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If you're running a top-tier business and want the best possible accessibility from the entire metropolitan area then you locate in the CBD. The public transport system focuses on it and you are a short walk or tram away from higher order legal and other services. These 'other services' include the likes of The Melbourne Club that corporate 'old boys' who probably went to their private schools together can repair to. Along with the potential for taking business prospects to the best restaurants or the theatre after work. Sometimes though other factors, such as the desire for a lower rent, purpose built buildings, larger floor plan and even possibly more parking, might be influential. That may cause corporates to flee the CBD in favour of a less central location. In the case of Melbourne, with much of its corporate elite living in the established inner-eastern suburbs, such a location can make driving in more convenient for the top brass.
Coles HQ One example from 1986 was when Coles HQ moved from the CBD to a purpose built site on Tooronga Rd in Hawthorn East. It was (and is) a terrible site for public transport access from most directions with its mode share falling from a majority to a small minority. For example it is a slightly less than convenient walk from one train line, Tooronga Rd has one half-hourly bus while Toorak Rd, a major east-west artery, has nothing. Because Coles is such a big user of business supplies and services, their decision had a knock-on effect for other bad location decisions decades later, for instance a shop equipment supplier moving nearby in 2019. The idea that development or density spurs improved public transport is a myth, at least in Melbourne. Basic service levels in the area are hardly better now compared to then despite Tooronga Rd being part of a high patronage potential but underserved Caulfield - Swinburne - La Trobe university bus axis.
Australia PostJust recently we read that Australia Post's HQ will also be fleeing the now struggling Melbourne CBD. It's moving to a location on Swan St near Burnley Station. This location decision is a bit better than Coles' but it will likely still increase travel times for most arriving by public transport, especially from the west, north and south. Public transport mode share will certainly decline. And by quite a lot. Moving a workplace even a few blocks from the CBD centre (especially to somewhere remote like New Quay) has a big impact on travel time from most directions with our network. This is basically because Melbourne has traffic-choked surface trams rather than a faster subway in our inner suburbs along with under-developed buses. Our trains are so CBD focused with no circumferential lines through quite dense inner areas. Also poisoning our railway's core health is a complex reversing loop that discourages interchanging along with sometimes poor frequencies, even in peak on some lines. Anyway, what are Burnley's current transport options like, bearing in mind people will be coming from all directions?Most notable is the train. The site is very close to a junction station at Burnley. Trains from Alamein, Belgrave, Lilydale and Glen Waverley stop there. The last three have good peak frequencies. Off-peak frequencies are every 15 minutes, weekend frequencies are every 10 - 20 minutes while evening services drop to a mediocre 30 minutes on each line. If you worked late at night you would think twice about getting the train home. But overall access is good from a large chunk of the eastern suburbs. Some stations are served by some of Melbourne's busier feeder buses though only rarely are their peak frequencies better than every 15 minutes. Running past the site is the 70 tram. Like the train this is also east-west. It is quite frequent but slow. And apart from Camberwell it connects at no major suburban hubs.
Your transport problems start if you are not one of the 20% or so of the population in the eastern suburbs. If you're coming from the south-east via train the best way to Burnley is likely via a change at Richmond. For now that is.
But when the Metro Tunnel gets built and Dandenong trains skip South Yarra and Richmond then access from there will be harder. In the absence of any other transport you will have to get a train to Burnley from either CBD South/Flinders St or State Library/Melbourne Central, depending on what they do with the City Loop pattern on the Burnley group. That's a lot more backtracking than now.
The Mernda and Hurstbridge lines are a victim of poor geometry. You go quite near (but still beyond walking distance) to Burnley at West Richmond then you go further before you can change to a train to backtrack. There is a tram going east but no connections south from it to Burnley. An option exists to get the 246 bus but this requires a double change and physical connectivity with trains is poor.
Lines from the west require a change in the CBD to a train out to Burnley. Services are frequent on the inbound but the 20 minute frequency on lines like to Williamstown and Altona make home-bound trips chancy and travel times blow out by maybe 50% at times. Similar issues apply for the Upfield line to the north.
