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2.2 Create thriving urban places

Building more homes in established suburbs can bring substantial benefits, if managed by the right land use policies, settings and models of infrastructure delivery. It can reduce public infrastructure costs,1 and reduce encroachment into valuable agricultural and environmental land from development. Building more homes near public transport and employment centres improves physical activity levels by encouraging walking and cycling.2 More housing choice can support more diverse communities that include people of different ages, abilities and cultural backgrounds, and help create a sense of safety and belonging.

Building more homes in well-located areas also generates broader productivity effects, connecting people and businesses more readily. Closer connections mean businesses can more easily find customers, access workers and share more knowledge and resources.3

Concentrated, specialised and diverse businesses compete more fiercely, adapt more quickly to economic shocks, and generate fertile ground for innovation in ideas and technologies.4 These drivers create more jobs and businesses, improve productivity, and give people more opportunity to find jobs using their skills and talents.5

Building more homes in established areas can bring substantial benefits. More housing choice can support more diverse communities and enhance social inclusiveness and connection.

Better infrastructure and land use planning can produce better outcomes

Plan Melbourne, and its preceding metropolitan strategies, aim to facilitate the supply of more homes in places with good infrastructure and amenity.6 It aims to create local neighbourhoods where people can access most of their everyday needs (except work) within a 20-minute walk, cycle or public transport trip.7 Yet only a quarter of new homes in Melbourne are built in identified activity centres8 with good access to services, public transport, and jobs.

Beyond Plan Melbourne’s identification of six ‘places of state significance that will be the focus for investment and growth’,9 no public Victorian Government document clearly specifies the established suburbs where extra new homes might be built, or how many might be built there. This can mean home-building in established areas occurs in a haphazard and disparate fashion, with only small numbers of extra homes built or new homes being built wherever possible, including places with limited access to services. Inadequate prioritisation and planning of places for more intense development can lead to local disputes, especially in relation to medium and high density development. From 2011 to 2017, more than half of projects with six or more dwellings were referred to the Victorian Civil Administrative Tribunal for decision.10

Inflexible or restrictive land use settings can also discourage more homes being built in well connected places where existing infrastructure can accommodate much more housing. We undertook modelling to investigate the effect of relaxing land use planning requirements in carefully selected locations in Melbourne, around train stations and along transport corridors.11 This also meant overall private motorised vehicle trips were lower than comparable scenarios, as people living in these areas are more likely to walk or cycle to their destination. It also resulted in more public transport use, as more residents live in areas with good public transport services.12

Even with more use, public transport was also less crowded as trips were shorter.13

Building extra new homes in less well-connected places, or without the right infrastructure, can cause problems. For example, building more homes in places with limited public transport access increases local traffic congestion. Short trips by private vehicles contribute significantly to localised congestion that can have cumulative and flow-on effects across the transport network.14 Pollution and noise from increased traffic also negatively impacts health and wellbeing, air quality and social interaction, and produces greenhouse gas emissions. Careful consideration of local transport needs in densifying communities can reduce these impacts, by improving walking, cycling and public transport options.

The delivery of the new Suburban Rail Loop is an opportunity to use integrated transport and land use planning to deliver benefits for Melburnians. The project will shape the city for many years to come. Its planning and delivery can help the Victorian Government progress its transport objectives, and also promote economic growth and residential development in priority locations (such as near planned stations) and a more sustainable urban footprint for Melbourne.15 Our community research on ‘density done well’16 (see Insight box) reveals that it is not necessarily building more homes in established areas that causes community anxiety.

Rather, people want to maintain and improve the quality of their local area and ensure the extra infrastructure needed to accommodate more residents will be delivered. If done well, the construction of more homes is paired with quality urban design, diverse commercial opportunities, and community services, walkable, safe and green open spaces, good public transport, and choice of affordable housing options.

Insight: The community’s view of ‘density done well’.

Infrastructure Victoria worked with community members around Melbourne to understand ‘what does density done well look like?’ We sought to gain insight into the values and principles important to communities around increasing urban density and using existing infrastructure. This occurred through two stages of consultative workshops with a diverse group of participants from three established Melbourne suburbs. We selected Heidelberg, Camberwell and Footscray, as these suburbs have good public transport and mixed density levels. Some participants were randomly selected, and others self-selected, to ensure a mix of experiences and views.

The first stage focused on small group discussions for each suburb on questions like: ‘what is density done well?’, ‘what makes a great place?’ and exploring how communities perceive density in the local urban area. The second stage brought the three groups together to identify common values and principles when considering ‘density done well’. There were different views among the participants, but the main message was that people are willing to embrace greater density under the right conditions. The group delivered nine agreed themes for what makes ‘density done well’.

