Where do people in Melbourne go to work?

Sat 23 April, 2011

[Updated in August 2011 with a better map format, and now maps for 21 SLAs]

In an earlier post, I looked at where employees come from for some major employment destinations around Melbourne. This post does the flip-side: What are the work destinations for people in different parts of Melbourne? How well does the current public transport network connect people to where they work? What implications does this have for the proposed rail lines to Doncaster and Rowville?

I’ll take a detailed look at Rowville, Manningham, and Berwick, and a briefer look at Altona, Broadmeadows, Cranbourne, and Sunshine.

About the maps

I’ve used a dataset of that contains the volumes of people commuting each SLA (Statistical Local Area) to destination zones in Melbourne from the 2006 census (with thanks to the Department of Transport). I’ve then trimmed each destination zone to keep only areas where employment activity would be expected (using ABS mesh blocks). That is, I’ve removed parklands, residential areas, etc.

Then I’ve used dot distribution mapping, where each dot represents 10 or 15 employee destinations (depending on the SLA). I’ve also overlaid each SLA’s percentage share of journey to work destinations from the SLA in question (shaded yellow), to give a broader perspective.


The “Knox (C) South” SLA might as well be called Rowville as that suburb dominates the SLA. The following map shows the density of worker destinations in 2006. (As usual, you’ll need to click to zoom in and see the detail).

There are quite a few dense destinations within the SLA, including (hyperlinks are to Melway maps):

Nearby destinations to the west include:

Major destinations to the north and south include:

Further afield there are concentrations in:

You’ll also find that most schools in and near Rowville show up on the map.

Rowville is only served by buses for public transport, but there are now direct connections from Rowville to most of these destinations, particularly following the introduction of SmartBus routes 900 (west to Clayton, Oakleigh, Chadstone and Caulfield) and 901 (north Knox and Ringwood, and south to Dandenong and Frankston). The 900 was a completely new route, and the 901 an upgrade of an existing route, both occurring after the 2006 census.

However neither of those routes operate east of Stud Road, where most Rowville residents are located. Those people need to change buses at Stud Park Shopping Centre, which is not easy as most local bus routes in eastern Rowville run every 30 minutes in the peak (and are highly indirect). You can see the local network on the Metlink public transport map for the Rowville area:

The recent Bus Service Review in the area did propose route 900 be extended east towards Ferntree Gully which would introduce a direct public transport connection to many of the major employment destinations for local residents.

Notable destinations not well connected by public transport include:

  • The Caribbean Business Park in Scoresby (marked Caribbean Gardens on the above map): The only access by public transport is the 753 and 693 bus routes at the northern edge. There are around five trips per hour combined in the AM peak, but the headway becomes 30 minutes later in the AM peak. This business park only has one entrance road and is away from major public transport routes making it difficult to service. It is however conveniently located next to Eastlink, and obviously has a high car dependence. They just need to hope oil prices stay cheap. Well, cheap-ish.
  • The Notting Hill industrial area around Ferntree Gully Road: People wanting to get to jobs in this area need to change buses. The current network allows you to reach Notting Hill by changing between bus routes that operate every 15 minutes (which could be worse).
  • The Tally Ho business park in Burwood East (corner Burwood Highway and Springvale Road): This is at the intersection of a SmartBus route and a tram line, so there is relatively good public transport to the site. However the challenge is the distance involved, and from Rowville a transfer is required between SmartBus routes.
  • The Bayswater industrial area: This is only directly connected from Rowville by three extended trips on bus route 691 in the AM peak. In the PM peak, no trips run through from Bayswater to Rowville, so a transfer is required at Boronia.
  • The Valley Private Hospital, which is just across Dandenong Creek in Mulgrave but not near any bridges.
  • The Coles Headquarters in Tooronga (Glen Iris). This employment centre is only really serviced by one bus route (624), or a lengthy (and hilly) walk from Tooronga train station or the Burke Road tram (72).
  • The Box Hill CAD, again some distance away. Can be reached with a bus-bus or bus-train transfer (about 1 hour on PT).
  • The St Kilda Road employment area is hard to reach (particularly adjacent to Albert Park). You either have to go to Flinders Street and catch a tram south (an indirect journey), get off a train at Armadale and transfer to a slow tram, or change from train to tram at South Yarra (but this only serves the northern end of the patch). Again, this looks like more evidence to support a new PT route from South Yarra Station to the Albert Park section of St Kilda Road (and possibly beyond). This was recommended as part of the Bus Service Review for the area.

