If there’s one thing I miss since moving to the middle burbs, it’s the trams.
Some people talk about public transport culture vs car culture. Car culture is where the default is to jump in the car to go anywhere. PT culture is where the default is to go to the local tram, train or bus stop. When I lived in the inner suburbs, the quality of the service meant there really was a PT culture. It was easy to catch PT to more places. Elsewhere it’s car culture.
This is reflected in figures showing travel patterns, car ownership, and vulnerability to oil prices.
Growing up in East St Kilda, the bus to Prahran and the city was at the door, the tram to St Kilda Beach was a block away, the train two blocks away.
When I lived in Hawthorn, the tram to the city or Camberwell was at the end of the driveway. (The city-bound tram would screech around the corner, so you’d have a warning it was coming, despite not being able to see it.) There was a second tram route at the end of the street, a third about ten minutes walk away, and the station was about five minutes walk.
When I lived in Glen Huntly, it was a three minute walk to the tram to Elsternwick and St Kilda, or an 8 minute walk to the station.
I lived in other places too, but in the above cases, there was (reasonably) frequent, 7-day-a-week-until-late, easy to use public transport to shopping, work, the City, St Kilda, and most of the other places I wanted to go. I didn’t need a car (and for most of those years I didn’t have one.) That’s what makes a “public transport culture” — high quality services.
When I moved to my current place in I couldn’t afford to buy in a suburb with trams and trains anywhere near where my family live. So I went for the next best thing — a zone 1 train suburb.
So now I’m ten(ish) minutes walk from Bentleigh station — the train gives me north-south travel options, including into the city. But options in other directions are missing. The buses are there, but what’s key is that the level of service is vastly inferior to any tram — even though one of the buses is a Smartbus, and is better than many.
|Route||Peak freq||Weekday freq||Sat freq||Sun freq||Evening freq||Services per weekday*||Saturday*||Sunday*|
|Tram 67||8 mins||12 mins||15 mins||15 mins||20 mins||80||71||49|
|Bus 703||15 mins||15 mins||30 mins||40 mins||60 mins||48||25||16|
I can get to work by train, and to a lot of shops and parks by walking. But I can’t easily get to Southland by PT, so I usually drive. I can’t easily go to the movies in Brighton by PT, so I drive. I can’t easily visit my mum or my sister by PT, so I drive. I can’t easily go to St Kilda Beach by PT, so I don’t often go anymore.
We can’t have all of Melbourne criss-crossed by trams.
But we should be able to at least have the Smartbuses upgraded to tram service levels (and beyond), and rolled-out across all suburbs, so that more trips are easier by PT.
Sadly the government’s priority remains yet more roads, producing yet more traffic and yet more pollution.
*Weekday: Monday to Thursday (3 more trams on Friday nights). Full route service times counted only, except 703 Sundays which counts all Bentleigh to Blackburn services, as none of them go to Brighton.