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International lessons for Fishermans Bend

Fishermans Bend has attracted a lot of interest in recent days, particularly in forums such as Urban Melbourne. A recent announcement by the Victorian Government has seen the previous alignment of the Melbourne Rail Link changed in order to bring a train station to the urban renewal area, apparently with construction starting in 2017. But planning for such a huge redevelopment area, particularly with regards to transport, is a mammoth task.

How can its proximity to the CBD and potential to house thousands of people be used to maximum advantage so that it is a suburb of pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users, rather than adding more cars onto inner Melbourne's already busy roads? How can transport infrastructure be staged so that it is ready to use as the first residents and workers move in? How can the planning of the area help by reducing the need for residents to travel outside it for their everyday needs, and by making walking and cycling attractive alternatives to the car?

As part of a University of Melbourne research project, I will be travelling over the next weeks to Zurich and Munich. I'll be looking at how urban renewal or redevelopment areas have been planned to get the transport right from the start, and to avoid car dependency as we've seen in too many of Melbourne's growth areas.

This post is the first in a short series on Urban Melbourne about how the planning of transport for Fishermans Bend could be informed by ideas from other cities. While the research project above is focusing on Zurich and Munich, I'll also be travelling to Amsterdam and London, and will share my observations and experiences of those cities and how we can learn from them.

So what kinds of ideas might we use? My preliminary research has looked at Munich, and a redevelopment of the city's old airport in particular - an area called Messestadt Riem. From what I've gathered so far, Munich seems to have quite a few planning ideas in common with us here in Melbourne (I say here, but I'm writing this from Zurich Airport). The concept of the polycentric city is one we share, but one that appears to have been implemented more successfully in Munich (above). In addition, while Munich has grown outwards over the decades, this has largely been contained along the existing S-Bahn (commuter rail) lines and with green belts separating non-contiguous areas of development, meaning that public transport is more easily able to be delivered to new residential areas.

Messestadt Riem also functions as a decent comparison to Fishermans Bend - they are both around the same size, both close to the central city (Riem is about 7km from the city centre, somewhat further than Fishermans Bend) and both large brownfield redevelopment areas intended to house a large number of residents and jobs. The planning for Messestadt Riem's redevelopment was already underway when the airport that used to occupy it closed in 1992. A private consortium was selected by tender to develop the area, including things like community infrastructure, and an U-Bahn (subway) line was extended to the area in 1999, the same year the first residents moved in.

About half of the area is green open space, with dwellings (apartment buildings of about five storeys) located in a contained area close to the train line. With two stations servicing the area, no dwelling is more than a 10 minute walk from a station, and there is even a feeder bus which services the area (above). There are a number of factors encouraging cycling and walking, such as 30km/h speed limits in residential areas, and shared paths and bike lanes (below). There are a large number of jobs within the area, as well as schools, childcare, shops and other services, meaning there is less need to travel far for these everyday needs.

Messestadt Riem seems to be ticking the boxes, and apparently an example we can use to inform the planning of Fishermans Bend so we get important things like transport right from the beginning. But it's difficult to tell exactly how much of a success it is from across the world, and difficult to determine actual outcomes from documents written by governments or developers.

Over the next four weeks, I will be travelling in Zürich, Munich, Amsterdam and London, observing the integrated planning of land use and transport, and trying to figure out how ideas from these cities could be applied to the planning of Fishermans Bend. Stay tuned on Urban Melbourne to see what I find!

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