Where do the employees come from? (Melbourne 2006)

If we want to improve transport options into employment areas, it helps to know where the employees are coming from.The answers are in the gold mine that is census journey to work data.

This post maps where employees come from for major employment destinations around Melbourne, and looks at whether public transport is servicing these areas well. The CBD will be the subject of a separate post.

About the maps

Skip this section at your own peril – there’s some important things to keep in mind:

  • For each employment centre I have generated two or three maps:
    • the number of commuter trips originating in each SLA – ie where do the workers live?
    • the private transport mode share for commuter trips from each SLA. While I often look at public transport mode share, that doesn’t account for walking/cycling for shorter trips, and car trips are really what we need to reduce. Car mode share is only shown for an SLA where there are more than 100 originating trips, Note that given census data never reports values of 1 or 2 (for privacy reasons), we need to be careful about reported car mode shares that are 97%+.
    • for inner city areas only: the number of private transport based trips originating from each SLA (a high car mode share might not be such an issue if there aren’t many car trips being made).
  • I have used an SLA-to-destination zone journey to work dataset from the 2006 census (with thanks to the Victorian Department of Transport).
  • I have defined each employment area as a collection of destination zones, and then looked at the SLA origins for people working in those areas. These employment areas are shown in black shading on the maps.
  • On the maps showing quantities, shading represents relative density while the numbers are absolutes for each SLA. Some SLAs have larger areas and/or populations than others. For outer metro SLAs (which are often only partially urbanised) the density figures will always be low, but the concentration within the urban are might be higher. In an ideal world I would use density of residential areas only, but that takes a fair bit of work and I do this blogging in my own time. So you need to interpret those carefully.
  • The private transport mode share maps use the same colour scale for mode share values (hence some are very green and some very red).
  • As usual, you will need to click to enlarge maps.

Inner City Destinations

South Melbourne employees by SLA:

You can see large sources from the inner southern suburbs, particularly to the east and south.

South Melbourne private transport commuter mode share:

In general only about half commuters come by car, but this includes the nearby inner southern suburbs, despite being directly connected by tram routes. Perhaps the high car mode share reflects relative ease of parking and some awkwardness in getting to all parts of South Melbourne via public transport (for many it would require changing trams at Domain Interchange). A previous post showed that car mode share varied from 35% near Flinders Street Station up to 58% along St Kilda Road, and 67% in the south-west.

Car mode share is 87% from Point Cook/Werribee South (227 commuters) and Rowville (188 commuters), both of which lacked good radial public transport connections (Rowville is now served by a SmartBus direct to Huntingdale Station). Another high car share area is the affluent suburbs in Bayside, particularly south of the Sandringham train line (refer previous post).

South Melbourne employees commuting by private transport, by SLA:

This third picture is interesting:

  • The highest car origin density is still from the inner southern and south-eastern suburbs, on relatively short trips where public transport is generally frequent and direct (although not always fast).
  • There are many cars coming from the inner north and Williamstown, which requires crossing the city or Westgate Bridge.

Perhaps the number of cars coming from the inner south-eastern suburbs could be reduced if it were possible to travel by public transport directly to more parts of South Melbourne? Tram 8 does provide a link from South Yarra station to St Kilda Road (you can then change again to tram 55), but perhaps better access is required to other parts of South Melbourne?

Or perhaps it is more to do with ease of parking arrangements?

I’ve had a look at VISTA 2007 data for the Docklands/Southbank SLA – although the sample is very small so need to treat this with caution!

Only 41% involved self-paid parking of a personal car. Another 21% was free parking of personal cars, while 38% involved employer parking and/or company cars. While this is a very small sample, it suggests ease of parking is quite probably a strong determinant of car mode share. I’ll do a similar analysis for the CBD in an upcoming post where there is a larger sample (n=250).

Parkville employees by SLA:

The major sources for Parkville are the inner northern suburbs, which is not surprising. People tend to work and live on the same side of the city because transport is usually easier. Parkville is not directly served by the rail city loop for those coming from the south.

The proposed metro rail tunnel would connect the Sunbury/Sydenham line (north-western suburbs) to Parkville direct. However, the maps shows that the north-western suburbs are not currently a major source of Parkville employees (there will be students as well of course). This may of course change once the line is open, but it does present a patronage challenge to the project.

