City of Melbourne wants to see less cars, more space for sustainable transport in its municipality

City of Melbourne wants to see less cars, more space for sustainable transport in its municipality
City of Melbourne wants to see less cars, more space for sustainable transport in its municipality

In the latest push from the City of Melbourne's transport strategy refresh, the council released a new round of discussion papers, this time focused solely on motor vehicles and the amount of space dedicated to them in the municipality.

Data provided by the City of Melbourne illustrates the decline of car usage in the municipality since 2001 the share of car trips to work has decreased by 28% while the amount of jobs has increased 43%.

Similarly, the daytime population of the municipality is expected to grow from 914,000 per day to 1.4 million by 2036 and the Transport portfolio chair, Cr Nicolas Frances Gilley is keen to see more space reclaimed within the municipality for people.

On average, the amount of space utilised per person when cars are used to travel to the city is 9.2 square metres - contrast this with walking, public transport and cycling at 0.5, 0.5 and 0.6 square metres.

Cr Frances Gilley said the movement of people needs to be prioritised, not vehicles.

Make no mistake, with a few notable exceptions such as deliveries, disability and emergency services access, we are in the business of reclaiming space from cars for great shared living.

We need to optimise our city streets for people walking, cycling and taking public transport because that is how the majority of people move around and it’s the most efficient way to move large numbers of people as our population grows.

Our ambition is for a beautiful, liveable city where people can continue to enjoy all that Melbourne is famous for, our tree lined streets, pedestrian thoroughfares and outdoor dining.

Cr Frances Gilley, City of Melbourne
City of Melbourne wants to see less cars, more space for sustainable transport in its municipality
Infographic - City of Melbourne

Chief among the current issues is vehicle congestion, specifically the one in three vehicles on streets such as Flinders, King and Spring that are using the city as a through route.  "Private vehicles cause significant delay for people walking and riding bikes.  Buses and trams stuck in the traffic or blocked at intersections undermine the efficiency and reliability of public transport."

The discussion also says the city needs to significantly increase its transport capacity to serve a 65% increase of people in the city.  "The expansion needs to be based on space-efficient modes better suited to city movement: public transport, cycling and walking," the discussion paper says.

It appears the state government and opposition might have a bone of contention with the council if the municipality pursues increased reallocation of space from cars to sustainable modes with the Premier telling the ABC "Melbourne City council are free to pursue these ideas, but they're not ideas the Government supports."

"We've already got significant pressure in the city with some narrowing of roads and some other disruptions and I am very grateful to people who move throughout the city for dealing with those important disruptions."

Matthew Guy, the Leader of the Opposition, likewise told the ABC "I don't think it's a radical plan, it's a ridiculous plan."

Despite the not unsurprising reaction from Premier and the Opposition Leader, effectively turning their noses up at the idea of reducing cars in central Melbourne, the council wants a wider debate to occur.

Cr Frances Gilley said we need to change the way we as a society think about car parking.

“In San Francisco, they introduced a dynamic pricing system for on-street parking that increases with demand, this resulted in a 50 per cent reduction in drivers circulating streets searching for parking," Cr Frances Gilley said.

“There’s a lot we can learn from cities around the world who are decreasing dependence on cars in order to remain economically and globally competitive. New York and London have converted road space to pedestrian zones and bicycle lanes, improving safety and increasing retail sales.”

To view the discussion paper and have your say, see

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor

Alastair Taylor is a co-founder of Now a freelance writer, Alastair focuses on the intersection of public transport, public policy and related impacts on medium and high-density development.

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theboynoodle's picture
Yes please.

But go further. Let's have an aspiration for what things look like in, say, 30 years.. which might be an end to non-essential private traffic across swathes of the grid. Let that guide planning decisions and public transport planning inside and outside of the CBD.

- planning incentives to replace CBD car parks with commercial/resi developments.. or, even, purchasing a couple to demolish and replace with public space.
- Continued attention to quality of public transport options for those who drive (Service frequency, station parking etc).
- Introduction/acceleration of financial disincentives to drive into the city (parking levy's, road charging etc)... admittedly this will push out the poor whilst the rich carry on.. but, heck, at least they'll be paying heavily for the privilege of deferring their behavioral changes for a while.

If you do this slowly then you get to identify and resolve issues that arise (e.g. what to do for people on low incomes who work unsociable hours etc). This sort of thinking.. to make driving less appealing AND improving the public realm at the same time.. is bang on.
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