Glenhuntly and Truganini road track and overhead upgrade
Construction of new platform stops on St Kilda Rd - 11 June to early August 2015
Tram routes changed, abolished in shake-up to ease congestion
Moonee Ponds tram upgrade project
New accessible tram stop for Route 1 & 8 passengers
Toorak Terminus tram upgrade project
Record tram performance in 2014
May 2015 performance results
Your new Jolimont/MCG tram stop
Have you ever wondered why many tram routes end a kilometre or so short of their nearest station? It goes back a century or more. Trains and trams were run by rival instrumentalities. The trains started first. They assumed an increasing commuter function as their hinterlands suburbanised. Trams started to fill inner areas between the train lines. However their purpose was again to get commuters a few kilometres to the established shopping strips along them or further into the CBD.
Demand for inter-suburban travel was low and what there was became the province of mostly privately run buses. The Great Depression and WWII largely halted tram network expansion and, with one or two exceptions aside (eg electric trams in Bourke St) there wasn't much appetite to resume after the war. Once the future of trams became clearer longer extensions were added in the 1970s, 80s and 90s to routes such as the 59 to Airport West, 75 along Burwood Hwy and 86 along Plenty Rd. The 2000s brought extensions in the Docklands area, a further 75 extension and a short 109 extension to Box Hill.
It is the last type of extension of most interest today. These are extensions of one or two kilometres that would connect a tram terminus to its nearest station.
Proponents argue that this would make the network more connected and enable some trips that are currently difficult. That could include some 'backward commuting' where tram passengers travel outwards to a train station as travel to the city would be quicker that way than if they stayed on the inbound tram. That's a potential efficiency benefit due to more bidirectional demand during peak periods. And our city has long grown since the CBD was the only major place people went to. Yet our tram network overwhelmingly reflects this still, limiting the usefulness of public transport for diverse trips.
Opponents say that just keeping the existing tram network running is a battle enough. Short tram extensions are cheap compared to freeways and train line extensions. But they are dearer than even ten years of running a bus route extensions along existing roads. There are close to no spare trams and frequencies on the existing network are already inadequate, something made worse by cars slowing trams on the large shared portion of the network (today's tram passengers would envy the travel speeds achieved when there was less traffic decades ago).
I don't think management think about extensions much. Instead they seek just to maintain the status quo in the face of some hostile policies such as the 'free' tram zone being foisted on them by politicians and general antipathy to boosting priority over cars. The rate of tram acquisitions and stops works is insufficient to deliver a DDA accessible service by the 2032 deadline. Instead everyone just seems to be sitting around hoping that the Metro Tunnel will take some load off the Swanston St spine and possibly unlock some resources to enable network reform and true turn-up-and-go frequencies (about half the lines operate less than this with 12 to 20 minute frequencies common for at least some of the week).
Recent governments of both sides have regarded trams as something to keep but not to grow. Despite their catchments densifying and their operations being cost-effective trams are the stagnant public transport mode in Melbourne, receiving neither the new infrastructure of trains nor the extra routes that buses occasionally get.
The political numbers work against trams. They are geographically concentrated, serving less than a quarter the state's lower house seats. This Labor government won its large 2018 majority through gains in eastern suburbs seats it rarely wins. This adds to the regional and southern bayside gains of 2014. Even if the inner areas drift to Green, their preferences will favour Labor without the latter needing to do much. Greens may snatch some inner seats but this worries Labor less than what happens beyond the trams.
There are enough car-owners in inner suburbs for Labor to regard drivers' privileges as paramount and cyclists as mere windscreen bugs when it comes to policies on planning, road space and parking. This gives them a point of difference against the more cycling and tram-oriented Green urbanists. Green - Labor squabbles, often infused with class and cultural rivalry, greatly affect local as well as state politics on these matters in Melbourne's inner suburbs. This shapes other things including walkability and tram movement and wider debates on metropolitan transport priorities (see Legislative Assembly Hansard 3 March 2020 pages 592 - 620 for a sample).
Labor knows that even where Greens win seats they will rarely vote with Coalition MPs, especially on environmental and social issues. As for the latter, the Liberals see opportunities to seek the culturally conservative and religious vote in outer suburbs and some ethnic communities. The more Liberals do this the weaker they get in some affluent and traditionally strong inner seats, which could be won by Greens as easily as Labor. Like Labor they may make the calculation that there are fewer such seats than those in middle, outer and regional areas. However in doing so they managed to lose traditional eastern suburbs seats that they did not expect to lose, especially to candidates representing an incumbent government. This however is not inevitable; one can point to the federal seat of Aston (also in the eastern suburbs but with more tradies and cars) where the Liberals have steadily gained.
What about Liberals in their previous tram-served inner-eastern heartland? Making things hard for them is their old loyal base which is not only dying but having their houses subdivided for rental apartments whose residents are less Liberal leaning. Unlike Labor, which has introduced more permissible tenancy laws, the Liberals don't seem to be wooing the renter demographic living in their traditional 'blue ribbon' seats. And neither do the coalition parties seem to have had a consistently strong advocate for public transport similar to NSW MPs including Malcolm Turnbull, John Alexander (fast trains) and Tim Fischer (regional trains) who might appeal. They did have Clem Newton-Brown who included cycling in his campaign around Prahran a few elections ago. But they said little about trams in the 2018 campaign.
That's enough of the politics. Where do trams stop just short of trains? Here's a map, starting in the north and going clockwise to the south.
Wikipedia has a good summary of proposals and who made them.
Is it worth extending trams to meet trains? Are all of them worthwhile or just some? If so which would you do first? Please leave your comments on this below.
You might enjoy these well-regarded books on transport topics
The Public City: Essays in honour of Paul Mees
Transport for Suburbia: Beyond the Automobile Age Paul Mees
(Sales links: I get a small commission if you buy via the above - no extra cost to you)
This item was written by Peter Parker http://www.melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
This article first appeared on melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
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