• Written by Liam Davies, PhD Candidate, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University
The Melbourne Transportation Plan included every freeway and major arterial road built in the city since 1969. Shuang Li/Shutterstock

This is the first article in a series to mark the 50th anniversary of the landmark Melbourne Transportation Plan.

—-

The 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan was perhaps the most influential planning policy in the city’s history. Every freeway and major arterial road built since then, as well as many current freeway and tollway projects and proposals, stem from this plan.

Given current debates about freeway construction (East West Link, West Gate Tunnel, North East Link, Roe 8 and WestConnex) and increasing commute times across Australia, it is timely to reflect on the 1969 plan and lessons to be drawn from this experience.

The post-war boom and the car

Melbourne boomed after the second world war. The population grew from 1.2 million in 1947 to 2.1 million in 1966.

At the same time, technological changes transformed our way of life. New manufacturing opportunities provided jobs to support families and consumer goods to fill their lives with. The Australian dream of a family home on a quarter-acre block was reinforced in this era.

Cars shaped the post-war suburbs. Estates typified by free-standing dwellings with garages had become the norm by the 1960s. The opening in 1960 of Chadstone, Melbourne’s first modern shopping mall based on the US model, set the pattern for car-based planning.

Advertisement for the Holden FC, Australia’s Own Car, in the late 1950s. Linklater, B. R., lithographer

The 1954 Metropolitan Planning Scheme embraced these trends. It proposed low-density car-based suburban development and a freeway system to serve it. These policies were adopted across the English-speaking world, with the United States its primary advocate.

Notoriously, from the 1920s to the 1950s motor car interests had bought up tramway systems that had shaped many US cities, replacing them with buses that were far less popular. The culture of the car was created; it wasn’t inevitable.

This pattern was followed in the United Kingdom, New Zealand and Australia, where trams were ripped out of every capital city except Melbourne.

The 1969 plan

This environment was the context for the 1969 plan, which US consultants supervised. Faith in the desirability of a car-based future obscured the flaws in the transport modelling assumptions.

The plan forecast a rise in car usage and laid out an extensive road network to support this. It did not discuss effects on urban form, merely characterising itself as supporting the 1954 Metropolitan Planning Scheme and existing development trends.

The plan proposed 307 miles (494 kilometres) of freeways. This accounted for 64% of the proposed spending. The network was to provide for the predicted 6 million daily car trips by the plan’s scheduled completion in 1985.

The recommended freeway system. 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan

A 323-mile (520km) highway and arterial road network – both new and widened roads – was to support the freeway network. Some 80 level-crossing removals would promote free-flowing traffic. Combined, these road proposals were costed at A$2.2 billion (in 1969 dollars) – 85% of the proposed budget.

In contrast to the rest of Australia, the plan proposed retaining and modernising Melbourne’s tram system. There were to be 910 new trams (the system today has about 475).

The plan also included rail improvements, notably the City Loop, electrification to outer areas, rail duplications or triplications, new radial lines to Doncaster and Monash, and suburban loop lines between Huntingdale and Ferntree Gully and between Dandenong and Frankston. Only 13.5% of the plan’s spending was to be on rail.

Proposed general railway development to 1985. 1969 Melbourne Transportation Plan

The community responds

The plan triggered a backlash against freeways being built through urban neighbourhoods. Residents mobilised against demolitions and what they saw as the destruction of their neighbourhoods. Communities were already opposing the Victorian Housing Commission’s campaign of “slum reclamation” and high-rise tower construction.

The Eastern Freeway (F19) construction, begun in 1970, was fiercely opposed. Protests increased through the 1970s.

Alexandra Parade was barricaded in protest against the F19. Barricade! – the resident fight against the F19

Public opposition was partly responsible for the plan’s scope being reduced in 1973.

The changed social context of the 1970s demanded a more responsive government. As attitudes and expectations change, so too must the plans for cities.

How might things have been different?

The 1969 plan laid out a freeway network as a blueprint for subsequent governments to follow. Much of this network has been built, but very few of the public transport projects were implemented.

The City Loop rail tunnels opened in stages from 1981 to 1985, but only the smallest of the rail extensions has been built. Some lines have closed since 1969. This has marginalised the rail system’s usefulness to most people except those travelling to and from the central city.

The effects on Melbourne have been profound and far more biased towards cars than even the plan intended, yet things could have been otherwise. Washington DC and Vancouver both proposed extensive freeway networks in the 1960s. In these cities, governments responded to community opposition by shifting the focus towards public transport, cycling and walking.

Rising transport emissions are the largest single contributor to global heating. Melbourne is at a tipping point, needing to embrace transport options that lower emissions and support sustainable urban development.

Victoria’s 2010 Transport Integration Act has a progressive vision that includes minimising long commutes and reducing reliance on cars. Arguably, a continued emphasis on road development will frustrate these objectives.

Current rail projects are largely playing catch up. If all of the lines proposed in the 1969 plan, along with its level-crossing removals, had been completed as planned by 1985, Melbourne would be quite different today, and for much less than the cost of all of the roads built or planned in the foreseeable future.

