "routes" from the government, competition would have taken care of the rest.
How do we know this? Because it was done before with taxis in the Airport. For political reasons and at some point in time, anybody (without the need for a license) could pick-up passengers at the airport for a fee. Guess what happened? Fees went down, service levels went up and there was plenty of choice… this is, until taxi lobbyist convinced the government that "licensing" was good (for government coffers, that is).
As a matter of fact, most people try to avoid cars in Buenos Aires, because of the expense, inconvenience and complication that its use entails. Most people actually use public transportation simply because it works, it is available and inexpensive.
Consider this. In almost any country around the world and before the advent of "public" transportation there was private transportation. Buses were private, cars for hire were private and everything worked. Transportation services would pop-up where needed, when needed and as needed; all for a reasonable fee. This is exactly what is happening today in North Korea. Do the research. Check your country's history and you will see that we are correct.
The market solution is not a pipe dream, but a real solution that costs nothing to the public; unlike the government solution that costs a fortune and delivers nothing but troubles. The market solution is a solution straight from the past, this is how we know it works; because it worked before and it is working today.
Only the clogged brains of politicians choose to deny this solution simply because it is to their advantage to do so. The free market can remove congestion from the roads, but it cannot remove clogs from brains. For that we need a more powerful drain flusher, something along the lines of Absolute Austro-Libertarianism; a strong flush to remove the toughest politician.
Think of it or not; entirely your choice.
Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.