Nine things to make Melbourne even better

Here our experts share everything you need to know about how policymakers can make Melbourne more liveable, improve our liveability, reduce commuter crushes and increase housing affordability.

1.     Melbourne needs more dwellings per hectare to make it more walkable and, in turn, liveable

New York and London are known for being walkable cities where everyone lives in close quarters. If Melbourne wants to become known as a truly walkable city with 20-minute neighbourhoods we need to be smart and strategic about where people live. Liveability has significant benefits to the economy and community, but current policies for walkability, public transport, public open space need more clearly defined standards, more ambitious targets and consistent implementation. Case in point, housing development needs to occur close to services and amenities like schools, shops, public transport and parks. Our current dwelling density target of 15 dwellings per hectare is significantly lower than the 25 dwellings per hectare that research suggests is most conducive to creating liveable communities.

Read more about how to make Melbourne more liveable here

2.     The introduction of driverless vehicles could mean shared cars are the new normal

We’ve sublet spare rooms through AirBnb and repurposed our cars as Ubers as part of the sharing economy. But what about replacing the idea of your own car all together? The introduction of driverless cars requires significant transitional planning. If done in partnership with high capacity public transport, fewer people could own cars. Driverless vehicles, supported by data-driven technology, could see a widespread transition to shared car ownership and car hire on a pay per trip basis. A number of driverless vehicle trials are underway through VicRoads, although experts suggest they won’t be used in a broader day-to-day capacity until 2025 and 2030. In the meantime, learn the technology behind self-driving cars and AI programming through an RMIT online course.  A partnership with global tech education leader Udacity is bringing the Silicon Valley learning to Australia.

Read more about emerging transport technologies here

3.     Making apartments more family-friendly

Melbourne’s population is projected to reach eight million people by 2050 and all those people need to live somewhere. We need to plan to accommodate our city’s growing population in a way that limits urban sprawl and maintains liveability.   Apartments need to adapt to changing resident needs.  Adopting universal design principles in apartment design would allow for aging in place, accommodate changing needs – such as for growing families – and enable different future uses.  This is particularly important in the inner and middle suburbs so apartments can accommodate vertical families.

Read more about higher density living here

4.     Separated lanes would make cycling more accessible   

Think cycling cities. Think Amsterdam and … Canberra? Our nation’s capital increased the number of people cycling to work by 15 per cent in five years.  We can take a cue from Canberra and promote cycling as convenient, healthy and safe through the development of connected bike networks and improved links to existing paths. Connected bike lanes on major cycling corridors would make pedalling more accessible for Melburnians of all ages. “Traffic calming features” – think separated cycle lanes and controlled crossings – improve cyclist safety, which is particularly important for encouraging younger and older riders to get on their bikes.

Read more about active transport here

5.     Making it easier for you to get your online shopping as part of your daily routine

Crowdsourcing could be the way to get your online shopping purchase out of a depot and into your hands sooner. The volume of Victoria’s freight in expected to double by 2050 and the ‘last mile’ of freight delivery can be a key source of traffic congestion. In Stockholm, freight operator DHL developed the MyWays platform to crowdsource last-mile deliveries throughout Stockholm, allowing Swedes to collect their parcels from designated pick up stations on their daily route. Who wouldn’t want their latest purchase in their hands sooner?

Read more about last mile freight here

6.     Peak and off-peak transport pricing could make your train or tram or the road you drive to work on less crowded

An extra 3.5 million trips are expected to be made each day across Melbourne’s transport network by 2030. That means we’ll increase the time we spend commuting by 20 per cent. Keen to get some of that time back? Transport pricing is a way to manage demand and congestion. Infrastructure Victoria has identified introducing a pricing regime to change behaviour and manage demand as a top priority, meaning we’d pay for the additional congestion we create. The goal? Shift demand to less congested travel times and from motor vehicles to other transport modes. Overseas, London, Singapore and Stockholm all have a cordon – or zone-based – model, which has reduced congestion by 13 to 30 per cent. On trams, trains and buses peak and off-peak prices could help manage demand and reduce crowd crushes.

Read more about how to manage congestion here

7.     Better planning for parks

Did you know almost 50 per cent of Melbourne’s parks are less than half a hectare? That’s about half the size of a rugby field.  Public open space, like parks, has significant benefits for health and wellbeing. Local parks need to be large enough to support physical activity to realise these benefits. We’ve got an opportunity to plan for public open spaces that support physical and recreational activity in new urban developments.  A requirement that all Melburnians have close access to a park that’s at least 1.5 hectares would go a long way. Who wouldn’t want a mini Fawkner Park on their doorstep or a small-scale Edinburgh Gardens a bike ride away?

Read more about the role of parks in liveability here

8.     Designating a portion of new developments for low and moderate income earners

We don’t need to tell you how expensive it is to buy a house or apartment in Melbourne. The provision of capital and income support subsidies for low and moderate income householders would enable more people to access well-located, higher density housing. Experts call this “inclusionary zoning mechanisms” and this approach requires or incentivises developers to set aside a percentage of affordable housing in new developments to support affordable housing choices and neighbourhood diversity. This international best practice approach saw almost 13,000 affordable homes delivered in England in 2015-16. It’s critical this approach is targeted to need so house prices aren’t pushed up, as happened with the first home buyer grant scheme.

Read more about higher density living here

9.     Bringing nature back to our city and suburbs

Bringing nature back to our cities – which is also known as re-naturing – has environmental, social and cultural benefits. Hospitals, health centres, senior citizens centres and schools can benefit from an abundance of plants and greenery. Nature not only increases the health and comfort of students but there’s strong evidence that children who play in school grounds with more biodiversity have improved cognitive development and less behavioural problems. What parent wouldn’t appreciate that?  More broadly, this re-naturing could be part of a state-wide urban greening plan. A plan would present an overall vision for developing Victoria’s green infrastructure, supported by specific greening targets and guidelines.

Read more about nature-based solutions for urban liveability here 

Originally published on RMIT News.