The nine themes, in order of relative importance are:

Density done well

The full report is available at 17

Infrastructure can help create sustainable, inclusive communities

Places need to cater for the people who live there and evolve with those communities as they change over time. This includes meeting the needs of people at different life stages – children, young people, adults, families, and older Victorians. It involves providing for the whole community, including people with low and high incomes, and a diversity of abilities and skills, cultural needs, and genders. It can recognise the inclusion and self-determination of Victoria’s First Nations people, and help Close the Gap in outcomes for Aboriginal Victorians. Rapidly changing neighbourhoods, including established areas experiencing construction of many new homes, need to cater for diversity, and make new people welcome.

The design of communities can physically limit people’s participation in education, work, community, culture and civic life. Building and modifying infrastructure for accessibility and creating easy to navigate environments can make a significant difference. This includes supporting Victorians as they age, people with disabilities, and their families, friends, and carers. It also makes urban environments easier to navigate for everyone, including people with prams and strollers, and those using shopping trolleys or carrying luggage.

Places with good access to jobs, services and amenity are often highly valued by potential home buyers and investors, and often have higher land prices as a result. Construction of higher density housing also often requires high land values so developers can achieve a reasonable return on their investment.18

These factors often mean that rapidly densifying established suburbs do not produce much housing affordable for people on low incomes.

At the same time, many Victorians cannot find housing they can afford, with more than 140,000 Victorian households experiencing rental stress in 2017–1819 with that number potentially higher since the COVID-19 pandemic. It is these same households who can most benefit from better access to jobs and services.

Desirable places to live have good amenities, services and infrastructure, including environmental infrastructure such as open space. Open space takes different forms, from bushland, water courses and parklands to sports fields, racetracks and utility reservations.20 Population growth and development activity is causing private outdoor space to decline in some places.21 leading to more reliance on public open spaces. Restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of easy access to green and public open spaces, and the contribution this made to communities’ physical and mental health, wellbeing, and resilience.22 Green and public open spaces will retain their importance after the pandemic for those same reasons, while also preparing areas for a changing climate. Adequate tree canopy cover on public and private land helps cool urban areas through shading, making neighbourhoods more resilient to hotter weather. Tree canopy cover is unequal across Melbourne’s suburbs, as shown in Figure 11. With increasing density, efforts to improve Melbourne’s tree canopy and public open spaces need to be well coordinated to create connections across suburbs and areas to enhance environmental, recreational, cultural, and social values. This can be paired with integrated water management initiatives (see recommendation 14) to keep more water in local environments for greening, cooling, and amenity.

Figure 11: Tree canopy cover is lower in Melbourne’s northern and western suburbs.
This map shows the tree canopy cover of Greater Melbourne is concentrated in the
north-eastern suburbs, the eastern suburbs and along the Mornington Peninsula.
The map shows very little canopy cover in Melbourne’s north and west.

Figure 11 Tree canopy cover is lower in Melbournes northern and western suburbs 300dpi 1
Source: Hurley et al., Urban vegetation cover analysis Melbourne Metropolitan Region,
Melbourne, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, 2018, p. 3

Changes can deliver thriving urban places

Some former industrial areas can be prime locations for new residential development. Often, these areas are already close to jobs but have inferior transport connections or lack the amenity and services required for thriving communities. Redevelopment with the right type of infrastructure at the right time could unlock their potential.23

Places with good access to public transport can attract other amenities to locate nearby. Melbourne’s iconic trams complement the train network. They support a wide range of trips at different times on any given day, linking different transport modes together to service more types of journeys. As some areas grow faster than others, delivering tram services differently can help keep pace with demand where it is needed and reduce car trips.

Thinking beyond usual solutions can support change and create thriving urban places. This includes reimagining the use of space in urban areas and investing in local solutions.

For instance, roads take up a significant proportion of land for vehicle travel and parking in established areas of Melbourne and regional cities. Other uses may become more important over time but would require looking at a wider range of solutions. For instance, active transport investment can deliver many benefits, such as reduced congestion, improved health and wellbeing, reduced vehicle costs, environmental benefits and infrastructure savings.24 For each person who cycles 20 minutes to work and back, the economy can benefit by $14.30; and each person who walks 20 minutes to work and back could generate another $8.48 in benefits.25 Ways to create more inclusive local places include improving public transport, protecting and enhancing open space, creating housing diversity, accessibility, and affordability, and ensuring infrastructure is accessible to all Victorians. Working with local governments where there are shared responsibilities can improve urban environments for residents and enhance the performance of Victoria’s cities.

Recommendations to create thriving urban places

Infrastructure Victoria makes the following recommendations to create thriving and more inclusive urban environments. We also make specific recommendations to help integrate land use and infrastructure planning (see section 2.1), deliver better access to transport and social infrastructure (see sections 3.1 and 3.3) and improve planning for growth areas (see section 3.4).

Recommendation 35: Support more homes in priority established places

In the next year, identify new priority locations in established suburbs for residential intensification to better use existing infrastructure. Following this, in partnership with local government, review planning settings to allow increased housing density and establish design review advisory panels.

