This is very cool. Similar to tools Jarrett Walker often talks about that show how far you can get in X minutes on public transport, here’s a map prepared around 1925 or so (I’m guessing) by the Melbourne Town Planning Commission showing how long it takes to get into central Melbourne from various suburbs by tram and train (and walking).
Here’s the area around St Kilda and Caulfield:
As you can see, the areas around railway stations have the quickest access into the city. Trams don’t reach as far in the same number of minutes.
As you get farther away from tram lines/railway stations, the city becomes less accessible.
Here’s the thing: in many ways the timings on this map haven’t changed much, because in terms of fixed-rail infrastructure, there’s not that much extra in 2014.
On the trains, the Glen Waverley line (a late addition, sketched onto this map) and the City Loop are the obvious new lines, the latter providing better access to more parts of the CBD, but not making much difference in terms of travel time, which remain roughly the same as they were. Bentleigh to the City still takes about half-an-hour.
That travel time hasn’t deteriorated is important: as the city’s road traffic has increased markedly over those 90ish years, the train system has isolated those who use it (and the city at large) from growing traffic congestion.
Meanwhile some areas such as Kew have lost their trains, though areas further out such as Pakenham and Cranbourne, which once had only infrequent country trains, are now part of the metropolitan network.
Trams aren’t shown very clearly on this map, but extensions since the 1920s include the 75 out to Vermont South. But some areas such as Footscray have lost some of their trams, as has Elwood/Brighton, and Black Rock/Beaumaris. Travel times for the trams that remain also seem similar to today, though in peak hours they’re likely to be longer on routes sharing space with cars.
If you have a look at the whole map, many of the obvious gaps in the network are still there… only these days they’re filled with houses, not empty as they were when this map was prepared. As I’ve noted before, if a suburb got its public transport back in the 1930s when PT was still being expanded, it probably still has it now.
Some areas have Smartbuses, which help fill those gaps and get to the station with frequent (at least on weekdays) fast (well, faster than walking) services. But many suburbs miss out on frequent PT.
Not that accessibility to the CBD is necessarily what everyone needs nowadays — work places, education and other opportunities are now more widely dispersed throughout the metropolitan area.
But allowing people to get to those places, particularly without a car (eg being able to move independent of traffic congestion, and whether or not they are able to drive) is an ongoing challenge.
See the map nice and big, on Flickr (opens in a new window)
Source: State Library of Victoria — map 4. Other maps there include variations on this theme. I haven’t looked at everything yet — no doubt there are some other gems. Map 2 is similar to map 4, but is in black and white, but shows tram lines more clearly.
Update 19/2/2015: The Age found these maps via a Reddit post, and published this article: Is your train commute quicker than 90 years ago?