The inner-east is often lauded for having an excellent public transport system that is relatively well-connected and convenient (at least compared to other parts of Melbourne).
While this may be true for some parts of Hawthorn, Kew and Camberwell for getting into and out of the CBD, it is certainly not true of cross-city (i.e. north-south) travel.
Leaving aside the question of priority and capacity for the moment, let’s just concentrate on looking at some of the existing routes that in theory should be able to cater for this purpose..
Where I live in North Balwyn, the only public transport options are trams or buses. At the closest point, a resident is at least 1.75 kilometres from the nearest railway station. For the record, that is a measurement from the corner of Union and Belmore Road to Mont Albert Station as the crow flies.
Getting into or out of the CBD is still relatively easy, depending on your exact location. Fairly frequent buses and several tram routes run throughout northern Boroondara.
However, the moment you need to travel in a north-south direction, your practical choices rapidly diminish.
Using my previous example of North Balwyn, in order to travel on a weekday from the centre of the suburb to, say, Camberwell Junction, your public transport options are:
- 25 minutes (285 bus –> 5 minute walk)
- 39 minutes (302/304 bus to Harp Junction –> 624 bus to Riversdale Road –> 70 tram)
Otherwise, it’s an easy 10 minute drive or 18 minute bike ride at most times of the day or night.
As for the public transport options, even the quickest option on the 285 bus doesn’t look that attractive when you know that the route stops running at about 6:30pm, runs once an hour on Saturdays and doesn’t run at all on Sundays.
Is it any wonder that public transport isn’t a terribly popular choice for these types of journeys?
How to fix the problem
As always, there is no ‘silver bullet’ that will solve everything in one go, but there are some things that can be improved.
These include straightening out meandering local routes (looking at you 609), improving frequencies and building bus priority into existing infrastructure. Measures like this are not necessarily difficult or expensive, and would go at least some way towards encouraging more local travel to be done by more sustainable transport modes than cars.
For this particular case of northern Boroondara, better connections into the Lilydale/Belgrave railway corridor and into activity centres are the way to go. Otherwise we keep trying (and failing) to build our way out of congestion.