The housing preferences of Melburnians are changing, with as few as half wanting standalone homes.26 Markets are responding to these changing tastes, with new apartments and townhouses outpacing new standalone housing.27 Prioritising home building in established suburbs ultimately costs Victorians less than expanding in new growth areas. Infrastructure costs in established suburbs with the capacity to support growth can be two to four times cheaper than in new growth suburbs.28

Our research shows people identify quality urban design, access to services, open spaces, good public transport and diverse, affordable housing options as principles for achieving better outcomes as residential densities increase in established suburbs.29 Plan Melbourne identifies over 130 metropolitan and major activity centres, but these accommodated only 21% of new housing in the decade to 2018.30 In established middle and outer suburbs, most new homes are far from the amenity, opportunities, and better transport choices often available in activity centres.

Our modelling shows allowing more people to live closer to jobs and services can grow Victoria’s economy and increase transport network efficiency.31 Plan Melbourne generally supports delivering more housing closer to jobs and transport, stating the benefits of a more compact, sustainable city.32 Indeed, Plan Melbourne recognises ‘it will be necessary to define locations best able to support increased densities’33 – but does not specify how.

Plan Melbourne identifies six places to focus investment and growth – Arden, Fishermans Bend, Footscray, Parkville, Richmond to Docklands, and Sunshine.34 Other priority places in established areas should also be identified for denser residential development, balanced with commercial and industrial growth needs. For example, the new Suburban Rail Loop stations could be priority locations for more development. This process should explicitly account for the growth potential of a place along with its market readiness, existing and planned transport infrastructure, and open space. This approach can also apply to priority locations experiencing growth in the established areas of regional cities.35

The Victorian Government should develop clear criteria to identify priority places, and better integrate land use and infrastructure planning for these to efficiently and effectively deliver a denser urban form. It should include these places in the forthcoming Metropolitan Regional Land Use Framework Plans,36 partner with local governments to develop or update associated structure plans, and support planning scheme amendments. Precinct plans should detail the local community’s aspirations, any barriers to achieving them, and the infrastructure, cost and funding mechanisms required. This could include reviewing current land use zones to support more housing. Land use rezoning can potentially remove restrictions and improve certainty for residential development.37

Our community research determined good urban design was among their top principles.38 To recognise this, and contribute to quality urban places, the Victorian Government should partner with local government to couple zoning changes with a new design review advisory process for significant developments in priority locations, a process already used internationally.39 This could be developed with the Victorian Government Architect and incorporate features of existing design advisory services of local governments.40 Combined with other planning reforms that help manage development risks,41 the process formally incorporates design considerations through early engagement with proponents.42

Recommendation 36: Use value-capture mechanisms to deliver very low income housing

Within the next two years, change and actively apply planning regulations to provide affordable rental housing for Victorians on very low incomes in places with good access to public transport and services, when they are re-zoned for more intensive residential use.

Places with good transport access and amenity are often highly valued by potential home buyers and investors. There is a shortage in Melbourne of over 50,000 affordable private rental dwellings for people in the bottom 20% of incomes.43 This income category is broadly similar to the income levels attached to the ‘very low income households’ category of affordable housing in the Planning and Environment Act 1987.44

In Melbourne, the most pressing housing affordability problem is for people renting on very low incomes. 90% of Melbourne’s private renters with incomes in the bottom 20% experience housing stress,45 while 64% of private renters in the next 20% of incomes can secure affordable rental homes in the private market.46 Technically Melbourne has enough affordable rental housing for the latter group, although some may be occupied by higher income households or not in desirable locations.47 Targeting affordable housing at higher income groups potentially uses the value-capture opportunity for lower priority groups. Some affordable rental housing schemes, such as the National Rental Affordability Scheme,48 produce discounted rental homes – typically renting at 20% lower than the market rate. This would usually still not be affordable for households on the lowest incomes. Similarly, using a value capture mechanism for other categories of low and moderate income affordable housing in the Planning and Environment Act, would divert stock from those most in need, who experience the largest deficit of affordable housing. This includes Aboriginal Victorians, who have worse housing outcomes than other Victorians on multiple indicators.

Changes to zoning can result in significant windfalls for landowners not previously captured by current taxes and charges.49 Planning regulations can be used for residential developments to include a proportion of affordable housing.50 Placing extra conditions on land use during re-zoning is one way to capture some of this value to fund infrastructure such as low income housing.

Capturing the value of development in this way can meet the twin goals of building extra homes in good locations and providing affordable homes to people on very low incomes. By using the re-zoning process to insert mandatory requirements to provide affordable housing, part of the windfall gains can be captured for social benefits. This means that any compliance costs are fully offset by land value increases, helping prevent any development disincentives. The Victorian Government has proposed a new revenue initiative to capture windfall gains associated with planning decisions to rezone land, gains not previously captured by government.51 However, the windfall gains tax is capable of operating in tandem with a value capture mechanism for affordable housing, although may reduce the revenue it collects.

