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’ 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.
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.
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.
Also the platforms are curved, which isn’t compliant with modern standards.
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.
So, what about the actual services?
Are they good enough to be usable?
Here’s a summary of frequencies.
|Route||Peak||Interpeak||Weekend||Evening after 9pm|
|Train to City/Craigieburn||5-10||20||20-40||30|
|59 tram to City/Airport West||5||8||12||20-30|
|82 tram to Footscray||15||20||15||20-30|
|404 to Footscray||20||40 (Sat only)||–|
|467 to Aberfeldie||10-12||30||25-40||–|
|469 to Keilor East||20||40||40||–|
|472 to Williamstown||15||15||20-50||–|
|476 to Watergardens||20||40||40||–|
|477 to Broadmeadows||20||20||40||–|
|483 to Sunbury||60||60||60 (Sat only)||–|
|504 to Clifton Hill||30||30||40||–|
|505 to Melbourne Uni||60||60||–|
|506 to Westgarth||10-15||20-30 (Sat only)||–|
|508 to Alphington||15||20||30-40||–|
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.
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.
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.