... and that's the problem.
Melbourne was very good at locating shopping centres away from rail lines and stations when they were first proposed, and we're paying for it now. Well at least, the good 'burghers of Chadstone, who live opposite or in the immediate vicinity of the shopping centre that bears the same name, are.
In our piece yesterday on the updated proposals for a Hotel and Office at Chadstone Shopping Centre, Mark posted images from Atomic 3D and Bates Smart that act as a perfect example of how utterly auto-centric these “activity” centres are. Have a look at the Dandenong Road vista – shopping centres have always been internally focused and Chadstone is no exception – however the new proposal has solidified this internal mentality by only providing a barely windowed facade at ground level, completely cut off from the footpath.
There’s absolutely zero active frontage and it's dominated by vehicular access paths. Some effort in opening the proposed section of the site to Dandenong Road may have been been a good sign of things to come; nevertheless we're stuck with the ode to auto-centric suburbia that Chadstone and other centres are synonymous with.
Sure, Dandenong Road is a major arterial and not the most pedestrian friendly environment comes to mind of but Chadstone could do so much better. If we accept shopping centres are going to become legitimate multi-use activity centres in the decades to come, we must correct the past mistakes of not integrating them with high capacity mass public transport routes, reject dumb design that turns its back on the street and start opening them up to their surrounds.
Chadstone’s public transport is currently riding on the back of the humble bus. At present the best train + bus option is to take a train to Oakleigh and then swap to the 802, 900 or 902, or walk from Hughesdale Station. The buses are timetabled for 9 minutes between Oakleigh and Chadstone SC, but as we all know that is susceptible to Warrigal Road and Middle Road traffic. PTV’s site states there’s a 4-5 combined frequency across the aforementioned routes - excellent service compared to other routes around the metropolitan area.
It is interesting to see the bus bay has been placed closer to the Dandenong Road entry for Chadstone in yesterday’s piece by Mark. Buses – from Oakleigh – will be able to avoid all the Monash FWY-bound traffic on Middle Road and turn left at Dandenong Road from Warrigal Rd and then right turn almost directly into the bus station. This should improve reliability and potentially shave a minute or two off the timetable.
But going by how quickly Chadstone expands and its popularity citywide – good marketing will do that – at what point do we say: enough is enough, bite the bullet and start providing alternative high-capacity access?
As I alluded to a few weeks ago, one of the biggest elephants in the room with regards to the Rowville Rail Study was the ignoring of Chadstone and more recently with the release of the PTV Heavy Rail plan, the Rowville line is completely dependent on the Metro Tunnel.
Rowville study Mark II (as the first one outlined further investigation must be carried out on the city side of Huntingdale) should focus on studying the benefits of removing the Rowville line’s dependency on the Metro Tunnel and as an alternative, study how the Burnley group of lines could work in Rowville’s favour.
We now know that PTV sees the eventual quadruplication of Burnley to Camberwell, but before we get to that – lets look at how Rowville can assume the operation of Alamein with a terminus at Camberwell – at least for the first stage.
We know that there is some spectre of hope for a Rowville rail line eventually, so lets take that for granted.
From Huntingdale another track pair could be built alongside the existing corridor to Oakleigh, with a 1-2km tunnel built from Oakleigh underneath Dandenong Road and adjacent to Chadstone SC to the old Outer Circle Rail alignment just south of Waverley Road. From there a line could transition to an elevated structure with a station at East Malvern, and then traverse the Monash Freeway and Gardiner’s Creek valley (where the old trestle bridge from the outer ciricle line did 100 years ago) and then use the old alignment to south of Alamein.
The existing Alamein line would require grade separation at Riversdale Rd and Prospect Hill Rd offering an opportunity to delete Willison Station as Willison and Riversdale stations are 300m from one another. Entries to the newly grade separated Riversdale station located to the south of Riversdale road could eaasily cater for the loss of Willison and reposition the new Riversdale station to cater for both catchments. Click here to see full map.
PTV similarly wouldn't need to create expensive and longer stations on the Rowville line - as the Alamein and Camberwell-City sections are not mooted to get the same upgrades as the Dandenong corridor. And as a start, off-peak 10 minute services moving to 7-8 minutes in peak would interface with all the activity centres and the 3 primary lines this Camberwell-Rowville shuttle would intersect.
Creating this line will not only provide a one-stop rail journey for the East and South East of Melbourne to Chadstone, it will start linking the region’s other activity centres (Monash/Mulgrave, Camberwell and Glenferrie), provide numerous more non-car Public Transport options for those who live or work in the east and also add heavy rail network redundancy to all Eastern and South Eastern lines.
Rowville Mark II needs to look at how linking Alamein and Oakleigh via Chadstone could impact the economic case for the Rowville rail line and it should similarly probe Gandel/CFS on their thoughts on potentially going into a PPP - i.e Gandel/CFS pay for the Chadstone station allowing them to fully integrate it into the centre in return for being allowed to expand the use of the land - residential apartments and more commercial above the shopping centre below.
It’s clear that Gandel and CFS have their eyes on diversifying the land use at Chadstone Shopping Centre, and in order to make it work let's integrate it so as to start linking even more eastern suburbs activity centres at the same time.