The first two of these destinations are along Ferntree Gully Road, and so it might be tempting to try to run a new bus route from Rowville along Ferntree Gully Road. But rather than trying to pair all origins and destinations with direct bus routes (creating a large confusing network of low-frequency bus routes), maybe the answer lies in better frequency on the 693 (or more even headways between the 693 and 753) to reduce transfer penalties. Another improvement would be to introduce a stop on the four express route 754 trips, should that be deemed acceptable by the powers that be(!). The 754 express bus used to be the fastest way from Rowville to the CBD, but this is no longer the case following the introduction of the 900 SmartBus (in 2006).

The following table shows the total numbers of journeys to work to the top SLA destinations, and the public transport mode share

Destination SLA Journeys PT share
Knox (C) – South 2368 2%
Monash (C) – Waverley West 1128 2%
Gr. Dandenong (C) – Dandenong 1035 1%
Knox (C) – North-East 897 1%
Monash (C) – South-West 831 2%
Gr. Dandenong (C) Bal 829 1%
Kingston (C) – North 815 1%
Melbourne (C) – Inner 800 57%
Knox (C) – North-West 753 4%
Monash (C) – Waverley East 591 4%
Melbourne (C) – Remainder 430 23%
Whitehorse (C) – Box Hill 319 3%
Maroondah (C) – Croydon 305 0%

The City of Melbourne is the only destination with any serious PT mode share, which is important to keep in mind considering the above analysis. Perhaps the mode share for some of the directly connected destinations may have risen since 2006 due to the new SmartBus routes. But then maybe public transport will always struggle to compete with plentiful free employee parking (that employers are paying for).

What does this mean for a rail line to Rowville?

If rail were to run via Wellington Road, certainly it would connect Rowville to a number of its major employment destinations to the west. However if the rail ended at Stud Park Shopping Centre, there would still be a transfer problem for most people who live in the eastern part of Rowville (something that can be more easily fixed by extending existing SmartBus route 900). It would not also be an ideal park and ride station, being an activity centre with limited land space.

1450 people from Rowville commuted to the City of Melbourne, and a further 2550 commuted to the City of Monash, a total of 4000 trips (exactly, as it happens). If the train line achieved a 50% share of all travel to Melbourne and Monash (2000 people), that is 3 trains at comfortable loading from Rowville. Of course there would be additional demand from other areas along the route, and for trips to other destinations. But then again not all destinations in Monash and Melbourne would be well served by the rail line (eg Glen Waverley).

The Rowville Railway Prefeasibility Study 2004 (commissioned by Knox Council), simply assumed 7% of peak period journeys to work in the line’s catchment would use the train (refer page 38), without checking census data about where Rowville residents currently work (though it turns out that many do work along the rail line). They arrived at a figure of 3360 journeys to work by Rowville rail, using a total catchment population of 100,000 (allowing for park and ride), shown in the map below.

They assumed 70% of these would be within one hour and then calculated an “hourly” peak patronage estimate of 2352 trips. They described this figure as the patronage per hour in the peak, but this is a little misleading because the other 30% of journeys to work by train (1008) would be outside the busiest hour of the peak. Assuming a three hour AM peak, it might be around 500 for the first and third peak hours. Not a lot of demand.

Obviously university students and people travelling for other non-work purposes would add to these commuter figures, but I am not sure whether there will be sufficient demand to justify the cost of grade-separated heavy rail to a low-density area of Melbourne that is a not an urban growth area. While the residential densities in the catchment are not the lowest in Melbourne, there are large areas of parkland and other non-residential land use that dilutes the average density of the catchment (an issue that equally applies to the proposed Knox tram extension). A shorter line as far as Monash University might be more viable.

