INNOVATION

How Melbourne Is Preparing To Be Australia's Biggest City

Step One: Sorting out the traffic and the trains.

09/12/2016 7:52 AM AEDT | Updated 09/12/2016 8:03 AM AEDT
Mick Tsikas / Reuters
Melbourne's rapid growth will make it the largest city in Australia within two decades.

The chief planner of Australia's fastest growing state says we need to change the way we move -- even down to changing how we get to Saturday sport -- to combat growing congestion and transport woes.

City planners, futurists and technologists forecast the future of cities at the Smart Cities And Infrastructure Forum on Monday and Tuesday in Melbourne.

Victorian Planning Authority CEO Peter Seamer told the forum creating localised centres would aid congestion in Melbourne as it grew to a city of 8 million people by 2051.

"The solutions are changing, the way we think about movement is changing," he told the forum.

"Why on Earth do we still ferry our kids from one end of Melbourne to the other so they can play footy?"

Infrastructure Victoria's 30-year plan, tabled in Parliament this week, flagged a new train line to Melbourne Airport, and the revival of the sensationally dumped East-West link at some time during the projected timeframe.

"But the solution to our transport problem is not to build more freeways and railways, but to get people to be doing things closer to where they are," he said.

He said non-CBD areas needed effective transport, businesses located close to housing, high speed broadband and -- importantly for Melburnians -- decent amenities and coffee shops. This would encourage them to stay local and travel less, he said.

Chief Information Officer of Public Transport Victoria Sendur Kathir said for getting over congestion issues, smart transport had a big role to play.

"Melbourne has got one of the biggest population growth spurts in the country. We're going to overtake Sydney in 20 or 30 years, and there's only so much road space to go around," he told The Huffington Post Australia.

"It's a wicked problem; we can't put any more trains on our lines because they're at capacity already, so there's a lot of investment going on with our infrastructure so we can get more services on our busiest corridors."

Victoria State Government
Victoria is set to be the most populous Australian state by 2051.

He said the government agency had made publicly available the data on public transport, routes and timetables, which had led to a number of private operators creating useful transport apps to help people get from A to B.

Kathir said when people were given accurate and timely options to be able to make a decision, they were less likely to just jump in the car.

"You need good information, and you need to give it to people when they need it otherwise it's too late.

"You want to know, do I hop onto a bus, catch a tram, hail a taxi or get an Uber. You want to know what your alternatives are within seconds or minutes."

Director of the ACT's smart city program Brook Dixon said smart parking solutions had helped congestion in Canberra.

An app allows drivers to see where there are free bays in real time, thanks to infrared sensors, and to top up the parking meter remotely.

"There have been big changes in people's behaviour, and less congestion," Dixon told the Forum.

"It might seem pretty banal but this is where 'smart cities' comes into its own."

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