The notion of a second M1 may be appealing to many (believe me I understand) but it is an incredibly stupid idea.
Not only that, it’s a huge waste of money.
If we can put aside the politics and petitions for a second, let’s examine the two main issues people have with the M1.
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Congestion and congestion.
Whether it is a tragic multi-car crash at Pimpama or old Doris snailing onto the M1 southbound at West Burleigh at 67km/hour, the M1 can slow to a crawl at any given minute of any given day. This is a fact. What is not (yet) a fact is why it does this.
One topical theory (thanks to the LNP’s corflute-themed press conference Tuesday) is overcrowding; that the M1 has reached capacity already and additional roads must be built.
I have an alternative theory. People can’t drive very well.
It may not be the popular theory with the glam of online petitions nor the glitz of coloured signs, but my idea does have some merits. Namely that it is true, and that the solution is incredibly cheap comparatively.
If we lived in a world where all Queenslanders could merge properly (bear with me here) and also understood the notion that the right lane is for overtaking no matter what speed you are going (crazy I know but stay with me people!), the M1 and all major arterials would seldom if ever congest.
Anyone who lives south of Burleigh knows this to be fact.
For those who don’t live south of Burleigh and are keen to disprove my theory, by all means take a leisurely trip down the M1 from Reedy Creek to Tugun one day.
Traffic will congest no less than twice (if you’re lucky) and if you are paying attention, you will notice these bottlenecks correlate directly to freeway entry ramps.
Number one is people merging too slowly.
This is bad in and of itself but when combined with drivers in the left lane moving across to the right lane without increasing to an overtaking speed, you instantly have accident-free congestion.
From Elanora to Eight Mile Plains (and beyond), this happens up and down the M1 every day.
The corollary of this is the frequency of accidents this poor driving causes. The right-left lane dichotomy is designed to ensure that drivers who want to drive faster can. Sure they run the risk of being fined for speeding, but it is an essential element of traffic flow that the further right you are, the faster you should (indeed must) go.
People are busy and often running late so when this left-right lane system breaks down accidents happen and like it or not, an increasingly high percentage of people will seek to speed, tailgate and weave dangerously in and out of traffic to make up for time lost stuck behind a slow car in the far right lane.
This is an efficiency issue not a supply one.
Like it or not, we need to get better at driving not build more roads.
For less than (cue Dr Evil voice) $1,000,000 the state government could largely eradicate M1 congestion by introducing a mandatory Driver Competency Course.
Two hours of practical assessment driving up and down the M1 and local roads along with a touch-screen theory portion to hammer the point home. That is all it would take. Every single person who wants to drive on Queensland roads takes it, and if you haven’t done the course by X date you lose your license.
If we build more roads we will still have the same problems – addressing and eradicating driver incompetence is the best and cheapest way to make our Gold Coast roads and particularly the M1 safe and congestion-free.