Closer in connections are also limited. Burnley has only east-west routes; there is no connectivity to the north and south where a north-south bus could connect with numerous other routes (mostly east-west trams).
The main effect of this is that trips from even quite close by require two changes of vehicle and potentially significant waiting and backtracking. In many cases it's faster to get to the CBD by public transport than locations closer to you even though the distance to the latter is less. Apart from Richmond, this issue afflicts other inner-suburban job-rich areas including Fishermans Bend, Kew, Parkville, St Kilda and even parts of Docklands. It is a major structural flaw with the network as currently configured and scheduled. Sydney, in contrast, tends to have a less steep drop-off in modal share as you move away from the CBD, partly due to its less radial rail network.
How could you improve transit access to Burnley from more directions? Here's my top six picks.
1. A Burnley St bus for north-south connectivity. This would connect Burnley with nearby areas both north and south of the Yarra including Toorak Station. It could run from Victoria Gardens to Elsternwick. Implementation could could be reduced if it involved a rerouting of the 604 bus to terminate at Victoria Gardens instead of Alfred Hospital. This would complete a missing part of the local transit grid and enable single change trips from many east-west train and tram lines. I discuss the Burnley St bus concept here and nominate it as one of the 12 links Melbourne most needs.
There would be overlap with trams but some might argue for a somewhat longer route starting at either North Richmond or Kew. This would reduce the number of transfers for some trips from 2 to 1. You wouldn't consider resourcing a bus for that reason in a sparse area but in a densely populated area with lots of jobs then it might be worthwhile.
2. Ringwood line trains turn-up-and-go with simpler timetables. For good connectivity into the CBD and across the eastern suburbs there needs to be turn-up-and go trains running every 10 minutes or better to a predictable stopping pattern all day. Ringwood line stopping patterns are the most complex in the network as explained here. And despite being a junction station Burnley is skipped by many trains.
First priority, and cheapest to do would be to simplify stopping patterns and boost the Ringwood line to a 10 minute all-day service. That has the benefit of improving connections to the ends of the line, with an upgrade from every 30 to every 20 minutes. More detail on that here. As well as benefits for Burnley there would be gains for many politically marginal seats in the outer east. And as one of our busiest lines Ringwood should be like Frankston and get a service every 20 minutes or better at all times, even at night and on Sunday mornings.
3. Glen Waverley line frequency upgrade. The Glen Waverley line (which also serves Burnley) would be a lower priority than the longer Ringwood line. But could still be worthwhile as a way of taking pressure off the busier Ringwood and Dandenong lines. And in its own right it can connect Burnley to a wide catchment especially if better bus connections to the Monash precinct, Knox and Rowville were added. Again it could be boosted to every 10 min off-peak daytime and 20 minutes at night. 4. Tram 70 upgrade including accessible stops and more priority. Also increased frequency, eg every 10 min or better at all times. 5. 567 southward extension to Hawthorn and/or Glenferrie Station area. Not a direct improvement but would increase the area accessible to Burnley with one change (to the train). Has wider network benefits eg around Fairfield, Northland and La Trobe Univesity. Discussed in more detail in Useful Network Part 15. 6. Better information for interchanging passengers at key stations including Richmond. Also inside trains. That would help passengers know which platforms they need to change to without having to wait for an announcement. You would not necessarily do this just for Australia Post. But this is a dense area with poor connectivity. Space is at a premium and it can't reach its potential if it relies on car access. However current public transport is encouraging this as access is so poor from most directions. Burnley is in the marginal seat of Richmond, held by planning minister Richard Wynne MP. ConclusionDensifying Burnley needs good public access from many more than the two or three directions it currently has. Described has been a few network measures that could economically enable this. If you think more can be done (and the list looks a little short) then please add them in the commens below. See other Building Melbourne's Useful Network items here
This item was written by Peter Parker http://www.melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
This article first appeared on melbourneontransit.blogspot.com
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