Office pinched black and blue by traffic jams

Heavy traffic is slowing down our small businesses and commuting workers report being increasingly stressed and fatigued, Nina Hendy reports.

Heavy traffic is slowing down our small businesses and commuting workers report being increasingly stressed and fatigued, Nina Hendy reports.

Sydney businesswoman Priyanka Rao is fed up with traffic. Daily, she struggles her way infuriatingly through the traffic in a trip that can take up to 90 minutes.

The chief executive of furniture manufacturing firm Luxmy says her best efforts to be at the office by 8.30am are often dashed because traffic congestion is unpredictable. The trip to and from her office robs her of 15 hours a week.

Ms Rao also has important client meetings all over Sydney, and traffic congestion often makes

her late.

"Being late because of unforseen hold-ups in traffic has cost me so much money in lost productivity. It's common for staff to get caught up in a massive traffic jam and be an hour or two late, while getting home every night takes me forever," she says.

Ms Rao has tried leaving home at various times of the morning and taking other routes to avoid congestion, but it's still chaotic.

"Traffic jams on the M5 or Eastern Distributor have cost me unaccounted sums in missed appointments and unproductive hours spent on the road," she says.

"Traffic can come to a standstill and once you reach the place where the traffic stopped, you can't figure out what the issue was.

"The traffic in the city is the worst. It can take an hour to fight your way in for a meeting and another hour to fight your way back out again."

In Melbourne, tech entrepreneur Gary Tramer spends a gruelling 520 hours a year (or 21 days) travelling from his home in Bentleigh to work in Richmond. He's so fed up that he's considering spending $1000 a week on a full- time driver to take him to work.

"If I hire a driver, at least I can be productive on my transit and also avoid the parking fines I continually rack up," he says.

"There's nothing I hate more than time wasting and traffic is nothing but a complete waste of time."

Mr Tramer has tried various routes to dodge traffic to little avail.

"It's simply a matter of where you want to hit the traffic. If I avoid traffic on the highway, I hit it in the school zones in Caulfield. If I want to avoid traffic on an arterial like Punt Road, I hit it at MacRobertson Bridge in Toorak. What do I prefer, getting my back waxed or Melbourne traffic? I can take my pick and both will be painful," he says.

A survey commissioned by VicRoads last year reported that half of Melbourne's drivers were stressed due to their daily commute. Drivers reported that peak-hour traffic, extended travel times and frustrating driver behaviour was causing increasing levels of stress at work and at home.

A report into Sydney's worsening congestion found that small business operators were bearing the brunt of the traffic congestion.

Almost one in 10 of about 1000 respondents to the recent NRMA's BusinessWise congestion survey said the traffic was responsible for extra staff sick days. Most of those surveyed were small business operators.

A third have reported an increase in fatigue (37 per cent) and reduced productivity (37 per cent) at work due to traffic congestion. The survey feedback has also revealed that traffic woes have contributed to increased fuel costs (59 per cent), an increase in capital and running costs (39 per cent), a slowdown in overall productivity (33 per cent), and an increase in staff being late to work (32 per cent).

Tony Stuart, CEO of NRMA motoring and services, said small businesses are at breaking point and governments needed to take action to combat congestion in Sydney. Traffic congestion is no longer just a peak-hour problem.

"We need federal and state governments to work together to manage congestion. It's affecting productivity, it's affecting health and it's putting even more pressure on the bottom line of small businesses," Mr Stuart says.

Mr Tramer says small businesses were suffering. "Given the taxes and road tolls we pay, people should not be expected to spend up to 2.5 hours on the road a day when they work within five kilometres of their home. That's just insane."

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