Transporting Melbourne's recovery

Street with bike lanes and cyclists riding

Immediate policy actions to get Melbourne moving

In this report, we examine how travel patterns could change as Victorians transition to COVID-normal. New modelling shows the implications for our transport infrastructure if increased car travel continues long term.

We look at:

  • how the pandemic has affected Melbourne’s roads and public transport in the short term
  • how our transport network might handle returning demand including capacity for safe social-distancing on public transport
  • how to encourage active transport, particularly cycling, to help avoid entrenching increased car use
  • ways to reduce crowding and congestion, and reduce the health risks of potential local virus transmission.

We provide policy options for the Victorian Government to help people move around safely and efficiently. These options also support the state’s economic recovery and liveability.

Key findings

  • A sustained preference for private transport could icnrease car use by 15% in inner Melbourne - equivalent to 100,000 extra car trips every day.
  • Public transport weekday use is unlikely to return to above 60% of previous passenger numbers.
  • Working from home levels will not be enough to offset congestion in inner metro areas caused by increased car use.
  • Our modelling shows plenty of room for social distancing (2 in 5 seats occupied) on more than 90% of morning peak train services. This remains so even if 75% of Melbourne’s workforce returns to workplaces full-time.
  • We propose flexible start and finish times for workplaces, safer cycling infrastructure, permanent off-peak fares and cheaper fares for buses to tackle worsening road congestion.

Policy options

  • Continue to monitor physical distancing levels of public transport and provide clear directives on mandatory use of masks, as well as responses such as distinct signage for physical distancing with increased staffing for enforcement or assistance in managing capacity limits to support safe travel.
  • Consider implementing permanent off-peak public transport fares across all modes.
  • Remove the Free Tram Zone to reduce crowding and the associated health risks in inner Melbourne. This will also encourage the uptake of active transport options.
  • Develop incentive schemes to encourage greater uptake of active transport to work.
  • Monitor crowding and patronage levels of new off-peak public transport service improvements – revising scheduling to best support peak spreading.
  • Larger, more permanent separated cycling corridor upgrades should be delivered wherever possible, and they can be complemented by pop-up bike lanes.
  • Develop incentive schemes to encourage greater uptake of active transport to work. This will take pressure of roads and public transport, improving congestion, reducing pollution and lowering health risks.
  • Support local government to re-allocate parking and road space for pedestrians and economic activity.
  • In addition to continued regulation to ensure workplaces remain safe, provide government leadership and nudges towards greater flexible work. This should include processes, public campaigns, collaboration with industry and the use of the Victorian Public Sector as an example of best practice.

Supporting documents

Technical report - COVID-19 modelling - Transporting Melbourne’s recovery

Technical document


File format and size
Research report