Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Employment concentration and public transport service quality

Just over six months ago Alan Davies of the Melbourne Urbanist reminded us that the majority of jobs in Melbourne are (1) outside the CBD and surrounds, and (2) outside what Melbourne 2030 calls 'Major Activity Centres'. Outside the top four areas where employment is highly concentrated, is a 'long tail' of smaller centres which employ between about 1 and 2 percent of suburban centre jobs.

In descending order of significance the top four centres were Clayton, Tullamarine, Kew/Hawthorn and Box Hill.

I thought it would be worth comparing the availability of high-service public transport routes to and within these areas. This could help answer questions such as whether the largest employment centres had the best public transport, or whether historical factors, such as the era of development and presence of tram routes were more important.

Criteria used to assess service quality to these employment areas were as follows:

a. Service levels. The number of directions from which high service routes to the area is provided (at least SmartBus spans and frequencies). Lower frequency routes and branches are not counted, even though some approach SmartBus standards.

b. Travel speeds. As measured by the number of directions with services that operate on their own rights of way (eg railways, busways and segregated light rail).

c. Connectivity. Number of intersections between high-service routes.

d. Coverage. Extent to which the highest service routes are within walking distance of the highest concentrations of employment in the area. Assessed as low, medium or high.

Only regular Metcard/Myki ticketed routes were counted in this survey.

The overall rating comprises a Service, Speed and Connectivity score ( a + b + c) plus a coverage estimate for high service routes (described as low, medium or high).

Assessments by centre, starting with the largest, are as follows:

Clayton (includes area around Clayton Station, Monash University and Blackburn Rd)

a. Service levels

High service routes are as follows: Bus 900 (2 directions) and Dandenong line train (2 directions).

Total number of directions with high service routes: 4 (increases to 8 if the lower service 703 and 802/804/862 routes are included)

b. Travel Speeds

Number of directions with ROW route: 2

c. Connectivity

Number of intersections between above high-service routes: 0

d. Coverage

Train serves areas near Clayton shopping strip and Monash Medical Centre. Route 900 serves area near Monash University. Business parks and light industrial in the area are not served by the above routes. The area is pedestrian-hostile.

Overall: SSC score 6 with medium coverage.

Tullamarine

a. Service levels

High-service routes are Routes 901 and Routes 902. Route 901 offers service in one direction and Route 902 operates in both directions.

Total number of directions with high service routes:3

b. Travel Speeds

Number of directions with ROW route: 0

c. Connectivity

Number of intersections between above high-service routes: 1 (Mickleham Rd)

d. Coverage

Route 901 offers medium coverage of airport (stop is away main passenger gates). Both routes serve Mickeham Rd. Melrose Dr, Sharps Rd and Keilor Park Dr not served by above routes. The area is extremely pedestrian hostile.

Overall: SSC score 4 with low-medium coverage.

Kew/Hawthorn (area east of Princess St and from Swinburne University and north)

a. Service levels

High service routes are as follows: Tram 16 (1 direction), Tram 48 (2 directions), Tram 109 (2 directions), Bus 200/201/207 (1 direction), Ringwood/Alamein trains (3 directions).

Total number of directions with high service routes: 9

b. Travel Speeds

Number of directions with ROW route: 3

c. Connectivity

Number of intersections between above high-service routes: 3 (Kew Junction, Cotham/Glenferrie Rd & Glenferrie Stn)

d. Coverage

Most major trip generators are served by trains and trams that quality as high-service routes. Coverage is therefore high.

Overall: SSC score 15 with high coverage.

Box Hill

a. Service levels

High service routes are as follows: Tram 109 (1 direction), Bus 903 (2 directions) and Ringwood line trains (2 directions).

Total number of directions with high service routes:5 (increases to 9 if the lower service 270/271, 286, 281/293 and 281/767/768 corridors are included)

b. Travel Speeds

Number of directions with ROW route: 2

c. Connectivity

Number of intersections between above high-service routes: 1 (Box Hill Station)

d. Coverage

Good coverage within Box Hill Shopping centre and surrounds. Hospitals and TAFE colleges are near at least one high-service route. Overall medium – high.

Overall: SSC score 8 with medium-high coverage.

Conclusion

This analysis has many limitations. For instance area boundaries and job densities could have been established and the proportion of jobs within pedsheds of high-service stops should have been examined to obtain a more accurage coverage statistic. And the different local network topologies, from parallel non-intersecting routes (eg Clayton), to a single interchange point (Box Hill) to a multi-centred network (Kew/Hawthorn) could have been explored.

However the information gathered should be robust enough to show that that public transport service levels are not necessarily matched to a suburban centre’s employment significance. In particular the two largest centres (Clayton and Tullamarine) have high-quality services from fewer directions and not as many interchange points as the two smaller (but still large) centres.

Nevertheless service levels have become more equal between centres over the last five years, as tram service levels remained largely unchanged, new SmartBus routes commenced and local routes gained 7-day service. Five years ago, for instance, Clayton, the largest employment centre, had only one high-service route (the train), which missed the suburb’s biggest employer (Monash University). And less than one year ago Tullamarine, our second largest, had only occasional services. Both now have at least one high-service bus route serving the largest employer in each area.

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