The relatively high catchment along the Epping and Hurstbridge lines suggests a more direct link from there to Parkville might have some potential for public transport mode shift. Already there is a high frequency bus service along Johnston Street which connects to Victoria Park Station on these lines. However, only half of peak period trains stop at Victoria Park station at present.

Parkville private transport commuter mode share:

(17/1 – this map has now been corrected since original posting)

A standout is Moonee Valley West at 87%. Not quite sure what is going on there – although most residents would have had to catch a bus, train and tram to get to Parkville by public transport in 2006. Such a trip would still involve two transfers now, but to a more direct and high frequency route 401 bus at North Melbourne station.

Car mode share is also high to the east in Boroondara and Manningham and in the outer western and northern suburbs. Being effectively on the same side of the city would make car commuting relatively easier.

Those coming from the south-eastern suburbs would appear to be largely content with public transport, although wealthier Brighton had a higher car mode share.

Parkville employees commuting by private transport, by SLA:

Car mode share and volume is also relatively high from Moonee Valley. While the 59 tram connects these two areas, it is relatively slow. The recently introduced high frequency 401 shuttle bus from North Melbourne to Parkville may have since increase public transport mode share from Moonee Valley workers in the catchment of the Craigieburn rail line.

There are also quite a few cars making the awkward trip from the St Kilda and South Yarra areas. But otherwise they tend to come from nearby suburbs – many of which are directly connected to Parkville (at least from the north).

Fishermans Bend is perhaps one of the most interesting areas in this analysis. It is on the eastern side of the Yarra River and relatively close to the CBD, but take a look at where the employees come from:

Fishermans Bend employees by SLA:

While the densities are highest from the inner southern suburbs, there are actually large numbers from the western suburbs (this is where low average density SLAs impact the results). There are around 3000 Fishermans Bend employees who live on the western side of the Maribyrnong River.

In fact, here is a similar map, except shaded by total number of employees (rather than density):

Most of them come from the western suburbs. And they come by car…

Fishermans Bend private transport commuter mode share:

No wonder the Westgate Bridge is heavily congested. As shown in the figure below (from a report to the City of Melbourne by Paul Mees citing a 2005 VicRoads survey), 34% of cars on the Westgate Bridge exit at Todd Road (the main Fishermans Bend exit) (for trucks the figure was 31%). That’s a third of the traffic on the Westgate Bridge . We seem to have a signficant public transport gap here!

Current public transport access to Fishermans Bend is primarily by bus from the CBD (routes 235/237/238), although one bus (route 232) runs from a small catchment in North Altona over the Westgate Bridge and along the southern edge of the industrial area (Williamstown Road). Driving over the Westgate Bridge would appear to be a more attractive option than the current train-bus option (here is a map of what such a trip can look like). Perhaps a stronger public transport link from the western suburbs is needed, maybe one that connects with the train network in the west. The current route 232 commences from the site of the now closed Paisley railway station, through which about half of Werribee peak period trains pass.

That said, the major bus service from the CBD have been realigned recently to operate from directly outside Southern Cross Station, and Werribee and Williamstown line trains run direct to Southern Cross in the AM peak. However there are still headway gaps of 20-30 minutes during some parts of the AM peak on these routes. It might be possible to slightly increase the frequency of these routes with existing resources if the routes terminated at Southern Cross station instead of Flinders & Market Streets (although I am sure a minority of existing users would not like this). Travelling via Southern Cross might indeed be the fastest way to reach Fishermans Bend by public transport, unless bus services could get priority over the Westgate Bridge (which is currently congested by single occupant cars).

Fishermans Bend employees commuting by private transport, by SLA:

The cars also come from the inner suburbs, including some density from Port Phillip west and St Kilda (which has a direct although infrequent bus service to Fishermans Bend).

Docklands is a fast growing area directly to the west of the CBD. Because of this growth, patterns may well have changed significantly since 2006.

Docklands employees by SLA:

For an employment area on the western side of the CBD, employees tended to live on the eastern side of the city – which is not what you would expect. But if they are coming via public transport, then trains from most parts of Melbourne provide relatively good access to Southern Cross Station, on the eastern edge of Docklands.

