This morning I, as the Outer East Branch Convener of the Public Transport Users Association, along with Associate Professor Michael Buxton from RMIT (Associate Professor, Environment & Planning), was interviewed by Radio Station Triple R (RRR) to discuss the issues of urban density and public transport.
Melbourne is clearly at the crossroads between increasing urban densities and continued urban sprawl, yet the assumption that higher urban densities are required before improved public transport can be provided is a falsehood.
So what level of population density is required for bus services of a 10 minute frequency?
The 1965 Brisbane Transportation Strategy estimated 12.5 people per hectare while Paul Mees, in his book A Very Public Solution (2000), estimated that 14 people per hectare was required.
Even the upper limit of 14 people per hectare would mean that most of outer suburbia would be able to support a much higher level of bus services. Yet even though Ringwood has a population density of 18 people per hectare and Chirnside Park has a population density of 16 people per hectare, the people of Maroondah still lack Sunday and evening services along Maroondah Highway.
Higher population densities will mean nothing more than increased car usage if public transport improvements are not provided. Melbourne is experiencing rapid growth in the outer west and outer north yet improvements to public transport have not been provided. What alternatives do people have if they are not provided with bus services as soon as such estates are developed?
What alternatives to driving will people have in the Ringwood Transit City, if the much promised bus and rail improvements are not delivered?
Professor Michael Buxton and I were in agreement that unless improvements to public transport are provided immediately residents living in such areas will have little choice but to drive, causing congestion on outer and inner suburban roads alike.