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With an extra 500,000 vehicles clogging Melbourne’s beleaguered roads network in the past five years, the world’s most liveable city has become one big car city.
Whether it seems you spend half your life on Hoddle St, the maddening crush on the Monash or Tullamarine (so-called) freeways or waste hours on the West Gate, commuters sit in gridlock during peak hours that now stretch well into weekends.
Meanwhile, our public transport system haemorrhages with humanity.
Strap-hangers on trams and trains feel that sardine-can claustrophobia and the bus system often seems inefficient in travel time and scheduling for a public that is increasingly time poor.
Melbourne is now the fastest-growing city in the country, and one of the fastest-growing in the Western world.
Victoria’s population rose from 5.5 million in 2011 to 6.1 million last year — a measure of some 10 per cent. It’s a lot of people to add to a metropolis in a short period, especially when there has been a failure to commensurately grow infrastructure.
As that extra 10 per cent piled on, Victoria has also seen a major spike in vehicle registrations — and at a higher rate. In fact, the extra road traffic has boomed by 11.5 per cent over the same 2011-16 period. There are now 4.7 million vehicle registrations for a population of just over 6 million people.
Given the relative dearth of public transport options in Melbourne’s outer southeast, it may come as little surprise it is the region with most registrations per capita. In the City of Casey, for instance, which includes Cranbourne and Narre Warren, almost 8000 dwellings had at least four vehicles in the driveway or at kerbside and 14,000 residences had three cars. They’re startling figures and underscore a fundamental challenge our politicians have for years failed to grasp or properly plan for.
The $11 billion Melbourne Metro project is a welcome, albeit overdue, state-building project. Picture: Kylie ElseOne small part of the growth in vehicles may be the popularity of motorbikes. With high fuel prices, a changing demographic, inner-city professional residents, international students, the advent of dial-a-meals and weaving through traffic chaos, two-wheeled transport is more popular than ever.
As for four wheels, cost-of-living pressures and mortgages, together with flexible work hours have led to greater need for double-income families, often resulting in two-car households instead of one.
Commercial traffic has also been a growth sector and Melbourne’s status as the busiest container port in the nation sees thousands of movements across the city each day.
Undeniably, it has been the inertia of successive governments to get going with major road and rail projects. Falling behind the population curve has left Melbourne’s transport system a crippled mess.
The $11 billion Melbourne Metro project is a welcome, albeit overdue, state-building project. While questions about meeting cost and build time frames remain, this project must incorporate a South Yarra station. Why spend so much time and money not to build the optimum model?
While Chandler, Monash, West Gate upgrades and level-crossing removals are under way, motorists remain angry at the $1 billion wasted by Premier Daniel Andrews to not build the crucial East West Link.
That blunder cost real money, and precious time, to get Victoria moving.
This article first appeared on www.heraldsun.com.au
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