The Victorian Government should introduce mandatory requirements when re-zoning residential land in suitable locations to include a value-capture mechanism to generate ‘very low income’, affordable rental housing in Victoria. The mechanism should be applied when land is re-zoned for more intensive residential use in locations with good access to public transport and services. Together with setting growth targets for social housing (see recommendation 68), this reform can reduce levels of housing stress and homelessness and help create more inclusive communities.

Recommendation 37: Develop an interconnected open space network

In the next three years, help create an interconnected open space network and extend the urban tree canopy, by providing direct funding, and reviewing and reforming the developer open space contribution scheme.

Greater residential densities, smaller households and changing job markets increase demand for easily accessible local open space.52 People heavily used public open spaces during the COVID-19 pandemic, demonstrating its health53 and resilience value.54 Public open space, including parks, local streets, waterways, Crown land, and trails, also supports expanding tree cover, helping reduce urban temperatures55 and local flooding.56 Our community research found safe, adaptable multi-functional spaces help manage the impacts of higher residential densities.57

Established suburbs have diminishing amounts of private open space and tree canopy cover.58 Engineering standards and building requirements, including for utilities, road safety and bushfire mitigation, can prevent the planting of more street trees.59 More well-designed, accessible public open space can help compensate for this loss.60 Connected patches and corridors of open space provide opportunities for recreation, active transport,61 and habitat connectivity.62 Street trees increase canopy cover and provide cooler, shaded corridors for walking and cycling.63 Fishermans Bend is a good example of open space network planning, which focuses open space along connected corridors and serves multiple functions, including promoting active transport, biodiversity and recreation.64

Despite interconnection being a longstanding policy goal of the Victorian Government, open space often occurs in isolated patches. Local government open space strategies typically emphasise increasing the amount of open space and access for residents.65 Land use and infrastructure planners rarely measure its connectivity.66 An interconnected open space network emphasises connections between open spaces and draws attention to opportunities such as public surface car parks or school grounds. It can potentially address uneven open space distribution and improve its overall quality.67 It can improve street tree coverage, including by reallocating land previously used for roads.

Building on its release of a high-level Open Space Strategy in early 2021,68 the Victorian Government should work with local councils in Melbourne and larger regional cities to fund connectivity improvements and tree planting in open space planning and delivery, such as using tree-planting programs.69 Local government urban forest strategies can also include tree canopy targets,70 reflecting those in Living Melbourne71 and Land Use Framework Plans. Local Aboriginal communities should also be consulted about appropriate connectivity improvements.

Currently, planning laws require open space contributions when developers subdivide land.72 These were adopted in 1966,73 but have never been reviewed. Local government use of open space contributions is not coordinated to improve Melbourne’s urban forest.74 A previous inquiry recommended developing more effective, enforceable and transparent contributions, and ensuring cash-in-lieu contributions can fund open space improvements.75

The Victorian Government should review the scope of,76 and then reform, open space contribution schemes to explicitly state a connectivity objective, and mandate financial contributions for links and planting. This stronger legislative basis would prioritise connectivity and tree cover when purchasing or managing open space. The Victorian Government should also preference connections when purchasing parkland,77 evaluate open space contributions for connectivity, and monitor expansion of urban tree canopy over time.

Recommendation 38: Partner with local governments to fund pedestrian infrastructure

Over the next five years, partner with local governments to fund pedestrian infrastructure network upgrades to connect people to priority places, including central Melbourne, the Monash National Employment and Innovation Cluster, other activity centres and train stations.

Walkable cities and suburbs deliver many benefits. Walking supports overall health and wellbeing, and social inclusion.78 A daily, 20-minute long and brisk walk can reduce the chance of early death from 16% to 30%,79 increase life expectancy by up to three years80 and help prevent chronic disease.81 One study estimates every kilometre walked daily delivers $1.68 in health benefits for the walker.82 Footpaths provide access to open spaces and other local amenities, take up less land, and cost less than roads and public transport. More people walking more often also helps reduce road congestion and public transport crowding, improves air quality and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.83 The Victorian Government has committed to increasing active transport mode share to 25% by 2030.84

Our community research found that Melburnians prioritise pedestrian-friendly environments as a principle of density done well (see recommendation 35).85 Walking is already the most common way people travel for distances less than 1 kilometre long,86 but people still use cars for many short trips. These car trips contribute to congestion in local streets and can have negative flow-on effects across the transport network.87

Investing in pedestrian infrastructure and programs that support active and public transport enable people to walk more often.88 Infrastructure Victoria estimates more than 200,000 daily trips currently taken by car to major centres could instead be walked or cycled. As around two thirds of these trips are to central Melbourne or the Monash National Employment and Innovation Cluster, so improving pedestrian infrastructure in and to these areas is a priority.89

