The way we fund Australian transport projects is nonsensical

Dr Matthew Burke is deputy director and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow at the Urban Research Program. His research is mainly in how transport systems, land uses and travel behaviour interact. Matthew’s transport research ranges across freight, transport policy, travel behaviour, ferries, light rail, busways, walking, and cycling. His Future Fellowship is looking at the impacts of the new Gold Coast light rail scheme.


Australia has the 4th lowest fuel taxes in the OECD, forcing governments to look to public private partnerships and user charges to help build new infrastructure. But this can lead to perverse outcomes.
The city centre of Brisbane will shortly have three massive bypass road tunnels running under it. The stated public purpose of these roads was to clear up congestion on the surface and get through traffic under the city and out of the way. But the only method by which we could fund the scheme was through tolling the new tunnels.
What is crazy is that we end up with a really steep price on cars using the bypasses, where we want the traffic to go, but we keep the surface roads free, where we don’t want congestion, at odds with our stated policy objectives. But this is a symptom of the real problem. We must rethink how we fund transport systems.

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