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Driving public transport options into Airport West & Essendon Airport

Following on from Airport West and Essendon Airport: Auto-centricity status quo?, today we're looking at a possible way to improve public transport access to the Airport West and Essendon Airport precinct.

The potential scenario as listed below centres around retrofitting an existing corridor to allow for multiple modes of public transport to use it - that is, the tram corridor which runs between Matthews Avenue and the Tullamarine Freeway through the heart of the Airport West and Essendon Airport precinct.

Currently the #59 tram terminates at Airport West shopping centre, located in the north of the precinct and there's a smattering of infrequent bus routes running along Matthews Avenue.

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At present, as shown in Google Street view above, the English St / Matthews Avenue interchange with the Tullamarine Freeway isn't the most hospitable environment for pedestrians - and note the lack of tram stop in the immediate area.

As part of the planning study which is about to kick off with the Metropolitan Planning Authority, Moonee Valley City Council and others listed as stakeholders, we are calling on the respective parties to think beyond the excellent road assets in the precinct as being solely for private vehicle use.

Melbourne's excellent road network is severely underutilised by Public Transport modes. The political hot potato - the belief that roads, and freeways, are there for the sole use of motorists - which is passed around on both sides of politics is holding Melbourne's road network back from reaching its full potential.

We need leadership. And the planning process now underway in Airport West and Essendon Airport is the perfect opportunity to right the wrongs of auto-centric development and start attacking car dependence in an area that has the dubious honor of being surrounded by freeways.

The focus is on buses

Prudent transport planning would suggest a tram stop should be built right near the English Street/Matthews Avenue intersection yet could also be problematic given it's also the entry and exit point for the Tullamarine Freeway.

The first order of business would be to lower the tram corridor under English Street with a new stop located underneath with access points to the north and south of English Street - just like how the new Nunawading station has street-level access points to the east and west of Springvale Road.

The second order of business would be to ensure the tram corridor has a paved surface for its entire length to allow buses to also run in the traffic-segregated corridor.

Thereafter the following bus routes could run in their own dedicated right of way mixed with existing tram services allowing the entire precinct from Airport West shopping centre in the north to Keilor Road in the south to have a rapid transport corridor to support the projected employment and mixed-use growth.

All bus routes would have a minimum 15 minute frequency throughout the day, weekends and until the last service and 10 minute frequencies, or better, in peak.

New primary access routes

Moonee Ponds - Tullamarine Airport

Via Mount Alexander Road, Keilor Road, Matthews Avenue tram and bus right of way, Melrose Drive.

Existing services like the combined 478/479 routes would have their frequencies dramatically expanded (there's currently only a handful a day) to ensure there is a strong, frequent and direct connection to Tullamarine Airport.

Heidelberg Station - Airport West

Via Bell Street, Tullamarine Freeway, Matthews Avenue tram and bus right of way.

Complimenting the existing 903 Smartbus this service would be direct, high frequency and connect many radial road-based and rail-based public transport routes lying to the East.

Caroline Springs - Airport West

Via Caroline Springs Boulevard, Taylors Road & Keilor Plains Station, Green Gully Road, express along the Calder Freeway to the Fullarton Road exit in Airport West and Matthews Avenue tram right of way.

With the Caroline Springs terminus at the corner of Ballarat Road & Caroline Springs Boulevard this route could be extended to the mooted Caroline Springs Station if built when the Melton line is electrified. This service can act as a direct and frequent connector service to the Sunbury line as well as provide a direct service to the new employment precinct in Airport West.

Footscray station - Airport West

Via Irving Street, Hopkins Street, Droop Street, Ballarat Road, Rossamond Road, Highpoint, and then run the existing route of the 406 via Cordite Avenue, Military Road, Milleara Road and then continue to Keilor Road then utilise the Matthews Avenue tram right of way

On a map this route appears to break the golden rule where deviations left, right and centre are frowned upon however given the lack of a grid road network in Melbourne's West - compared to the East - this would be the most direct route from the South and South West and like other routes on the map, it has more than one purpose.

The current 406 - which this route aims to replace - hops, skips and jumps all over Footscray and currently ends in the Milleara Shopping Centre are of Avondale Heights. With a simplified path taken through Footscray and along with further route rationalisation in the area, busses operating on this route will have quicker journey times to the south at the same time as having fast and frequent access to the new employment precinct in the North.

Melton - Airport West

Via High Street, Federation Drive, Melton Highway and Watergardens Station, express along the Calder Freeway to Fullarton road exit in Airport West and Matthews Avenue tram and bus right of way.

Arguably one of the most important routes, if implemented sooner rather than later, as Melbourne sprawls into the growth corridor that is scheduled to take place between Melton and Sydenham, new residents will have high quality and frequent Public Transport from day 1. Again, the route acts as a feeder for the Sunbury rail line in the area as well as utilises the Calder Freeway to provide rapid access into the employment precinct.

Roxburgh Park station - Essendon Fields

Via Somerton Road, Mickleham Road, Melrose Drive, Wirraway Road, English Street.

Another growth area route doubling as a station feeder and connection to the employment precinct. This like the other route to the north (see below) would connect with all other bus and tram services at Airport West shopping centre and then proceed on to Essendon Airport lands and terminate at bus stop on the eastern side of the Tullamarine Freeway.

Broadmeadows station - Essendon Fields

Via Johnstone Street, Broadmeadows Road, Mickleham Road, Melrose Drive, Wirraway Road and English Street.

Combing frequencies on this route with the Roxburgh Park station - Essendon Fields route would provide a rapid transport corridor between Airport West and Gladstone Park as well as provide solid transport access both from Broadmeadows and deeper in to the Essendon Airport/Essendon Fields site.

To finish, we'll leave you with a quote from Brent Toderian, former Chief Planner in Vancouver who recently spoke at the Planning Institute of Australia conference in Sydney.

Lead image credit: Flickr CC BY-SA 2.0

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