Will people use the Go Between Bridge?

According to our Lord Mayor Campbell Newman, the Go Between Bridge promises to shave 7-10 minutes off a peak-hour trip between Brisbane’s sporting centre of Milton and its cultural centre in South Brisbane & West End.  In December last year, Mr Newman highlighted (Courier-Mail, 3 December 2009):

The convenience of coming across the bridge, straight off Hale Street, into South Brisbane, saving 7-10 minutes on journeys in peak hour – those are the projections.

Whether you’re willing to pay the toll of $2.70 depends on what those 7-10 minutes are worth to you.

We can get a rough idea of what 7-10 minutes are worth to the average Queenslander by looking at how much the average Queenslander trades his or her time for each working day.  Average annual full-time earnings in Queensland are around $64,000 (based on ABS Average Weekly Earnings data).  Assuming our average Queenslander works an average of 40 hours per week for 48 weeks of the year (a total of 1,920 hours per year),  this means they are trading each hour they work for around $33 (i.e., $64,000/1,920).

So one minute of our average Queenslander’s time is worth around 55 cents to them.  Our average Queenslander would thus pay $3.85 to save 7 minutes and $5.50 to save 10 minutes.  This means the $2.70 toll doesn’t appear prohibitive after all, at least in peak hour.

Let’s apply what economists call break-even analysis, and ask what is the minimum amount of time our average Queenslander would need to save (the break-even time saving) to be willing to pay the $2.70 toll?  That would be the value of the toll ($2.70) divided by the value of time to our average Queenslander ($0.55/minute).  That is, the break-even time saving is around 5 minutes.

So whether our average Queenslander will use the Bridge will depend on whether the Bridge saves him or her at least 5 minutes of travel time.  Given the William Jolly Bridge is only a short distance along from the Go Between Bridge, some people may question this possibility, particularly in non-peak periods.

Based on this quick-and-dirty analysis for a hypothetical average Queenslander, my best guess is that the Bridge will be reasonably well used during peak hours and avoided during non-peak hours.  I’m hoping the Council has tested this scenario, and the financials still stack up.  We will know soon enough.

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