Good walking infrastructure would also support the development and vibrancy of urban renewal precincts like Fishermans Bend. By investing in well-designed pedestrian infrastructure, the Victorian Government can help manage congestion, improve peoples’ health, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Working with local government, it can coordinate pedestrian infrastructure funding, lead efforts to collect better data (see recommendation 40) and help ensure accountability.90 Improvements could also encourage investment in and the development of major activity centres.91

In the next five years, the Victorian Government should work with local councils to upgrade the pedestrian infrastructure network in priority locations.92 It should provide some funding for new footpaths, pavement improvements, and better timing at traffic lights. It should improve Principal Pedestrian Networks within a 15-minute walk of train stations and major public transport stops to promote the safety and priority of pedestrian movements. This could include widening paths, improving lighting, simplifying route navigation, and delivering more tree canopy and vegetation (see recommendations 37 and 77), street furniture, water fountains and toilets.93

These measures make it easier for travellers to transfer from one mode of transport to another (for example, walking to trains or buses), create more attractive walking routes to public transport connections and reduce parking pressures.

Recommendation 39: Transform cycling in Melbourne, Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong

In the next 10 years, prioritise and significantly progress developing a continuous network of high quality, safer cycling corridors in Melbourne, Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong, including separated cycle ways and more storage at train stations and activity centres. In the next five years, immediate priorities include connections within and between central Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, and connections to the Monash, La Trobe and Sunshine National Employment and Innovation Clusters.

Over the next five years, partner with local governments to fund pedestrian infrastructure network upgrades to connect people to priority places, including central Melbourne, the Monash National Employment and Innovation Cluster, other activity centres and train stations. More than half of Melbourne’s vehicle trips are less than 6 kilometres.94 Converting even a small proportion of these trips to cycling can help reduce localised congestion,95 improve air quality and health, and cut carbon emissions. Cycling is one of the cheapest, cleanest and most space efficient modes of transport.96 Cycling for 30 minutes a day, five days a week, can reduce the physical inactivity disease burden by 26%,97 and countries with higher cycling rates have lower obesity rates than Australia.98 The share of cycling for trips in Victoria has changed little in the last five years. A network of high quality cycling links, including separated cycle ways, are a prerequisite to building a safer, more connected and lower stress cycling culture.99 Faster increases in cycling occur in cities that have:

  • Expanded and improved bike lanes and paths
  • Introduced traffic calming measures and bicycle storage
  • Improved integration with public transport 
  • Implemented bike sharing, training programs, and promotional events.100

Victorian research estimates up to 78% of Victorians are interested but remain concerned about the safety of cycling.101

Low stress cycling networks have lower traffic speeds, more physical separation from other vehicles, car parking and other hazards, direct routes, and no gaps in the cycling network.102 Cities are increasingly realising that cycling infrastructure that makes riders feel safe is a prerequisite to enticing more people to use it.103 New separated cycling infrastructure in Bendigo coincided with sizeable increases in cycling demand on that route.104 Beyond conventional bicycles, well-designed separated cycle ways can be used by e-bikes and other personal mobility devices, expanding the diversity of people who can use them, and extending the distance people can travel.

Not all trips on Victoria’s network can be practically cycled, and not all Victorians can or want to cycle. But in Melbourne alone, over 200,000 daily car and public transport peak hour trips could be cycled or walked to National Employment and Innovation Clusters (NEICs) and to central Melbourne.105

The Victorian Government has committed to increasing active transport mode share to 25% by 2030.106 But its investment in the cycling network remains relatively small at $100 million over five years in the Victorian Cycling Strategy 2018–2028, along with $16 million in other funds slated for pop-up cycling routes.107

The Victorian Government Strategic Cycling Corridor Network comprises routes on roads and paths managed by the Victorian and local governments. If local governments are unaware of Victorian Government cycling priorities, they cannot make coordinated investments to improve routes with segments managed by both.

The Victorian Government should prioritise and implement a phased program of network improvements on the Strategic Cycling Corridors, in Melbourne and regional centres, over the next 10 years.108 More direct funding will help manage demand on the road network, improve urban environments and increase access to train stations and activity centres.

Over the next five years, the Victorian Government should prioritise connections with high potential for cycling for trips from Richmond, Carlton, North Melbourne, and South Yarra to the central city,109 including allowing access through and around the Hoddle grid. Better cycling connections can help activate urban renewal precincts, like Fishermans Bend. Connections to Monash, La Trobe and Sunshine NEICs also have potential, as do many trips to Monash from Clayton, Springvale, Oakleigh and Huntingdale stations.110

Planning work should begin immediately with identified priority investments delivered within five years. More investment will be required once further opportunities are identified through better network planning using improved modelling tools (see recommendation 40) and through road space reallocation projects (see recommendation 41).

Case Study. Cycling investments pay off internationally.

Copenhagen, London and Seville demonstrate that sustained investment in cycling infrastructure can lead to more cycling trips, outpacing growth in other transport modes.