In addition, the study assumed a large park and ride catchment. For many people in this catchment, the car travel time saving of having a park and ride train station slightly closer on the Rowville line would be quite small. I suspect many of these trips will be diverted park and ride from the Dandenong and Glen Waverley lines, rather than trips mode shifted to public transport.

Alan Davies, on his Melbourne Urbanist blog has suggested that perhaps such a rail line should veer to the north to capture more of the Notting Hill employment area (and possibly also Chadstone Shopping Centre). Looking at the current employment destinations, there would appear to be some merit in this idea, as long as it still served Monash University. Although without a reservation in place, it would probably require a very expensive tunnel.

Perhaps in a future post I could look at the destinations of a broader catchment of the proposed Rowville rail line (although my dataset only has origins at the SLA level). Alas, I’m doing this in my own time, so I will have to see how I go.

Hopefully we will get a better feel for the economics in the upcoming study into Rowville rail.

Manningham West

The Manningham West SLA captures the main residential half of Manningham, centred around Doncaster, Templestowe and Donvale. Here is a map showing the employment destination densities for Manningham west residents:

Within the SLA, you can see various pockets of destination density, all of which are either shopping areas or schools. In fact, Manningham lacks any significant industrial areas, large medical facilities, or tertiary education institutions. Only 16% of Manningham west workers went to a job located within Manningham west (but this is not actually very low compared to other SLAs in Melbourne, perhaps the subject of future post).

Nearby major destinations include:

Major destinations further afield include:

  • Kew Junction
  • Hawthorn/Camberwell corridor, along Burwood Road/Camberwell Road, including Swinburne University
  • inner northern suburbs (Carlton/Fitzroy)
  • Melbourne CBD
  • St Kilda Road (particularly the Albert Park section)
  • Royal Melbourne Hospital and the Children’s Hospital in Parkville

In terms of public transport access to employment, the following destinations are more problematic:

  • Access to Heidelberg is only provided by the 903 SmartBus (although at a 7.5 minute frequency in peak periods making transfers from other routes easier). There is no east-west connection into Heidelberg from the Templestowe area (an issue identified in the bus service review).
  • There is no direct linkage to Ivanhoe, compounded by limited access to Heidelberg.
  • The hospitals in Parkville (which require two bus transfers, or a tram connection in the CBD)
  • St Kilda Road requires a tram transfer in the CBD. While this is relatively direct, it’s not particularly fast, and the City of Melbourne is planning to remove the tram stops at the corner of Swanston and Lonsdale Streets, the transfer point for such commuters (this is in fact the busiest tram-bus transfer location in all of Melbourne).

Until recently, the “Golden Mile” along Whitehorse Road had very little public transport coverage, but SmartBus route 901 now connects large parts of Manningham with this area (and Ringwood).

The following table shows the major SLA destinations:

Destination SLA Journeys PT share
Manningham (C) – West 5773 4%
Melbourne (C) – Inner 3819 53%
Melbourne (C) – Remainder 2421 20%
Whitehorse (C) – Box Hill 1768 8%
Yarra (C) – North 1201 9%
Banyule (C) – Heidelberg 1161 2%
Whitehorse (C) – Nunawading W. 1081 3%
Port Phillip (C) – West 902 17%
Boroondara (C) – Hawthorn 882 4%
Darebin (C) – Preston 874 2%
Monash (C) – Waverley West 834 2%
Melbourne (C) – S’bank-D’lands 742 33%
Yarra (C) – Richmond 715 9%

What does this mean for a rail line to Doncaster?

Certainly a railway between Doncaster and the city would connect Manningham West to many of its employment destinations in the inner city area.

The journey to work destination SLAs that would be served by a Doncaster railway (Melbourne Inner, Southbank/Docklands, Yarra (North and Richmond) and maybe half of Melbourne remainder) would cover around 8000 trips on 2006 census figures. If the public transport mode share to these SLAs was the same as for trips from all origins (other than the inner city and Manningham west), then that would be around 3900 journeys to work journeys by public transport, or around five comfortably full trains. Over a three hour peak period, that would require less than two trains per hour. However, adding non-work related trips, you might justify three trains per hour in the peak from Doncaster. This would be much less frequent than most train lines in Melbourne.

