In late October, the Victorian government announced it proposed to build a park and ride facility in Bulleen as part of the North East Link project. It would allow bus users to park their car next to the proposed Eastern Freeway bus way to catch east-or west-bound bus services on the freeway. The location is on existing open parkland bounded by Thompsons Road, the eastbound on-ramp to the Eastern Freeway and the residential Kampman Street. (Melway map 32, E10)
The project, with a price tag of $69 million, would provide an estimated 370 car parking spaces and also allow for bus patrons to be dropped off .and picked up by car.
So, how positive an impact would the 370 car parking spaces have on the public transport system? Not much it seems.
On each weekday, there are typically about 20,000 passenger movements on Eastern Freeway route bus services. The new park and ride facility will only provide for 370 cars. And the additional new bus patrons that would be attracted is likely to be much less than that. Many of those likely to use the park and ride would be existing bus patrons who already drive their car to catch buses at other locations, including the existing park and ride facility on Doncaster Road.
It is a fact that many of the route bus services that connect with the Eastern Freeway services to Melbourne CBD are poorly designed and infrequent. There is no route bus service on Bulleen Road north of the Eastern Freeway. The so-called “Manningham Mover” 280/282 service is badly designed and caters for next to no passengers.
Upgrade to public transport needed
If the Victorian government was really interested in spending $69 million on public transport in the area its first priority would be to upgrade route bus service standards in the area. This would take cars off the road network.
In December 2018, the Victorian government announced the purchase of 100 replacement buses for eastern suburban services at a cost of $16 million; that is each bus cost $160,000 each. Thus, for $69 million the Victorian government could purchase an extra 430 buses.
In all probability, the government would not need to spend that much money to significantly enhance route bus patronage in the area, but it does show what a willful waste of public money the park and ride is shaping up to be. What the government should be focusing on is enhancements to the route bus network which allow many more people to walk from their home to catch a good quality bus service, not drive for kilometres to park their car in another residential area already degraded by large volumes of road traffic.
Enquiries made of the North East Link of the use of the existing park and ride facility on Doncaster Road confirms how little transport planning effort has gone into the proposed park and ride in Bulleen. They could not even tell us where trips to that facility actually originate.
There goes the neighbourhood
As far as the effect on the neighbourhood is concerned the project is also a big fail. For decades, residents in Bulleen and North Balwyn have been inflicted with greater levels of road noise and air pollution from increased traffic in the area, principally on the Eastern Freeway.
The proposed park and ride in Bulleen would attract even more traffic into an already busy part of the road network, cheek by jowl with hundreds of residences. This will make daily life even more unpleasant for residents. In announcing the project on October 19, the minister for transport infrastructure, Jacinta Allan, declared the facility to be Victoria’s “first green roof park and ride.” This gilds the lily. The park and ride is to be built on existing parkland. A large concrete structure with a “green” roof is not a net environmental gain. It is greenwashing at its worst.