Copenhagen has invested in 150 kilometres of high quality cycle superhighways since 2012, with plans for further expansion in the next 25 years. Since the network has been installed, cycling has increased by 23%, with cyclists covering 400,000 kilometres each day. Better health from cycling has translated into 121,000 fewer sick leave days taken each year.111

London’s Cycle Superhighways, a fully separated cycle lane through central London, and Quietways have supported increased cycling with a doubling in cycling as a mode share from 1.2% in 2000 to 2.5% in 2018.112

From 2006 to 2007 an additional 80 kilometres of fully separated bicycle lanes were constructed in Seville, Spain.113 The lanes re-purposed car parking space, and were built on the same level as footpaths and in both directions. The network has been expanded since, creating a 180-kilometre cycle network in the city, with a resulting significant increase in cycling.114

Recommendation 40: Improve walking and cycling data to better estimate travel, health and safety impacts and benefits

In the next year, begin developing better walking and cycling information and data. In the next three years, incorporate this data and information into Victorian Government transport models for strategic and project planning, and project appraisal to guide investment decisions.

Providing choices for the growing demands on the network, while maintaining amenity of growing urban areas, requires consideration of all transport options. This includes being able to fully assess the health and safety benefits. Properly incorporating walking and cycling into evidence based planning, investment and reform requires assessment on an equal basis with motorised transport.

The Victorian Government uses three main transport models. Each model applies a different method to assess how motorised travel behaviour might change in response to different interventions to generate evidence for infrastructure investment. The model used depends on the nature and scale of interventions being assessed, the stage of a project’s development, and the detail required.115 The models are the Victorian Integrated Transport Model,116 the Melbourne Activity Based Model,117 and the Detailed Operational Model for Intersection and Network Optimisation.118 Bespoke models have been developed for other forms of transport to fill existing gaps, such as the Inner Melbourne Bicycle Model.

While useful tools, transport models focus substantially on time savings from motorised travel, despite almost 20% of trips being made by walking and cycling.119 There is a lack of data and detail for modelling non-motorised travel behaviour patterns. This makes it difficult to develop strong investment cases for active transport infrastructure, even though targeted walking and cycling projects can significantly manage demand on the transport system,120 reduce health costs,121 promote neighbourhood vibrancy, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.122 The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the value of walking and cycling, however in the absence of reliable data it has been difficult to evaluate.

The Victorian Government should develop a data management framework to better collect and share information on walking and cycling. The framework should clarify how data is collected, stored, used, and shared. This data should be used to inform transport modelling and decision-making. Better data on active travel can help shape community priorities and inform systematic forecasting and impact modelling. Short-term projects, such as the Summer Streets and School and Community Safety programs, provide opportunities to supplement existing walking and cycling data.

Improved walking and cycling data has multiple uses for government decisionmakers, and in the private and not-for-profit sectors. Better data could inform priorities and investment decisions, such as to identify where to increase tree canopy and improve open space network (see recommendations 37 and 77), and provide indicators of community health and wellbeing. This will also help achieve Victoria’s target of 25% of trips by active transport by 2030.123 Generating this data and integrating it into the data management framework and models should begin immediately. The Victorian Government should use this new data to help guide policy priorities and investment decisions (see recommendations 38 and 39). While full integration will take time, and require iterative updates, these improved changes should be finalised within three years.

Recommendation 41: Reallocate road space to priority transport modes

In the next year, start delivering road space reallocation initiatives to better support and enforce priority movement through streets and places. Adopt a five-year target for delivery of more ambitious road space reallocation initiatives. Legislate for faster, simpler, and more consultative road space reallocation in government decision-making.

Roads occupy significant space in urban environments. Over time, more people and more freight move along roads that stay the same size. Some roads are well suited for vehicle movements, while others are not. A mass of vehicles moving through streets can degrade the vibrancy, character and inclusivity of local communities. Different transport modes, such as walking, cycling, public transport, electric scooters, motorcycles, or cars, affect places and segments of the transport network differently. For example, too many cars cause congestion.

Resolving this requires a more deliberate approach to designing and using roads, beyond simply funnelling maximum traffic along them. Roads should instead prioritise space to better reflect their desired movement functions. Combining road and place management recognises that road space is valuable, finite and must be safely managed for all – not just vehicles. It means collaboratively managing all space on a street, from the buildings on one side to those on the other, and not just specific spaces managed by individual agencies, such as footpaths or tram tracks.

The Victorian Government should identify priority transport modes in different locations, using data to provide insights, including using the Department of Transport’s Movement and Place Framework. It should then begin delivering the road space reallocation initiatives most readily implemented.124 Other priority places are those experiencing a rapid change in their function. For example, the opening of a major project, such as the West Gate Tunnel or the North East Link, will change travel patterns, including diverting traffic away from other roads. The changes in traffic on other roads presents a priority opportunity to reallocate their road space to other purposes.