Doncaster rail also faces similar challenges to Rowville rail, in that most of the catchment would need to use car or bus to access the train line (assuming a Doncaster train line terminated at Doncaster Hill. Already a large regional shopping centre, there would be little room for park and ride, and commuter parking is probably the last sort of inactive land use you want in a major activity centre anyway.

Which would mean buses would need to be the primary access mode for train passengers. This introduces a transfer to most trips, when compared to current direct to city bus services available to most people in Manningham. Transfers bring walking and waiting times, and inconvenience and risk of missed connections (all up what transport planners call transfer penalties).

The Eddington East West Link Study includes an appendix summarising their assessment of mass transit options for Doncaster (appendix C, pages 272-8). It reports a heavy rail line would provide a journey time of 25-30 minutes from Doncaster Hill to Melbourne Central, and that a bus service with high levels of bus priority could complete the trip in 25-35 minutes. SmartBus route 907 is currently timetabled to take around 39 minutes between Doncaster Hill and Melbourne Central in the AM peak, so it would appear the study team anticipated greater bus priority.

Introducing a bus-train transfer to trips to the city would require maybe 5 minutes of transfer time, plus a transfer penalty to account for the inconvenience and missed transfer risk (particularly if trains only run every 15-20 minutes). The journey time advantage of heavy rail quickly evaporates when you include a bus-train transfer to most journeys. You would also need a large bus terminal capable of holding maybe 10-15 feeder buses all meeting the same train if you want to minimise transfer times.

I suspect the lack of compelling travel time savings, and relatively low transport demand will make it difficult to justify the capital cost of Doncaster rail, especially considering the tunnelling required when the line leaves the Eastern Freeway catchment (Eddington estimated a cost of $1.7-2b). This was the finding of Eddington study, but the detail of their analysis was unfortunately not published. And now we are going to have yet another study.

Another factor limiting demand on the corridor is the lack of specialised destinations (such as hospitals or universities) in Manningham to create demand outside commuter peak flows. For example, only 245 people reported commuting from Melbourne or Yarra to Manningham west in the 2006 census, and only 22 of them did so by public transport.

Of course building a train line would change land use patterns, which would probably increase the travel demand from what it was in 2006. But would this increase be enough to return a favourable benefit-cost ratio? And is the railway being built to meet existing latent demand, or create new demand?


The Berwick SLA (part of Casey) is in Melbourne’s outer south eastern suburbs, and is still seeing urban growth.

The major local destinations include:

The biggest nearby destinations include:

Further afield destinations include:

Here is part of the Metlink map showing the Berwick area:

Notable destinations not well connected by public transport include:

  • The industrial area of Hallam. Bus route 828 almost reaches the Hallam industrial area, but then deviates north to residential areas (and I’m not advocating a change, by the way). Otherwise Hallam station is the south-east corner of the area.
  • The large employment area of Dandenong South. Reopening and providing pedestrian access to General Motors Station might help provide access to some parts (it is now ironically abutted by a large employee car park) (see wikipedia if you are interested in the history of this station). The bus service review for the area advocated new east-west routes from Berwick to Dandenong South, which would obviously greatly assist in connecting employees to workplaces. The bus network in Casey was upgraded in late 2010, but no east-west routes were introduced.
  • The Clayton/Mulgrave/Notting Hill industrial area is again a problem area. Some parts are near to train stations (providing a direct connection), but most require a change to a bus. For someone not living near a train station in Berwick, the journey would be bus-train-bus, which would not compete well with the car (especially with free parking). I do wonder if a direct bus service (with express running in between) might be viable.
  • Caribbean Gardens Business Park (see Rowville discussion)
  • The Coles headquarters(see Rowville discussion)
  • St Kilda Road (see Rowville discussion)

The following Metlink map shows the lack of east-west bus services across the rail line between the residential and employment areas:

A number of people travel long distances to get to work from Berwick, where public transport will struggle to compete with the car, due to low average bus speed as much as anything. I’ll look at average travel distances in another post.

