Melbourne's development by tram: the 96

Melbourne's development by tram: the 96
Alastair TaylorOctober 23, 2016

The 96 is the third busiest tram corridor in Melbourne with the most recent data published by Yarra Trams having the route clock up 15.4million annual trips.

Much of this patronage is likely due to the route being the fastest route to St Kilda from the CBD at the southern end of the line, but in keeping with the rest of the series, we're not looking at the development numbers in the City of Melbourne or City of Port Phillip.

Route 96 is one of the major Bourke Street trams - the first in this series that started with the 59 to have its CBD routing run east-west - and upon leaving the CBD, the route follows Nicholson Street (which forms the boundary of the City of Yara and City of Melbourne between Victoria Parade and Alexandra Parade).

As the route passes through Fitzroy and Fitzroy North you might expect the bulk of the new development to be in this area of the tram route, but it turns out that only 20% of new development in the pipeline is present in the City of Yarra (Fitzroy/Fitzroy North).

The numbers

AspectNumber of projectsNumber of dwellings
Residential projects: Planning Assessment5194
Residential projects: Approved4780
Residential projects: Registration and Sales6252
Residential projects: Under Construction4141
Melbourne's development by tram: the 96
Linear route 96 map. Yarra Trams
Tram routes 96Further information
Timetabled weekday peak frequency5-6 minutes (10-11 trams per hour)
Timetabled weekday off-peak frequency7-8 minutes (8 trams per hour)
Timetabled weekend daytime frequency10-12 minutes (5-6 trams per hour)
Timetabled night-time frequency20 minutes (3 trams per hour); 30 minutes/2 trams per hour (Sunday nights) 24/7 operation Friday/Saturday nights
Raised-platform stops?

Mainly in the City of Melbourne. Ongoing project to transform all stops to raised-platform.

Where do the trams go to sleep?Southbank Depot (Normanby Road), Preston Depot (Miller Street, Preston)
Primary tram class that operates on the route.E (low-floor, 3 section, Bombardiér Flexity), C2 (low-floor, 5 section, Alstom Citadus)
Annual patronage and rank15,400,000 trips annually (3rd busiest). Source

Nicholson Street (City of Yarra)

Unlike routes 1 and 8 which run on Lygon Street, approximately 1km to the west, Nicholson Street within the City of Yarra has a bigger range and larger scope of more development-friendly zones over properties facing the tram route corridor.

City of Yarra has liberally applied the Neighbourhood Residential Zone, characterised by much of the Nicholson Street corridor abruptly stepping down from either C1Z, MUZ or GRZ2 with little graduation the further properties are located away from Nicholson Street.

Melbourne's development by tram: the 96
Nicholson & Reid, Fitzroy North

There are seven projects with 239 dwellings between them located within the Nicholson Street corridor in the City of Yarra.

Nicholson Street (City of Moreland)

Crossing over Park Street into Brunswick proper, Brunswick East is easily classified as a hotspot for development. The route 96 tram terminates at Blyth Street but this short section of road has 80% of the dwellings as recorded on the Urban Melborune Project Database for the purposes of this case study.

Like in the City of Yarra, Nicholson Street in the City of Moreland has a mish-mash of zones directly fronting the tram corridor, however the more development-friendly zones: C1Z, MUZ, RGZ1 and to an extent GRZ1 are far more liberally applied both up and down the street as well as to the east and west of the tram route.

Melbourne's development by tram: the 96
East Brunswick Village

A short section of Nicholson Street beyond Park Street also forms the boundary of City of Moreland and the City of Yarra, let it be said that within the City of Yarra's section of the road, there are far less development-friendly zones applied.

Future directions

The route 96 upgrade project aims to transform the tram route into a fully-fledged light rail service from north-to-south through the city with raised platforms at each stop. Along with the deployment of new E-Class trams - the largest we seen on the network - the route 96 upgrade project has the ability to increase passenger carrying capacity to quite a large extent.

Much of the route between Southbank and St. Kilda, within the City of Port Phillip, is contained within the old St. Kilda Railway line corridor with many of these areas locked away with Neighbourhood Residential Zones. St Kilda itself and Brunswick (to a lesser extend Fitzroy/Fitzroy/North) are likely to remain the focus areas for new development within this tram corridor.

One major new public transport project that is often talked about on and elsewhere which is more likely to have a more profound impact on travel patterns in the inner-north is 'Metro 2': a new rail tunnel from Clifton Hill to Newport via the CBD and Fishermans Bend, connecting the Mernda (South Morang) and Werribee Lines.

Infrastructure Victoria recently released a value capture options policy which took a hypothetical look at the value capture opportunities around Metro 2. It made the following route assumption (see map, bottom right) and has a station near the intersection of Nicholson Street and Alexandra Parade.

Melbourne's development by tram: the 96
Route of Metro 2 from Infrastructure Victoria's value capture options case study

When the Victorian Government decides to invest the money to explore this project in more detail (as Infrastructure Victoria have advised them to do with their draft 30-year strategy), this route may change.

Nevertheless, should Metro 2 be built in this fashion, with the stations placed where they are on the map above, the inner-north will see a significant boost to public transport capacity, and perhaps most importantly, there will be a significant time saving for trips made from the inner-north to the western end of the CBD, and into Fishermans Bend.

In a way this Metro 2 route, such as it is in Infrastructure Victoria's case study, will mirror the general route of the 96 tram with a loose relationship between the first, CBD-end, station in Fishermans Bend and the Whiteman Street stop (where both 109 and 96 trams diverge) and Montague Street light rail stop. But it will be much faster and have far larger carrying capacity with the existing tram routes in the north feeding into the new cross-town rail line.

While the 96 upgrade project is very much welcome, the Metro 2 project will have the most dramatic effect on development in the inner-north (a more liberal approach to zoning the tram routes in the City of Yarra would also be welcome) as well as Fishermans Bend and should be a top priority project given the vision for Fishermans Bend and Infrastructure Victoria's top recommendation to encourage new development in existing areas.


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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