Road space reallocation initiatives could include improving driving education, campaigns and giving motorists more prominent cues, like more visible street markings to better communicate priority movements. Long-term and more ambitious initiatives should carefully consider interactions with places, to avoid negative effects on their amenity. These include infrastructure changes such as gradually installing tramway barriers, protecting cycleways, widening footpaths, or replacing parking with better bus and tram stops or ‘pocket parks’. They also include targeted enforcement to help improve road user compliance and realise road space allocation benefits. We have previously identified streets in the cities of Stonnington and Yarra as potential priority places.125

On some roads, transport movements with the capacity to carry the most people and highest volume of goods are most important, meaning alternative options for parking during busy times may be the best use of road space. The Victorian Government could designate other roads for quieter, lower impact, zero emissions freight vehicles, particularly at night, or for cycling (see recommendations 2 and 39). Technology can assist with prioritising road space at different times of the day (see recommendation 24).

Engaging and consulting local communities and property owners can promote faster and more accepted changes, strengthen evidence, better communicate different options and consequences, and pilot and better prepare for changes.126 Research finds that local, gradual initiatives have been most successful in reallocating road space. Along major corridors, the Victorian Government should design specific consultation and review processes, as occurred for Punt Road.127

Complex and time-consuming decision-making is a barrier to reallocating road space. In Victoria, unlike other states, Ministers directly determine which transport modes have priority on specific roads by legislative instrument.128 This allocation process can be slow to respond to transport demand changes and tends to preserve the status quo long after it is appropriate. Rapidly changing urban areas require more agility, and experiences from the COVID-19 pandemic provide potential insights on better methods of decision-making. The Victorian Government should amend the Road Management Act 2004 to allow for faster, simpler decisions.

Recommendation 42: Redesign tram routes

In the next 10 years, redesign tram routes, including short shuttle routes, and reserve land for future tram depots, for more capacity in fast growing inner Melbourne areas.

Melbourne’s trams link 32 major activity centres across the city, and usually provide an all day, turn up and go service. Highly useful in dense, established areas, tram services transport people to work, and also carry many travellers to appointments, services, shopping and entertainment throughout the day and evening.129

Rapid population growth in many areas of inner Melbourne is leading to overcrowding on some parts of the tram network, while services are under-utilised in other parts of the city. Tram overcrowding is most pronounced in and close to Melbourne’s city centre, exacerbated by the Free Tram Zone (see recommendation 47).130 Demand has also grown strongly in Southbank, north of Park Street, and in the western parts of inner Melbourne. Figure 12 shows that without further investment, many of Melbourne’s trams will be near or over capacity by 2051.

Within five years, the Victorian Government should redesign many parts of the tram network so they can continue to provide attractive and cost-effective services in areas experiencing high demand. Redesigned routes would also help to make the most efficient use of the tram fleet as it expands, including its 2020 order for 100 new trams.131 The Victorian Government should also build infrastructure so trams routes can adapt to the opening of Melbourne Metro and Anzac Station rail-tram interchange in 2025. At this time, some St Kilda Road trams should be diverted to the western side of the city centre.

In parallel, the Victorian Government should introduce short ‘shuttle services’ to relieve overcrowding in busy and growing sections of the tram network, especially at peak periods. For example, Victoria Street in Richmond is currently served by the Route 109 tram to Box Hill and the shorter Route 12 service, which originates at Victoria Gardens shopping centre.132 This combination helps accommodate large passenger loads along the growing Victoria Street precinct while providing a quality service all the way to Box Hill.

As the tram fleet grows, Melbourne will require more tram depots. Increasingly expensive land in inner suburbs means that delays in purchasing land for tram depots could lead to greater acquisition costs. To minimise these costs, the Victorian Government should identify and reserve land for future tram depots within 10 years. It should also leverage the opportunity presented by renewing tram assets, including depots and digital systems, to facilitate the introduction of redesigned tram routes and improve safety, accessibility and operational performance.

Figure 12: The tram network is projected to become crowded without change in 2051. This map shows Melbourne’s tram network and identifies that many lines will be near or over capacity in the mornings without further investment.

Figure 12 The tram network is projected to become crowded without change in 205 300dpi 1
Source: Arup, Strategy update: Problem definition modelling outcomes,
report for Infrastructure Victoria, November 2020.

Recommendation 43: Activate urban renewal with new tram links

In the next year, fund the northern Fishermans Bend tram connection for delivery by 2026 and complete the planning for the southern route. Within two to five years, commit to delivering a tram extension to Arden, and to the former defence site at Maribyrnong if required.

