School's back next week, and while a lot of people will continue working from home while the Omicron strain continues burning through the community, it'll mean more cars on the road once again.
Ballarat's population and boundaries are both rapidly growing, which does not help the situation.
While a lot of work - and money - has been put into planning ahead for this growth, it's mostly being done with the expectation that thousands more cars will be on our streets as people continue moving here.
But does this have to be the case? All levels of government will have a role to play, as well as community organisations, to make sure Ballarat doesn't become a gridlocked city.
A report from late December from Chasing Cars - an independent car review site funded by a car insurance company - found that in Australian cities larger than 50,000 people, Ballarat had the worst "rush hour" in August 2021.
According to their research, there was about an 8.3 kilometre difference in how far you can travel from the city centre in 30 minutes during rush hour compared to other times in Ballarat, using the TravelTime API for data - that's worse than Melbourne, which came in at 7.9km.
More money is going toward intersection works, like the state government's Keeping Ballarat Moving project, while the City of Ballarat has consistently pushed for a "10 minute city", as well as initiatives like more in-fill residential projects to stop sprawl and the Ballarat Link Road's second stage to provide another north-south arterial, as well as investment in safer cycling paths.
The state government and council partnerned up to trial e-scooters, but according to data from the company running the trial, Neuron, out of the 50,000 odd trips taken since the December 14 launch, the average trip length is 2.8km.
Neuron noted the project had created 25 jobs in Ballarat, but declined to give more exact numbers on the number of trips.
Committee for Ballarat chief executive Michael Poulton said the e-scooters are a good start, but more needs to be done to avoid traffic snarls.
"You can't build bigger roads (in Ballarat)," he said.
"If we think about energising the city, and activating the city as a great place to come, it's not more car parks and traffic lights - it's less."
That said, this isn't about removing the option to drive a car to work or school or to the shops, it's about adding other options that are viable, that people will choose instead of jumping in the car again.
VISIONS FOR A FUTURE BALLARAT:
Ideas like bringing back the tram network - even just up Sturt Street, as a tourist attraction - or more train stations should be considered, but they won't be the "silver bullet", Mr Poulton added.
Bendigo, it's worth noting, has five train stations to our two.
"You have to provide incentives for other forms of transport, and it's also about making the most of transport that's here already, like the railway line that goes to the north - that would be accessible for Eureka Stadium, or the growth in the west, it just makes sense," he said.
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"I think one of the evolutions in the next 10 year period is the growth of shared transport, like more Uber type services, but different types - electric scooters, bikes, cars all shared services - will take cars off the road and enhance our capacity to get around our city, that could be both public and private.
"What we don't want to do is get locked into a system that doesn't give the flexibility the consumer is looking for."
The Courier has been running its own mini-traffic survey, to see how long it takes to get from Delacombe to the Town Hall - rest assured we'll be back on the road later this year to see if things have improved.
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