Thursday, 13 June 2013 16:40

Will maths help solve Melbourne’s transport problems?


Mathematicians at Monash University in Victoria are exploring ways mathematics can be used to solve Melbourne’s transport problem without the need to spend tens of billions of dollars on new infrastructure.

Professor Mark Wallace and a team from the Monash Faculty of Information Technology are exploring ways mathematics can keep traffic flowing on Melbourne’s existing roads and rails.

“The term ‘rush hour’ is out-of-date. Morning traffic congestion in Melbourne lasts from 6.30am until 9.30am and the annual cost of congestion to Victoria is estimated to rise from $3 billion to $6 billion by 2020.

“An estimated 20,000 trucks move through Melbourne’s inner west each day, and while the East-West Link project, an 18-kilometre inner-urban road connecting the Eastern Freeway and the Western Ring Road, would help reduce this traffic, it will cost $13 billion to complete, with $15 million already spent on writing the business case.”

According to Professor Wallace, mathematical control of new traffic lights at the M1 freeway entrances has already increased the M1 capacity by 3000 vehicles per hour.

And, he says research shows a new generation of vehicle communication systems, where vehicles provide information to each other such as proximity warnings and where they were heading, would assist with eliminating collisions and enable vehicles to drive faster, and closer together with lower risk.

“A broader vision is to schedule all transport. If drivers notified the transport system each time they started a journey, it could then schedule your road use to balance out traffic across the road system and minimise congestion.

“Simulations show that even with a small percentage of drivers using the system, users could reach their destination in half the time.”

The Monash research team is also proposing the introduction of transfer points for small vans, which account for the majority of freight in Melbourne.

“The transfer points would ensure the vans are used more efficiently and simulations indicate an immediate 25% reduction in the number of vans on the road,” Professor Wallace said.

And, the mathematicians are also developing adaptable bus schemes, and according to Professor Wallace public transport take-up in Melbourne is limited because buses are too few and far between.

“However, the development of an adaptable bus scheme that uses communication devices and scheduling algorithms would make sure there’s a bus where and when you need it.

“Mathematics will make it possible to solve Melbourne’s transport problem without the huge costs of new infrastructure. Instead, the costs will be closer to just writing the business case for infrastructure investment.”


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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).



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