Docklands private transport commuter mode share:

Car mode share is significantly higher from the western suburbs, from which it is easier to drive to Docklands, and using public transport requires an indirect journey via Southern Cross.

However North Melbourne Station is only a short distance from Docklands. When the “E-Gate” site is redeveloped, it seems like a perfect opportunity to link the two with quality public transport (maybe a short tram extension, although we’d need a larger tram fleet). This might significantly increase public transport mode share and take pressure off the city loop railway.

Docklands employees commuting by private transport, by SLA:

The car numbers in 2006 were quite low, so we cannot read too much into them.

Suburban Employment Centres

(For subsequent centres, I will only show two maps, as car mode share is very high in most places)

While not a household name, Notting Hill is a relatively job dense area just north of the Clayton campus of Monash University.

Notting Hill employees by SLA:

You can see many workers live to the west, east and nearby north. But note that the two SLAs to the south (Kingston and Greater Dandenong) have a low average population density, so it is likely that the actual density of employees is higher to the south.

However there are also many employees from the Hallam and Berwick parts of Casey (which show as low density given the SLAs have a low urban density). There are fewer local jobs in Casey, meaning workers need to travel longer distances to work.

I would guess that nearby Clayton and Mulgrave industrial areas would show similar patterns (alas, I haven’t had time to analyse these areas).

Notting Hill private transport commuter mode share:

Notting Hill is full of cars (see the car parks on NearMap for yourself).

In 2006 there was a SmartBus route along Blackburn road (the eastern edge) and the 733 bus ran every 15 minutes in the peak on the western edge. East-west bus routes (693 and 742) run more like every 30 minutes in the peak. (All of the timetables hare hardly changed since 2006).

You can see on the map slightly lower car mode shares from the local area, but also up towards Blackburn (89%) – perhaps reflecting the attraction of the SmartBus service.

The south-eastern suburbs present a challenge: how does public transport service people who live in the suburbs of Casey and work in Notting Hill and surrounds? The current public transport system requires transferring from a low-frequency bus to a train, and then another (slightly more frequent) bus. Two transfers will struggle to compete with the car. Indeed, looking at VISTA 2007 data, it seems only 4.8% of public transport journeys from home to work in Melbourne involve two transfers.

There is a school of through that says bus routes should not be designed to connect everywhere to everywhere with a direct route – because you end up with a complex network of infrequent routes (than you would otherwise have with the same resources). However, if there are clear concentration of origins and destinations, might it make sense to run a direct service between the two?

Would a bus route that performs a collection function in Casey, runs express along the Monash freeway, and then performs a distribution function in Clayton/Notting Hill be viable? It may not need to run at a very high frequency, because transfers are not required. Perhaps the only way to find out is to do a trial (at a not insignificant cost). Such a service might not need operate extended hours, particularly if a guaranteed ride home was provided by employers who can otherwise save on parking costs. It would also still be possible to travel home using other public transport routes in off-peak times.

And now for the other major destination of Casey workers…

Dandenong South employees by SLA:

A majority of Dandenong South employees come from Casey to the east, although there are also quite a few from the Frankston area.

I think the lack of an east-west bus route connecting Casey to South Dandenong is probably one of the largely missing links in the Melbourne’s public transport network. Recent focus in the area has been on upgrading north-south bus routes (901 and 857), which will certainly help the a couple of thousand commuters from those corridors. But the 6000 odd employees from the east gained no better access following the December 2010 local bus upgrade.

Dandenong South private transport commuter mode share:

You can see almost universal car dependence for South Dandenong employees. It only drops to 91% in central Dandenong (sorry that number has been obscured by the shaded areas on the map).

Moonee Ponds employees by SLA:

While not recognised as a central activities district (CAD), Moonee Ponds actually has quite a bit of activity, includes some multi-storey office blocks (something other centres could only hope to achieve). Most workers come from the local area, or the nearby north-west.

Moonee Ponds private transport commuter mode share:

The reason I have included Moonee Ponds is the low car mode share from the Brunswick area (to the east). Perhaps this reflects the high frequency east-west bus routes that feed into Moonee Ponds from Brunswick? That said, the number of employees coming from Brunswick is low. Maribyrnong is connected to Moonee Ponds by one tram and two bus routes, but still 79% of people drive.