Bringing jobs and people closer together can create benefits. Many of the new jobs created in Melbourne over the next two decades are projected to be concentrated in the inner suburbs, which have several suitable redevelopment locations. These urban renewal precincts include Fishermans Bend precinct and the precinct around the proposed new Arden train station.133 The former defence site at Maribyrnong is also an identified urban renewal area.134

Expanding the tram network to renewal precincts would be an efficient, sustainable way to accommodate growing passenger numbers in these areas, particularly if trams have a dedicated right of way. Tram access encourages people to drive less and supports diverse residential and commercial development along transport corridors and in activity centres. Early investment in public transport can also provide industry with the certainty it needs to make complementary development investments, as in Melbourne’s Docklands135 or London’s Canary Wharf.136

Fishermans Bend is Australia’s largest urban renewal site,137 and is planned to include major housing developments, a National Employment and Innovation Cluster,138 and a new University of Melbourne campus.139 The precinct aims to attract 80,000 jobs and 80,000 residents by 2051.140 All of these people will need travel options, and residential development alone is projected to create 260,000 extra daily trips.141 Yet there are only limited Yarra River crossings, existing roads cannot meet growing demand efficiently or sustainably, and other movements are impeded by the freeway.142

The Victorian Government should plan for two tram routes to connect Fishermans Bend to the broader transport network, north and south of the West Gate Freeway.143 The northern route is most urgent, and should be delivered by 2026 to provide businesses, workers and students easy access. The southern connection can be delivered later, with timing aligned to delivery of forecast residential development.144 Delays would risk missing the Victorian Government’s target of 80% of trips undertaken by public or active transport145 and discourage investment.

Fishermans Bend is not the only urban area experiencing significant renewal. Large-scale development is also projected for the area between the western parts of the city centre and the Arden precinct, catalysed by the new train station. The Arden Precinct Development Plan recognises the need for better connections and proposes a transport interchange for easy passenger arrival from bus, car or taxi drop off, along with accommodation for trams within a dedicated right of way.146

The former defence site at Maribyrnong has longer-term potential for urban renewal,147 and early commitment to a new tram extension would improve transport options, support development, and reduce car dependence.

Within two to five years, the Victorian Government should commit to a tram extension to Arden. If required, it should also extend trams to the former Maribyrnong defence site. This would assist the development of corresponding precinct structure plans, and mitigate the challenges and often high costs of retrofitting tram routes later.148 It should also reserve land to retain the option for a tram connection to Footscray along Dynon Road. This could be used initially as a corridor for ‘next generation’ bus services to the inner west (recommendations 57 and 58).

Recommendation 44: Plan for and fund public transport accessibility, including tram stop upgrades

Fund public transport accessibility improvements to infrastructure and services, including for priority tram and bus stops, to make substantial progress toward the legislated 2032 accessibility targets.

Infrastructure needs to cater for the diverse needs of Victoria’s changing population. More accessible public transport is easier to use, especially for people with disability, older Victorians, those with injuries or chronic health conditions, or people with prams, personal shopping trolleys, walking frames or luggage. Inaccessible public transport can be a barrier to full participation in communities, making it difficult to access jobs, services, and social networks. It can also constrain the mobility and participation of carers. One in five Victorians has a disability,149 and nearly one in six is aged over 65 years150 – projected to increase to more than one in five in the next 30 years.151

More accessible public transport for metropolitan and regional areas would help address structural discrimination against people with disability. Under Australian law, public transport networks are required to be fully accessible by 2032.152 The Victorian Government has stated it prefers to deliver accessibility works during asset upgrades,153 but this makes progress relatively slow. The Victorian Government’s Accessible Public Transport Action Plan 2020–24 sets out priority measures to improve access to all modes of public transport,154 but it is yet to be supported by funding, and does not measure or articulate desired progress toward the accessibility targets.

Many elements of Victoria’s public transport network need to be upgraded to comply with standards. Many tram and bus stops do not meet accessibility standards. Modern vehicles, like low floor trams and buses, are more accessible but need to be supported by upgrades to stops and curbs that allow people to get on and off services easily, allow clearance around bus shelters and provide footpath access to stops across and along roads.155 This will require further investment in more low-floor buses, accessible bus stops, and delivering bus stop shelters (see recommendation 57).156

Improving tram accessibility is a priority. Only around 400 of over 1700 tram stops are currently accessible157 and, unlike with trains and buses, drivers cannot manually deploy ramps to assist passengers to board. More accessible vehicles will help, and the Yarra Trams Accessibility Action Plan envisages making all trams low-floor models by 2031.158

New trams will, however, need to be supported with more accessible tram stops to provide easier access, which also boosts efficiency, reduces boarding delays and caters for more passengers by allowing people to board more quickly. The Victorian Government is working to upgrade stops on the network,159 but historically did not meet upgrade targets for several years.160 Its development of a Tram Stop Accessibility Strategy161 is a valuable opportunity to do better. The strategy should set out criteria for priority upgrades, including those with high use, strategically located, high projected population growth nearby, opportunities for synergies with other projects, and innovative design. Delivery agencies can reduce costs by combining construction with scheduled maintenance or other projects, consulting with user groups to optimise designs, and by reconsidering the number of stops required along corridors.

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