As we move along into 2017, we face that inevitable wall of congested traffic that’s the ultimate national BBQ stopper. But if you think that people going to and from work are the root of the problem, you’re sadly mistaken.

Much of our debate on transport and congestion and where people live and how they get to work is so clouded by myths and voodoo that distilling a single reliable fact from any number of conversations or prescriptions for reform is a challenge.

What’s gobsmackingly scary is how much money as taxpayers we are prepared to throw at “essential” solutions which in reality hold no hope of making the smallest of dents in our congested traffic networks. Billions and billions of our hard earned income taxes, GST and property taxes get promised for hair brained schemes designed to benefit the few but be paid for by the many.

So that you’re prepared for the highly predictable new year focus on urban congestion – and for the many pie in the sky schemes which depend entirely on raiding yet more of your tax dollars – here are some facts you might find handy to have at your disposal:

Only a third of the traffic is caused by people going to work

Yes, just one in three people in the morning peak are on their way to work. A further one in five are students – either school age or university (which explains the marked reduction in congestion during term or semester breaks). And the other half of us? We’re all just going about our business (not work) – personal trips, shopping, recreation or some other reason. That’s according to a Bureau of Infrastructure and Regional Development fact sheet, and they’ve done their research.

Only a minority of urban jobs are in the inner city

This fact – borne out by the Census – often gets the inner urban elites hot under the collar and quite huffy in response, but it’s true. The inner cities of Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne accounted for 12.5, 13.4 and 10.6 per cent of metropolitan wide jobs at the time of the last census.

In Brisbane’s case, by way of illustration, that includes the CBD, South Brisbane, West End, Spring Hill, the Valley, Teneriffe and Bowen Hills.

So when you hear someone (which can include the most prominent of politicians and even a number of so called experts) that congestion is caused because “everyone” lives in “sprawling suburban McMansions” and wants to get to work in the inner city, you’ll be able to set them straight.

Half the inbound congestion near the inner city is trying to go somewhere else

This is a legacy of a hub and spoke road and public transport system which radiated out from the core, and which now largely forces people through the centre to reach the other side. It’s why ring roads have been proposed (and in Brisbane’s case, some have even been introduced).

It’s a myth that travelling by car is slower than public transport because of road congestion

The story goes that driving is slower than taking public transport, but that we put up with it because we have “a love affair” with our cars. This is more mythology, unsubstantiated by evidence. The fact is that people travelling to work by public transport have on average longer commutes than people travelling by car. Even in inner city areas, mass transit commutes take on average twice as long as car trips – and it’s almost three times as long for mass transit users in outer suburbs.

These are just some of realities of commuting back to work. So when you’re stuck in traffic, remember there’s only a one in three chance that the cars around you are also off to work.