It’s unsurprising that the closure of station car parks along the Dandenong line for the “skyrail” level crossing removals was highlighted by the media on Wednesday; at this stage it’s the major disruption impact that’s expected.
But – perhaps because of the amount of space it takes up – it’s often incorrectly assumed that Park And Ride accounts for the majority of train users in Melbourne. The stats tell a different story.
Car spaces closing
PTV says the following car spaces will be lost during the project, and I’ve compared that with the total number of train users at each station.
|Station||Users||Car spaces closing||% affected|
|Noble Park||3,790||up to 331||8.73%|
This assumes one passenger per car space, which is probably not far off how it works. I’ve also assumed all Noble Park parking is closing, though so far they’ve only said the Mons Avenue car park is closing.
So a total of about 8% at those stations would be directly affected by the car park closures.
Extra spaces opened
To counter the closures, extra spaces will be provided at nearby stations – some also on the Dandenong line, some on the Glen Waverley line.
- East Malvern 172
- Holmesglen 170
- Huntingdale 92
- Sandown Park 166
- Clayton 238 (from September)
I make that a net loss of just 49 spaces. (Have I missed something?)
It should be obvious that car park closures have less impact than closing the stations and rail line altogether – as is happening on the Frankston line now.
Car users are the ones most able to adapt their travel patterns to use another station. For instance East Malvern is only 1.5 km from Murrumbeena; only a few minutes drive. That said, if coming from the south side of the line, you’d have to anticipate a delay at the level crossing. And many of the extra spaces created are further out from the inner stations.
In contrast, those who walk or bike to the station are least easily able to switch to another station.
How many Dandenong line passengers use Park and Ride?
Okay so it’s a net 49 spaces removed. But the worst case scenario is that during the project, all spaces at all the stations being rebuilt are removed.
And a lot more people drive to the station than park in the car parks – some of them may be sharing rides, but many would park in nearby streets. Those streets might be affected by parking restrictions during construction.
But even if we assume the worst case scenario, it’s still a minority of the people using these stations.
PTV figures show the following passenger numbers at the stations to be rebuilt.
|Station||Weekday entries||Access by car||%car|
Looking at the entire line
In contrast, how many would be affected if the line closed completely for weeks or months at a time? Not just those at the closed stations, but also all of those coming in from further out, who would face a train/bus/train trip.
As the figures below show, assuming they all come through the sections to be closed, it’s about 64,000 people per weekday — fifteen times the number affected by the car park closures, and more than double the number affected by the Frankston line closure.
The figures also also show that while a minority drive to the stations slated for rebuilding, the amount of Park And Ride increases as you get further out.
So basically the further out you go, the higher the proportion of park and ride users. Which probably reflects the overall walkability of those suburbs, and of course the number of residences within walking distance of the stations.
It is a lot of people, but it’s still a minority across the entire rail corridor.
More park and ride? Or better feeders?
Of course station car parks are expensive to build (tens of thousands of dollars per space) and not a great use of land – the space they take up certainly doesn’t enhance walkability.
This article about a US survey of park and ride notes numerous problems (though under-utilisation isn’t really an issue in Melbourne).
There is huge scope to improve local feeder buses. This goes doubly for the railway stations having their car parks temporarily lost – rather than spending up big extending car parks elsewhere, they might have done well to fund additional feeder bus services, particularly in peak hour. (The Murrumbeena bus used to run twice as often in peak hour.)
The removal of the crossings provides a great opportunity to upgrade buses. With far fewer delays at crossings once they are removed, bus punctuality and efficiency will improve a lot. PTV and the government should take the opportunity to give more people a way to use public transport without having to own a car.
- Update: Quite possibly affecting more people at Murrumbeena than the car park closure is the closure of the pedestrian footbridge, which is used by many to cross the tracks (either in the morning or the evening) to avoid the level crossing. This morning we’ve learnt: Murrumbeena ped bridge will close mid-August and will be demolished shortly after.