Moonee Ponds high-rise

For urban renewal on this scale to work, public transport services need to be a lot better.

I recently had a quick walk around Moonee Ponds. I’m always a little surprised at the amount of high-rise development around here – there seems to be more than most comparable inner suburbs.

This photo from 2018 shows some of the towers under construction. They really do dominate the skyline. These are much taller than the 4 storey buildings around Glen Eira.

Moonee Ponds high rise buildings under construction, February 2018

Moonee Ponds’ population recorded by the 2016 Census was 14,250, but growth has taken hold, with around 4% annual growth in the past 5 years, expected to continue (though this data might not take COVID-19 into account). This is the highest growth in the Moonee Valley LGA.

If you simply walk along Puckle Street, it’s not very obvious. The big apartment blocks are set back far enough that they’re difficult to see, and they don’t noticeably block the light. Clever.

View from Puckle Street, Moonee Ponds

Part of the deal of moving large numbers of people into established areas is they should have access to infrastructure and services. And being so close to a major shopping strip would certainly help.

But for trips beyond walking distance, the hope would be that these thousands of people mostly don’t have to drive very often.

PT infrastructure

At the western end of the shopping strip is Moonee Ponds station, on the Craigieburn line. V/Line Seymour trains also use the line, but don’t stop here.

There’s a level crossing which is not currently in the removal program. The 2009 list ranked it at number 58.

The station itself probably isn’t DDA-compliant – I haven’t been through it with a spirit level, but the ramps up from street level look too steep.

Also the platforms are curved, which isn’t compliant with modern standards.

Moonee Ponds Railway Station

At the other end of the shopping strip, and also closer to the nearby racecourse (which is also getting redeveloped), are the trams and buses.

There’s a modern accessible tram stop (but no accessible trams on the routes that use it) and an adjacent bus interchange serving 10 daytime routes plus one Night Bus route.

One additional bus route from the west terminates at the railway station.

So the public transport infrastructure – while lacking in accessibility – is a lot better than Edgewater, a few kilometres south. And the number of routes is impressive.

But infrastructure doesn’t make for usable public transport.

Bus interchange signage, Moonee Ponds
Note: Some routes have changed since this photo was taken

PT services

So, what about the actual services?

Are they good enough to be usable?

Here’s a summary of frequencies.

RoutePeakInterpeakWeekendEvening after 9pm
Train to City/Craigieburn5-102020-4030
59 tram to City/Airport West581220-30
82 tram to Footscray15201520-30
404 to Footscray2020 4040 (Sat only)
467 to Aberfeldie10-123025-40
469 to Keilor East204040
472 to Williamstown151520-50
476 to Watergardens204040
477 to Broadmeadows202040
483 to Sunbury606060 (Sat only)
504 to Clifton Hill303040
505 to Melbourne Uni60 30-606060
506 to Westgarth10-1515 2020-30 (Sat only)
508 to Alphington152030-40

The Craigieburn line is reasonably frequent at peak times. But outside peak times it’s merely passable – mostly every 20 minutes, but as infrequent as every 40 minutes on Sunday mornings. Like many rail lines in the north and west, this is inadequate for non-peak trips.

The two tram routes are mostly good – especially the 59, with reasonably frequent service 7 days.

The buses? A mixed bag, but overall they’re poor. Most are infrequent at most times. A few routes run every 15-20 minutes all day, but this is not actually frequent by world standards, nor in the context of system trying to compete effectively with driving.

None of the bus routes have more than a service or two after 9pm each night – so effectively no evening service at all.

Night Network routes serving the suburb are the hourly train, and one night-only bus route: 959 City to Broadmeadows, largely along the 59 tram route, also hourly.

Moonee Ponds bus interchange

The network

With 14 routes serving Moonee Ponds (plus one on weekend nights), is it enough to convince locals to live car-free, or car-lite?

Thanks to the trams and train, connections to the City, and to some areas of the south, west (Highpoint) and northwest (Niddrie and Airport West) are okay.