We should plan now for the future city we want to live in. Melbourne doesn’t need to tear down its suburbs and rebuild them at high densities before better public transport can be justified. The city needs to focus on better alternatives to cars to give its citizens choices as many other cities have done.

This is an immense challenge, but we should look back on 1969 to see the long-term impacts such a plan can have. Despite its name and breadth of content, it was a road plan rather than a comprehensive transport plan. Yet we need the type of long-term city-shaping thinking that underpinned that plan, but directed in ways that fit a genuinely sustainable, smart and fair 2019 vision for 2069 that we can all support.


A public event to mark the 50th anniversary of the Melbourne Transportation Plan will be held on December 12 2019, hosted by RMIT University, supported by Swinburne University, Monash University and the University of Melbourne – details here.

Liam Davies receives funding from an Australian Government Research Training Program Stipend Scholarship, and an AHURI Housing Postgraduate Scholarship Top-up. He also works with the Institute for Sensible Transport. He is a member of PIA Victoria.

Ian Woodcock has receive funding from federal, state and local governments, industry and community organisations to support independent academic research. He is affiliated with various advocacy groups for sustainable transport and planning, and is a member of the Public Transport Users Association.

Authors: Liam Davies, PhD Candidate, Centre for Urban Research, RMIT University

Read more http://theconversation.com/50-years-on-from-the-melbourne-transportation-plan-what-can-we-learn-from-its-legacy-127721

All You Need to Know About Trenchless Technology

For many years, the traditional sewerage lines and pipe developments were not enough due to the long wait and cracking. The traditional sewer pipe repairs involved cracking the earth to find the par...

News Company - avatar News Company

Before we rush to rebuild after fires, we need to think about where and how

A primary school in East Gippsland was burnt down in the current bushfire crisis. While Premier Daniel Andrews immediately committed to rebuilding the school as it was, media reported the local CFA ca...

Mark Maund, PhD Candidate, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle - avatar Mark Maund, PhD Candidate, School of Architecture and Built Environment, University of Newcastle

Australian sea lions are declining. Using drones to check their health can help us understand why

Australian sea lions (Neophoca cinerea) are one of the rarest pinnipeds in the world and they are declining. Jarrod Hodgson, CC BY-NDAustralian sea lions are in trouble. Their population has never rec...

Jarrod Hodgson, PhD Candidate, University of Adelaide - avatar Jarrod Hodgson, PhD Candidate, University of Adelaide

With costs approaching $100 billion, the fires are Australia's costliest natural disaster

It’s hard to estimate the eventual economic cost of Australia’s 2019-20 megafires, partly because they are still underway, and partly because it is hard to know the cost to attribute to de...

Paul Read, Climate Criminologist & Senior Instructor/Lecturer, Faculty of Medicine, Monash University - avatar Paul Read, Climate Criminologist & Senior Instructor/Lecturer, Faculty of Medicine, Monash University

In cases of cardiac arrest, time is everything. Community responders can save lives

Cardiac arrest can occur with little or no warning in people who were previously healthy, including young people. From shutterstock.comEach year more than 24,000 Australians experience a sudden cardia...

Bill Lord, Adjunct Associate Professor, Monash University - avatar Bill Lord, Adjunct Associate Professor, Monash University

So the government gave sports grants to marginal seats. What happens now?

When Australians pay their income tax, they assume the money is going to areas of the community that need it, rather than being used by the government to shore up votes for the next election. This is...

Maria O'Sullivan, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, and Deputy Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University - avatar Maria O'Sullivan, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, and Deputy Director, Castan Centre for Human Rights Law, Monash University

The Olympics have always been a platform for protest. Banning hand gestures and kneeling ignores their history

It is the year of the Tokyo Olympics, and the International Olympic Committee was quickly out of the blocks with new guidelines regarding athlete protests. The IOC is worried the biggest stories of...

David Rowe, Emeritus Professor of Cultural Research, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University - avatar David Rowe, Emeritus Professor of Cultural Research, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University

Where Can You Get Weed By Ordering It Online?

Nowadays, everyone wants to get their hands on some weed. Marijuana has become legalized in a lot of countries worldwide. People wait in lines for days to buy some. You couldn’t have imagined that...

News Company - avatar News Company

Hidden women of history: Catherine Hay Thomson, the Australian undercover journalist who went inside asylums and hospitals

Catherine Hay Thomson went undercover as an assistant nurse for her series on conditions at Melbourne Hospital. A. J. Campbell Collection/National Library of AustraliaIn this series, we look at under...

Kerrie Davies, Lecturer, School of the Arts & Media, UNSW - avatar Kerrie Davies, Lecturer, School of the Arts & Media, UNSW

Sick and Tired of Your Dead End Job? Try Teaching!

Tired of the same old grind at the office? Want an opportunity to impact lives both in your community and around the world? Do you love to travel and have new experiences? Teaching English is the perfect job for you! All you need is a willingness to ...

News Company - avatar News Company

The Impact of an Aging Population in Australia

There’s an issue on the horizon that Australia needs to prepare for. The portion of elderly citizens that make up the country’s overall population is increasing, and we might not have the infrastructure in place to support this. Australians h...

News Company - avatar News Company