Moonee Ponds is an activity centre that for the most part flies under the radar, in terms of redevelopment currently happening and what can happen in future. The biggest landholder in the region is the Moonee Valley Racing Club and yesterday The Age reported on how the Planning Minister Richard Wynne has gazetted an updated development plan for the home of the Cox Plate.
In terms of access Moonee Ponds has quite the repertoire of public transport options. Trains serve the western end of the centre, trams run up and down Mount Alexander Road/Pascoe Vale Road and Ascot Vale Road hosts the terminus for route 82, one of the very few suburb-to-suburb tram routes across Melbourne. There's also a major bus interchange next door to the main tram stops for the 59 tram in the Mount Alexander Road median.
But like all over Melbourne, the connections between modes (and routes) could be better. A lot better.
As a very regular user of all three modes in the area, top of the priority list for fixing is the bus interchange. At present, it sits in the very busy median of Mount Alexander Road, which makes access from either side of the road a real problem.
There are multiple signalised pedestrian crossings however priority is given to vehicular traffic. The wait times often frustrate pedestrians, who see the bus they want to catch (only metres away) pull away as traffic lights change, as it is often the only time buses can exit the interchange.
There are 11 separate bus routes which converge on the existing Moonee Ponds Interchange:
What to do with a chunk of land which lays barren right in the heart of an activity centre? Turn it into a car park! That's the dirty little secret of the current Reading's site - bought last year by Leighton then promptly put back on the market in February - it's everything that an activity centre should not have: an open-air car park.
With all the development site buying and selling in the heart of Moonee Ponds and a new masterplan for the racecourse getting the nod from the Planning Minister, we're no doubt about to see an upswing in development activity in Moonee Ponds. And it's time there was an overhaul of Moonee Ponds' public transport access as well.
Much of Mount Alexander's median strip to the north of the current bus bay has had a once over with new landscaping. I think it's time the bus bay moved out and the median reverted back to open space.
But where would buses go?
The map works on the basis of removing the existing bus terminus/interchange; Hall Street is extended through to the other side of Mount Alexander Road as a one-way (eastbound) bus-only road, and the tram tracks on Ascot Vale Road are duplicated and terminated adjacent to the existing route 59 tram stop.
In this scenario buses would run in a continuous anti-clockwise loop through Mount Alexander Road, Homer Street, Margaret Street and Hall Street. If a series of bus stops were placed in Homer Street, Margaret Street and Hall Street - in the latter's case particularly near the intersection of Mount Alexander Road - then passengers would be deposited and could be picked up in three key areas: Moonee Ponds Central, Moonee Ponds Station and near the existing bus bays for tram connectivity.
Extending Hall Street would likely be the largest portion of the project in terms of roadworks (and cost), however it's conceivable there would be need to widen Margaret Street - eating into the existing station car park - to allow buses to stop at the station without impacting traffic flow and both Homer and Hall Streets would require removal of speed bumps.
The added bonus of extending Hall Street, for vehicular traffic on Mount Alexander Road in particular, would be the two existing pedestrian crossings, roughly 50 metres apart, could be combined into one.
Not to mention, terminating the route 82 tram alongside route 59's stop would eliminate the three crossings pedestrians are required to make at present - if they wish to connect between either service - and similarly eliminate one of the two existing crossings pedestrians must make, if they wish to connect between the 82 tram and Moonee Ponds bus services.
Lead image credit: Wikipedia.