Those new travel time signs around Melbourne

One things I’ve noticed in the past year or so around Melbourne is a plague of variable message sign trailers parked beside main roads. Each one offers travel times to a single random suburban destination, via two different routes. So what gives?

Travel time sign on Anderson Road, Sunshine - 17 minutes to Taylors Lakes via Sunshine Avenue

The example I found was on Anderson Road in Sunshine, and offered travel times to Taylors Lakes.

Travel time sign on Anderson Road, Sunshine - 18 minutes to Taylors Lakes via Station Road

Via two routes – McIntyre Road and Sunshine Avenue through Keilor, or Forrest Street and Station Road through Deer Park.

Someone mentioned they first started seeing them between Melbourne’s first two lockdowns, and then I remembered the ‘Keeping Victorians Moving’ package that the Victorian Government blew $340 million on back in June 2020.

Keeping Victorians Moving During Coronavirus
30 June 2020

The Andrews Labor Government is making it easier for people and goods to get around Melbourne with better technology, more specialist staff and stronger enforcement of clearways in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Minister for Roads and Road Safety Ben Carroll today unveiled a $340 million package of measures to make it easier for people and freight to get around on our roads.

The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically altered the way Melburnians move around the city with more people now expected to use cars to get around.

The number of people making trips on Melbourne’s roads each day is increasing, with road traffic now only 17 per cent below normal levels, while passenger numbers on public transport are 71 per cent less than the same time last year.

To keep Melburnians moving during this time, we’re ramping up direct traffic interventions by tasking more response crews and traffic engineers with tackling congestion hotspots, incidents and blockages on the network.

Three key traffic hotspots in the western, eastern and south eastern suburbs of Melbourne will also be blanketed with the technology and resources to help keep traffic moving, reduce delays and provide drivers with better traffic information.

Almost 700 CCTV cameras will be installed to identify bottlenecks as soon as they start and more than 200 wireless travel time sensors and 40 new visual message boards will put live traffic data in the hands of our traffic management centre and drivers.

Six extra incident response crews and dozens more specialist traffic engineers will be hired to keep our roads moving around the clock – creating jobs and reducing delays from unexpected events.

The timing of hundreds of traffic lights – along with traffic patterns and crash data – will be analysed and re-sequenced to maximise traffic flow along some of the busiest routes in the targeted areas.

So that’s one of the 40 visual message boards installed around Melbourne – at a cost that had increased to $388 million when it was included in the 2020-21 Victorian Budget.

The Department of Transport started the objective of the initiative was:

To maximise arterial road performance and minimise unnecessary delays for all road users with more dedicated onroad capability and technology.

And detailed their progress as of May 2021.

Key activities include:

• Roll out of 691 CCTV cameras, 210 Bluetooth travel time detectors, 42 live travel time signs and 75 dynamic pedestrian detectors and perform signal route reviews on 759 sites and provide greater visibility of the road network
• Procurement of a situational awareness system, implement an improved data fusion model and deploy 7 fixed and 4 mobile Air Quality emissions stations across metropolitan Melbourne.
• Recruitment of 154 roles, including congestion managers and surveillance staff.
• Procurement of additional new vehicles for the onroads teams.

Progress achieved against key Government outcomes:

• Asset deployment team has delivered 520 CCTV cameras, 193 Bluetooth detectors, 26 permanent variable messaging system (VMS), 27 dynamic pedestrian detectors and 2 vehicle detectors.
• The draft data fusion model is in operation, Trial Air Quality emissions station has been deployed and a contract for four mobile Air Quality stations has been awarded.
• Six Incident Response vans have arrived and are undergoing fit-out.

And the breakdown of funding per budget year:

2020-21
$108.7 million

2021-22
$45.7 million

2022-23
$28.9 million

2023-24
$28.9 million

That only adds up to $212.2 million, so what about the other $176 million – perhaps another six years of operating costs, at $28.9 million per year.

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8 Responses to “Those new travel time signs around Melbourne”

  1. Beren says:

    Imagine this, its covid, state is in lockdown. You run public transport at the same level. Buses run empty, trains sometimes have one or two passengers. You have money to fix roads, but instead you erect traffic sensors and signs? This government is moronic. Save some money, we are all at home.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      I believe the intent behind the project was to cater for the expected flood of commuters abandoning public transport for cars after the first lockdown ended – instead we got the lockdowns that just keep dragging on, and work from home mandates that are still in place today.

  2. Steve says:

    The 40 VMS mentioned by the government are permanent installations, not those trailer mounted ones you are seeing. I bet the hire company providing those temporary ones is happy to have signed a contract that has seen them stay out on the roads for so long when there’s no traffic around.

  3. Bob says:

    They utilised a similar system at the end of the Mornington Peninsula freeway over the peak summer period. The intent was to spread the traffic between the front road (shorter but slower speed limit) and the back road (longer with higher speed limit). I can’t remember the source of the data, but it supposedly worked in reducing overall travel time and spreading traffic amongst the two routes; relieving some congestion. I guess its part of the DOT idea to ‘sweat the assets’ instead of relying on costly infrastructure upgrades

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