Thursday, October 27, 2011

Taking a punt

The West Gate Bridge is unashamedly for cars and trucks. It has no pedestrian or cycling facilities. Its two bus routes (232 and NightRider 944) run between the CBD and western suburbs.

There is however a Westgate Punt that ferries cyclists and pedestrians under the bridge. It ran on weekends only, but government funding has allowed a weekday peak service to be added. This is currently operating as a trial, free for its first month.

The punt runs from Spotswood to Fishermans Bend. There are cycle routes on both sides. Walk-on passengers will find that the Spotswood terminal is about ten minutes walk from the station. Weekday buses run to the city from a stop near the Fishermans Bend terminus.

The free trial offer was too good to pass up, so I took the punt this morning. Usage for trips towards the city was good, at over half the boat's carrying limit (12 people). Counter-peak patronage was less, at 1 or 2. It's a fast trip - 5 or 10 minutes. With loading and unloading time one vessel comfortably provides a 20 minute frequency.

So where does The Punt fit into the transport network? It saves a lot of time for cyclists commuting between the inner-western suburbs, Port Melbourne and possibly the CBD. Those who work regular business hours may even find it faster than driving, judging by vehicle speeds on the bridge.

Its utility for pedestrians is less due to limited connectivity with other public transport services. There's the ten minute walk at the western end and the limited bus service at the eastern end. Still it may be better than land public transport options, particularly for those working within walking distance of the punt in Fishermans Bend.

A further handicap is that though Fishermans Bend appears to have reasonable job density (good for public transport) its low permeability limits bus route efficiency and pedestrian access (think freeways, fences and superblocks).

The pictures below show the punt in action.


Marcus W said...

One possible target market would be workers in Port Melbourne who live in the western suburbs, and wanted to avoid the jam on the West Gate Bridge.

Drive to Spotswood via the backstreets and park the car for free, take the punt, and walk the rest of the way. If traveling further afield you could keep a cheap bike on the eastern bank of the river.

David said...

I hope that they'll at least consider accepting Myki and/or V/Line tickets, when they start charging fees for the Punt service.