Melbourne transport

Walkability and churches

I found the video below on the blog. Amusing, and quite thought-provoking (if a little preachy).

On this topic, I’m not quite sure why, but I had noticed there’s an enormous variety of places of worship in my suburb. Seems whatever your faith, there’s probably a local place for you. Seriously, within about fifteen minutes’ walk of my house, I found:

Assemblies of God
Churches of Christ Conference
Helenic Greek Orthodox
St Paul’s (Catholic)
Reformed Presbyterian
Salvation Army
Uniting Church
St Raphael
Churches of the Resurrected Life
Progressive Synagogue
Temple Society
St John’s (Anglican)

Not quite everything covered, and it’s probably not that unusual in the average well-established suburb, but quite a collection.

How is it in newer suburbs? I wonder if some religious denominations have difficulty in funding places of worship in those areas. Then again, perhaps it matches the dwindling numbers of worshipers.

Walkscore gives an imperfect evaluation of how walkable a suburb is. It tries to work out where the schools, shops, restaurants, and so on are. (It doesn’t count places of worship.)

Walkscore’s data is imperfect because the Google map data (particularly for non-US cities) isn’t all there (but it’s improving), but also because it doesn’t take into account access to high quality public transport, which for most people, radically alters how much they can leave the car at home. The latter is negated a bit, at least in most parts of Melbourne, by the fact that a lot of commercial development is based around railway stations, so walkable access to lots of shops often means walkable access to trains as well.

This is borne out in the results for the various places I’ve lived. Elsternwick got the highest score, 97%, but other places I’ve lived such as Hawthorn had excellent PT access, which in an ideal world would score higher than 71%. Ditto, but less so, for Glen Huntly, at 72%. The lowest score was my mum’s place, 55%, which is pretty much accurate, and my current place gets 77%.

It appears that Walkscore is catching on in Australia, with some real estate web sites now using it here too.

It’s long been known that walking access to shops and other community resources adds to the prices of houses, but I suspect people are starting to realise that walkable neighbourhoods really are more liveable, quite apart from the benefits of reduced fuel bills, environmental footprint, traffic congestion and physical fitness.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

11 replies on “Walkability and churches”

The FIL constantly talks about this with his childhood. He was born in Berlin and everything was in the same neighbourhood. A lot of the buildings had everything they needed in the same building including somewhere to play. His school was only a short walk away and that was the exception. I often ponder what life would be like if we could do something similar, getting rid of 9 out of 10 cars and keeping computers and the internet.

I was interested to note you have my congregation listed and I thought it was totally unnoticeable.

speaking of houses of worship in newer suburbs, the church i go to has a “Branch” in Mindarie (northern suburb of perth) for quite a few years they have been holding their congregation in the school auditorium, though they purchased a block of land to build on theyve been raising money to put up walls and roof. over 5 years ago when they bought this block of land there was absolutly nothing around it – just a few minor roads and no housing, but now when theyre getting ready to build, the minor road it is on has grown to a major road and some rich classy suburbs have sprung up around it too!

do the churches seek the development or the development follow the churches?

So I did the Walk Score thing. My current residence gets a score of 52%. I wonder what they consider a ‘walk’ though, because, even taking my five year old with me, we walk most places during the week. We easily walk a kilometre together, then back again.

I’ve rarely been using my car since I moved here, except to go to the markets for work on the weekends, when I need the car to carry all my gear.


Churches follow the development.

Like big corporations denominations will have a fairly good idea where new estates will be going in the next decade or so. If they are inclined to expansion they will buy land when it becomes available. All of the zoning issues will have been resolved years before anything actually gets built, but the land’s still very cheap. Down the track, when the new suburb starts to be built, the church will start making plans to move in, often by hiring a school hall or the like.

If a denomination doesn’t have the staff to do the research, they might do it by proxy: look where the big shopping centres are being built. You’ll often find a K-Mart or similar going up in the middle of nowhere. You know that the area is about to boom, because K-Mart wouldn’t build there without knowing what’s planned for the area. So you snap up an acre or two nearby.

Hmm, well we got 83 out of 100. To be fair it counts a dog grooming place as a drug store. Although there are numerous chemists about anyway. And yes, no mention of the trains.

I got 48 out of 100. Judging by the much worse scores of all of my friends houses except one, that seems pretty good for Perth.

I did like one friend’s score (still only 28) which was helped by restaurants and parks that are within a kilometre of his house – it’s just that they are on the other side of the river!

Another interesting aspect is the quality of the stores. We have a small supermarket around 400m from our house. It helps our walkability score but I’d only go there in an emergency. Their prices rival the Petrol Station shop that has become the equivalent of the corner store.

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