Some motorists believe the added distance from toll roads such as the M5, M7 and M2 counteract the perceived time-saving.
They therefore use a more direct route, or ‘rat run’ of back streets, which (some say) not only saves money by avoiding tolls, but can save time as well.
Using a group of researchers in identical cars with GPS tracking, travelling the same routes during morning and evening peak periods over six consecutive days, the NRMA set out to find if the 'rats' were onto something.
The results are in, and the NRMA says the rat-run theories are a little short of the mark.
The motoring group’s survey found that toll roads could shave up to 75 percent from travel times against the free arterial roads, and drivers who choose the motorway can use up to 30 percent less fuel.
Time-savings were greatest from the North West during peak times, with the survey finding a journey to the CBD along the M7, M2, Lane Cove Tunnel and Gore Hill Freeway took almost half the time of the free alternative.
The alternative route was Sunnyholt Road, Old Windsor Road, James Ruse Drive and Epping Road which took 104 minutes against 53 minutes for the toll roads.
The survey found the M5 is now six minutes faster than before, following a widening in parts to three lanes, and the M4 is around 33 minutes faster from the far-west suburb of Emu Plains verses the Great Western Highway and Parramatta Road.
That’s not to say toll roads are in any way speeding up the peak hour grind, with the M5 from Narellan Road to the CBD via Southern Cross Drive still taking 79 minutes, but the alternative route along Campbelltown Road, Canterbury Road and others takes 129 minutes.
NRMA President Kyle Loades said the survey was a reminder of the importance of road infrastructure projects such as WestConnex and NorthConnex.
“Decent transport infrastructure makes our lives better,” Mr Loades said, speaking with News Corp.
“It gets us home to our families faster and safer, it helps small businesses deliver goods and services more efficiently and it means we use less fuel, which is better for our hip pockets and the environment.”
Not surprisingly, average speeds matched travel times with drivers on the M7 managing 52km/h during peak hours compared to 30km/h on the free alternatives.
The M5 saw a similar result, with 49km/h compared to 30km/h (again) for the back roads.
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MORE News & Reviews: Sydney | Congestion | NRMA