Here are the volumes and public transport mode shares for major destination SLAs:

Destination SLA Journeys PT share
Casey (C) – Berwick 5934 2%
Gr. Dandenong (C) – Dandenong 3650 3%
Gr. Dandenong (C) Bal 2902 2%
Kingston (C) – North 2058 2%
Casey (C) – Hallam 1856 2%
Monash (C) – Waverley West 1367 1%
Monash (C) – South-West 1299 5%
Melbourne (C) – Inner 1232 73%
Cardinia (S) – Pakenham 1028 4%
Casey (C) – Cranbourne 1000 1%
Knox (C) – South 872 0%
Frankston (C) – West 631 1%
Melbourne (C) – Remainder 622 39%

Again, only the CBD shows up with large public transport mode share, although curiously Monash South West is at 5% (almost entirely involving train).

Other SLAs

For interest, I have looked at a few other SLAs around Melbourne. I’ll discuss these briefly in terms of problematic public transport access to employment.



This map shows some problem areas for public transport access, including:

  • Large parts of the industrial areas within the SLA, which have no service at all. Particularly the Toyota factory on Grieve Parade (okay, it does have bus route 232, but that only runs to/from the Melbourne CBD on a few peak period trips).
  • Victoria University Newport Campus
  • Fishermans Bend industrial area (the bus service review recommended route 232 be re-routed along Lorimer Street to improve connectivity to the main employment area)


Public transport doesn’t provide strong service to:

  • The Laverton North/Derrimut industrial area. A new bus route 417 was introduced into this area recently, but it only provides access from Laverton station in the south.
  • Moonee Ponds has a surprising concentration of destinations, and currently a transfer is required at Highpoint to a tram.
  • Fishermans Bend again shows up, with the only access being via the CBD. The recent relocation of Fishermans Bend bus routes to Southern Cross station will certainly assist these people to use public transport.
  • The Altona North industrial area, particularly the Toyota factory on Grieve Parade.
  • Melbourne Airport.


Maribyrnong is quite well connected by public transport to most employment destinations.

However there are some more difficult destinations:

  • Laverton North industrial area (partially connected by bus route 414)
  • Altona industrial area (that has almost no public transport)
  • Fishermans Bend (need to transfer to bus at Southern Cross Station, much less direct than driving)

Melton East

Melton east includes Caroline Springs, Taylors Hill and Hillside. It represents the north-western fringe of contiguous urban Melbourne.

You can see a wide range of work destinations – many a long distance away, suggesting a lack of nearby employment opportunities is an issue.

There are many popular work destinations difficult to reach by public transport, including:

  • Laverton North and Altona industrial areas
  • Melbourne Airport
  • Tullamarine industrial area around Sharps Road (completion of SmartBus route 902 would assist)
  • Somerton industrial area (902 completion would assist, although this is a long distance to travel)


27% of destinations are within the City of Melbourne.

Popular destinations difficult to reach by public transport include:

  • The Altona industrial area
  • Fishermans Bend (which can be reached much more directly by car)

Other SLAs – North


Public transport doesn’t provide strong service to:

  • The Tullamarine industrial area around Sharps Road/Airport Drive. The Green orbital SmartBus (902) would close this gap if extended to Werribee as originally planned.
  • The Tullamarine industrial area near the airport along Melrose Drive (served by the infrequent 478/479 bus routes, for which an upgrade was promised in May 2010 following the Bus Service Review, but still not delivered as at July 2011)

The recent extension of SmartBus routes 901 and 902 will have greatly improved public transport access to the Somerton/Campbellfield industrial area, and access to Airport West.

You can see a smattering of dots over the land covered by Melbourne Airport and the adjacent industrial area to the south. Because this is all one destination zone, the employement is diluted across the zone, whereas in reality the employment will be concentrated around the terminals and industrial area.

We know that a lot of Melbourne Airport workers come from nearby suburbs, including Broadmeadows. The recent extension of SmartBus route 901 has significantly improved access to Melbourne Airport from the Broadmeadows area. Although its current bus stop at the airport is unfortunately quite a distance from all the terminals!


Sunbury is a satellite urban area north-west of Melbourne, with most of this SLA being rural land and 21% of Sunbury SLA residents work in Sunbury itself.

