Melbourne needs integrated transport plan: Committee for Melbourne

The Committee of Melbourne has called for the development of an integrated transport plan for Melbourne to coordinate the provision of transport infrastructure in the city.

While a number of government plans have been developed to guide infrastructure investment, the Committee for Melbourne has found that none are truly comprehensive, detailed, or strategic enough to outline how Melbourne will grow in the long-term.

Martine Letts, CEO Committee for Melbourne said that now was the right time to plan for the future of Melbourne.

“Mobility in Melbourne has reached a tipping point. With the growth pressures the city is facing that continue to build, more than ever a plan is required to accommodate the efficient movement of people and freight. A business-as-usual approach will see road congestion cost Melbourne’s economy up to $10.2 billion per annum by 2031 in operation and pollution costs.”

The report calls for a plan that integrates mobility patterns, land-use, and economic patterns, to enable seamless mobility throughout Greater Melbourne. This would mean that projects such as Suburban Rail Loop and the Melbourne Airport Rail Link would be included as certain aspects of the city’s future, along with further projects such as Melbourne Metro 2.

In addition to the infrastructure itself, the integrated plan would also combine elements such as demand management, technology, land-use planning, and economic development. These elements would guide measures such as public transport frequency, integrated mobility services, transport-oriented development, and using infrastructure investment as a level for investment.

The report recommends that with Melbourne’s population expected to continue to grow, and freight volumes also expected to increase, there is a need for integrated transport planning.

“It is not in anyone’s interest that Melbourne’s transport network returns to the state that it was in prior to the COVID-19 crisis. Peak hour commutes on public transport had become increasingly uncomfortable, while traffic congestion on the road network was worse than any other Australian capital city,” said Letts.

Melbourne was recently highlighted as a major Australian city with worsening congestion and reliability in travel in research by Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and Uber.

“As our economy recovers and we once again welcome increasing numbers of new residents and visitors, and as we produce and consume more goods and services, we must ask ourselves what it will take to remain a highly liveable, prosperous, and sustainable, twenty-first century city. Designing, publishing, and implementing a strategic plan which considers transport, land-use, and economic development planning is a good place to start,” said Letts.

Transport infrastructure investment needed to decrease congestion

Investment in transport infrastructure is cutting congestion in Australia’s major cities, but in Sydney and Melbourne there is still more to do, highlights research from Infrastructure Partnerships Australia (IPA) and Uber.

IPA and Uber have used anonymised ride share data from Uber up to the final quarter of 2019 to measure peak travel times in Australia’s four largest cities and have found that as major transport projects come online, travel times are being brought under control.

Despite all cities seeing population growth, congestion has largely plateaued, with travel reliability maintained. IPA chief executive Adrian Dwyer put this down to the opening of new transport links.

“With the insights of Uber’s data, we can see that before COVID-19 hit, ambitious levels of investment in infrastructure and real-time travel information were starting to bear fruit.”

To maintain or reduce congestion levels, further investment in rail and public transport infrastructure will be needed, the IPA found. In Brisbane, commuters from the outer ring suffered most, but were better off compared to their counterparts in other cities.

As Brisbane continues to grow, rail projects will be key to keeping the city moving.

“The major pipeline of new projects like the Cross River Rail and Brisbane Metro are likely to further improve travel times when they open in the coming years,” said Dwyer.

In Perth, where commuters spent the least amount of time in traffic, recent increases confirm the need for major rail projects such as the Metronet works program. General manager of Uber Australia and New Zealand Dom Taylor said that investment needed to continue in public transport.

“We want to work with cities to ensure we have the infrastructure and policies in place to tackle congestion. These include continuing to invest in public transport and road infrastructure, promoting shared modes and technology, and managing network demand to alleviate congestion.”

Sydney and Melbourne commuters, particularly those travelling from the fringes of the city did not benefit from a plateau or lowering of travel times, and in fact saw an increase in time spent in traffic. This reaffirmed the need for major rail projects, said Dwyer.

“Sydney Metro, WestConnex, and other major transport upgrades will help release the valve on Sydney’s congestions when they open in the coming years.”

Similarly in Melbourne, where peak travel delays and reliability worsened, major projects are hoped to alleviate this congestion.

“The good news is the major pipeline of new projects like the Metro Tunnel, the North East Link, and the West Gate Tunnel are all likely to further improve travel times when they open in the coming years,” said Dwyer.