But to the east (Brunswick, Clifton Hill, Northcote) they’re pretty hopeless. In the evening you have to make those journeys via the City, with pot luck as to whether it’s a short or long connection between services.

If people are lucky enough that their regular journeys are along one of the frequent routes, without having to change to/from an infrequent service, then perhaps yes they can get by without a car, or with fewer cars in their household. Otherwise, it’s difficult.

This is critically important if you’re going to have thousands of people living in a small area of one suburb in high-rise apartments. You don’t want all of them, or even most of them, driving regularly.

View from Puckle Street, Moonee Ponds

Basically, Moonee Ponds PT service levels are similar to the rest of greater Melbourne. It works well for some trips, but not well for others.

Urban renewal on this scale can be a good thing – those who make the choice to move here have ready access to amenity and services.

This type of development is happening all over inner and middle suburban Melbourne. Maybe not always to these heights, but it’s happening.

To really make it work well, better PT services (as well as walking and cycling) are needed to avoid lots of new residents hopping in the car for most trips.

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.

8 replies on “Moonee Ponds high-rise”

A good summary, highlighting poor public transport service levels affect middle suburbs as much as outer areas.

Your table overestimates the interpeak frequencies of a few routes – 404 is only every 40 mins (not 20 mins) and 506 is only every 20 mins (not 15 mins). 505 does have a couple of extra peak trips but is completely woeful for the high-density housing in Parkville Gardens (some more peak trips were promised in the recent state budget).

The 508 offers Saturday evening trips until around 11pm but agreed there are a few east-west options to get home from nightspots in Brunswick or Northcote otherwise. 506’s lack of a Sunday (or public holiday) service is also pathetic given its corridor and popularity.

Im glad someone feels the same. I just came back from London 2 years and the trains there are so good. Obviously can’t compare but it shows the potential. I hope Melbourne gets better.

And thanks to the stupidity of the MVCC, the bulk of those high rise residents (who apparently weren’t in need of a vehicle) have a permanent unrestricted carpark at the train station. That really helps those who have to drive there to catch their train when the carpark is always full

Thanks for this Daniel. I read this with great interest as I grew up in Moonee Ponds and I have also wondered how the area is going to cope with such development. In pre-covid times, the Craigieburn line was one where you let a few trains go to wait til one came along with some room.

The buses are so very infrequent, but the actual coverage across to Brunswick and beyond is actually very good. I have been riding the 508 (the best of the lot) all my life and, as far as buses in Melbourne go, it’s one of the better ones. If only the 504, 505, 506, 510 were more frequent!

In a more general sense, I wonder how much to dare to hope for our buses to improve in Melbourne. What I mean is, most of your readers, anyone interested and informed about transit, people from the VPTA to RM transit agree that our buses in Melbourne are simply not good enough. They are not frequent enough, they go on overly-complicated routes, have terrible stops, zero connectivity and the rest. Do you think there is genuine political will to improve things? Do you know of cities similar as Melbourne that have made the shift to better buses?

RM Transit praises Toronto’s buses as the best thing about Toronto’s system (I’ve learnt a lot from him actually). The trams sound similar to ours in Melnbourne. The Toronto subway system sounds very good, but looks to be quite limited in coverage, certainly compared to our trains. These are the bones of a potentially excellent system. Why do you think our buses are so terribly neglected?

M-City Clayton has a similar issue, as someone who used to live in that area. Despite being in a major student district, connections to Monash University from the rest of Clayton are pretty weak, and there aren’t any around there, but it’s a bit far for a daily commuter walk. The train station is on the opposite edge of the suburb. The closest bus is the notoriously underserviced 800.

I’d like to note that the bus networks in Brunswick don’t seem to have changed in a very long time…maybe I’m cynical but I don’t expect to see much happen within the next couple of years…

I live in one of those towers, and my partner and I are definitely using the car less since moving in. I think the big thing that cut down on the use of the car wasnt the availability of PT but rather the overall walk-ability of the area – we have restaurants, supermarkets and specialty stores all within a 600m walk.

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