Around 9% of commuters worked in and around Melbourne Airport (distributed over a large destination zone in the map, refer discussion in Broadmeadows section above). There are bus services between Sunbury and Melbourne Airport but they operate very infrequently (a service upgrade has been promised).

A significant number also work in the Somerton industrial area, which is not directly connected by public transport – and would be difficult to be connected efficiently.


The vast majority of residents in this SLA live in the suburbs along the eastern edge of the SLA (including the Greenvale area to the east of the “14” label). The rest of the SLA is mostly rual land, although it includes Melbourne Airport and an adjacent industrial area in Tullamarine.

Work destinations difficult to reach by public transport include:

  • Melbourne Airport
  • Industrial areas in Tullamarine and Airport West
  • Thomastown (although it can be reached via Broadmeadows on SmartBus 902)

Moreland north

This SLA is mostly made up of the suburbs of Glenroy and Hadfield.

The biggest destination is Broadmeadows to the immediate north. Connectivity to the north is limited to the two train lines, and two bus routes (one very infrequent). The northern part of the Somerton industrial area can only be reached by public transport with a transfer between relatively infrequent routes.


A significant proportion of Brunswick residents travelled to the south, including the Melbourne CBD.  There are no significant destinations that are difficult to reach by public transport.


The only work destination somewhat difficult to reach by public transport is the Carlton/Parkville area, as half of peak period trains do not stop at Victoria Park station, which provides a transfer opportunity to high frequency buses to Carlton.

Other SLAs – eastern and south-eastern


Ringwood has direct public transport links to most destinations, including those along the railway line to the city, and the 742 bus to the Notting Hill area. The Bayswater industrial area and St Kilda Road commercial area are a little more difficult to reach by public transport.


A significant destination for Croydon SLA residents is the Bayswater and Bayswater North industrial areas. The lack of a bus service along Colchester Road would make this area difficult to reach by public transport for a number of workers.

A significant number of destinations were along the Lilydale/Ringwood train line, making public tranpsort access relatively easy.

A fair number of people commuted to the Clayton/Notting Hill industrial area, and as it happens, bus route 737 connects Croydon to this area (although travel times would not be short).

Melbourne’s CBD only accounts for 5% of work destinations from Croydon.


There are a number of popular destinations difficult to reach by public transport:

  • Just to the north of the station is an industrial area that is beyond walking distance of public transport (around Beresford Road).
  • Curiously, the southern most part of the suburb of Kilsyth – a rural area (this might actually mostly be the Boral quarry on Cantebury Road, which is connected by bus 679).
  • The Bayswater industrial area.
  • The eastern part of Mount Evenlyn and Wandin North (again, most of this land is rural so the actual employment might be in spot concentrations within the destination zone).

Knox – north east

A significant proportion of workers had destinations in Bayswater/Bayswater North industrial areas, Knox City and around Boronia station. Most popular destinations are actually connected by public transport from significant parts of the SLA.

Knox – North west

There is some degree of public transport connection to most destinations, although parts of Bayswater North are more difficult to reach.

Only 6% of residents in this SLA work in the Melbourne CBD. A tram extension to Knox City would connect some employment destinations along the way, but would not be an effective way to reach the Melbourne CBD by public transport given the distance and slow speed (bus+train would be faster).


The standout issue for this SLA is Dandenong South. There is only one bus route connecting the SLA with just parts of Dandenong South industrial area. From the distribution of dots it appears that around 1 in 5 Cranbourne commuters travelled to Dandenong South.

The recent bus service review recommended much better east-west connectivity, but this was not done in the late 2010 upgrade to Casey bus services (unfortunately you wont find the detail in the executive summary of the bus service review, you have to order the full report from the Department of Transport).

Access to the Clayton/Mulgrave/Notting Hill and Braeside industrial areas, and St Kilda Road employment area is also problematic, for the same reasons as outlined for Rowville.


Unfortunately analysis of census journey to work data was not done in this level of detail in the 2007-2009 Bus Service Reviews across Melbourne. Hopefully my analysis can now provide greater evidence to support public transport planning.