Central Activities Districts

The Melbourne @ 5 Million urban plan for Melbourne places greater emphasis on six suburban regional centres, to act like CBDs in the suburbs. I’ve taken a look at a couple of these that are perhaps better served by public transport. My earlier post showed many of these centres already have very low public transport mode shares.

Box Hill employees by SLA:

People working in Box Hill largely come from the local area, but from the north (Manningham west) and towards the east along the Lilydale and Belgrave rail lines. This is good – in theory – for the rail system in that it frees up some capacity on citybound trains in the morning.

But do they use public transport to get there?

Box Hill private transport commuter mode share:

Unfortunately not – car mode share is 85%+ for most of the eastern catchment. It drops to 59% in the Box Hill SLA itself – probably a combination of walking and bus access.

In 2006, 90% of commuters from Manningham west drove. This might have been reduced slightly by the introduction of the 903 SmartBus which runs every 7.5 minutes in the peak (although the previous 291 service was around every 10 mins in the peak). Some local routes connecting Manningham to Box Hill do run frequently in peak periods (eg 279, 286).

Dandenong CAD employees by SLA:

Central Dandenong attracts workers from the local area, particularly to the south and east. No surprises there.

Dandenong CAD private transport commuter mode share:

Car mode share is very high, with slight dips in the central Dandenong SLA (probably a fair amount of walking), the awkwardly U-shaped “Dandenong – remainder” SLA, and slightly lower in Pakenham. Overall Public transport mode share to central Dandenong is most around 4-7% (refer earlier post). It will be interesting to look at 2011 mode share from Frankston and Knox, which are now connected to Dandenong via the 901 SmartBus service.

I have looked at many other employment areas, but for reasons of space and time, I have not included them in this post. Many of those have quite predictable patterns (eg most Footscray employees come from the western suburbs). I’ve attempted to pick out centres with more interesting patterns.

Concluding remarks

I’ve not seen this sort of analysis done elsewhere, and I think it is important evidence to support planning transport systems – particularly public transport.

In the above analysis I’ve identified some “missing links” in Melbourne’s public transport network, including:

  • Casey to South Dandenong
  • Western suburbs to Fishermans Bend (via Westgate Bridge)
  • Casey to Monash industrial area

It might also be worth investigating new links to short-circuit trips to near-CBD locations:

  • North Melbourne station to Docklands
  • South Yarra station to South Melbourne (other than where route 8 runs)
  • More peak trains stopping at Victoria Park station to allow for convenient bus connections to Parkville

But it also looks like ease of car parking is having an impact on public transport mode share. South Melbourne sees many car commuters from nearby suburbs that are well connected by tram. Many areas outside the inner city would offer free employee parking, and driving is likely to be faster than public transport in most cases, particularly where on-road public transport is not insulated from traffic congestion. Unfortunately the census does not include data on who pays for parking and vehicles, so analysis of this issue is limited by the data available.

My next post will focus on the Melbourne CBD, and following that I hope to look at employment destinations of various SLAs (where do the workers go, rather than where they come from).

3 Responses to Where do the employees come from? (Melbourne 2006)

  1. Chris. Seeing results from reasonably PT-accessible but car-oriented centres like Central Dandenong, I find your maps confirm my view that there has to be a strong disincentive to driving.

    Where there is such a disincentive, however, inadequate PT can still push people into cars. That seems to be happening in the inner city. I think it would be really useful to have a much more zoomed-in look at the inner city commutesheds of South Mel, Docklands etc. where you overlay these figures on the Tram+Frequent Bus network. Where you have employees who both live and work at high density where parking is difficult, only inadequate PT would explain poor outcomes.

    Thanks for these. Jarrett


  2. Tony Morton says:

    Interesting charts Chris, probably not terribly surprising though. I think it demonstrates that in Melbourne we have done little to minimise transfer penalties, so the dominant commuting patterns are the ones that can be done easily as unlinked trips. The Notting Hill and Dandenong case studies make this particularly clear. Conversely the example of Parkville (not too accessible by train) shows how PT can increase its mode share even from distant suburbs when the transfer penalties are smaller.


  3. […] an earlier post, I looked at where employees come from for some major employment destinations around Melbourne. […]


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