Get social to increase density

Almost everyone with an interest in the future development of Melbourne agrees that a key strategy for dealing with unprecedented population growth is to increase the supply of multi unit housing in the suburbs.

Unfortunately there is also a consensus that this objective will be hard to achieve given the near certainty that existing residents will fight tooth and claw to resist new developments in their neighbourhood. Read the rest of this entry »

20 years of TAC campaigns

The Victorian Traffic Accident Commission’s montage of 20 years of road safety advertisements. This is very harrowing. Read the rest of this entry »

“If London can do it, why can’t Melbourne?”

If London can really grow without expanding its urban perimeter, why did our planning Minister, Justin Madden, seek to extend Melbourne’s urban growth boundary last year?

As I noted on Friday (How big is Melbourne?), journalist Jason Dowling says that “forever outward expansion (of Melbourne) is not a necessity. London has barely touched its urban perimeter for decades but has grown in population with better use of old industrial and commercial land”.

There are three aspects of this quote that I wouldn’t accept at face value. Read the rest of this entry »

More on the Windsor Hotel redevelopment

I had a look on the weekend at the report of the independent Advisory Committee established by the Planning Minister, Justin Madden, to advise him on the application for a planning permit for the redevelopment of the Windsor Hotel. I’ve previously commented on this issue, here: Windsor Hotel Redevelopment.

There is some interesting information in this report that so far hasn’t gotten much, if any, airing in the media. It reinforced my earlier view that approval of this development was the right decision. Read the rest of this entry »

The hazards of restricting supply

An object lesson for city policy-makers – this is what happens in Dogtown when supply is restricted. Of course we humans would eliminate the queue by selling the tree to the highest bidder! Read the rest of this entry »

How to ‘green’ the Grand Prix

How could the QANTAS Australian Grand Prix be made greener?

This is a pretext to post on Formula One because the Australian GP is being held in Melbourne this weekend, but it’s nevertheless an interesting question (almost as interesting as this morning’s news that Lewis Hamilton was caught doing donuts in St Kilda last night!). Read the rest of this entry »

How big is Melbourne?

How big is Melbourne really? This issue is ‘front of mind’ this morning because of a recent claim in The Age that Melbourne “is already the eighth largest city in the world in geographical size, stretching about 100 km from east to west”.

This is a common view. In June last year The Age’s editorialist said “Melbourne’s population of 4 million already sprawls across roughly 100 kilometres in all directions, occupying a bigger area than much more populous cities such as London or New York”. Read the rest of this entry »

What role for high-rise towers in Melbourne?

Do high-rise towers have a role in Melbourne’s future? Peter Newman thinks they do!

This report by VECCI, Up or out? dealing with Melbourne’s population boom, nicely summarises two alternative approaches set out in The Age for planning Melbourne’s future growth. Read the rest of this entry »

Signage ‘distorted’ at Eureka carpark

This brilliant signage was designed by Emery Studio (Axel Peemoeller) for the carpark of Melbourne’s own Eureka Tower. The letters are distorted until the viewer is in exactly the right position, whereupon they can be read perfectly. Read the rest of this entry »

Cycling in The Netherlands

Fascinating video of dedicated route followed by children cycling to school in The Netherlands. This gives a perspective on cycling that you wouldn’t get from the standard tourist spots. Note the suburban setting – it ties in with my earlier post arguing that the suburbs have greater potential for cycling than the inner city, not least because it would be easier to fit in this sort of infrastructure. (Hat tip to Tom Vanderbilt) Read the rest of this entry »

Watch what’s happening to Google in China

This isn’t related to urbanism or Melbourne, but it is surely one of the most important unfolding issues of the decade. This site let’s you keep tabs on how the Chinese Government is responding to Google’s ‘provocation’. Pass it on. Read the rest of this entry »

How to clean a Ferrari

I’d like to post something on F1 because the Australian Grand Prix is held in Melbourne and starts in a few days. This’ll do just fine for the moment because it’s about Ferrari. Read the rest of this entry »

Why ‘spare infrastructure capacity’ is exaggerated

Are claims of spare infrastructure capacity in the inner suburbs real?

The Age reports that there were almost 30,000 more people living in Coburg and Pascoe Vale in 1976 than there are now (The Outer Limits). The paper quotes the former Mayor of the City of Moreland, who says that increasing the population density in many areas “is simply returning suburbs to previous population levels”.

The editorialist in The Age of 20 March stated that “some ‘traditional’ inner Melbourne suburbs – such as Coburg, Pascoe Vale and Fitzroy – have fewer residents than they did 50 years ago. Current ‘in-fill’ housing is thus regrowth” (emphasis added).

The idea of course is that there is spare capacity in infrastructure and amenities that can accommodate ‘restoration’ of the historic population level. This would be a good thing because any underutilisation of infrastructure is economically wasteful. It might also minimise further ‘sprawl’ at the urban fringe. Read the rest of this entry »

Transport disadvantage in the suburbs

One of the perennial concerns about suburban sprawl is transport disadvantage. But just how significant is the problem? Most importantly, is it a problem that can only be tackled effectively by ‘abolishing’ fringe growth and replacing it with multi unit housing within established suburbs?

Research done by Currie and Sensbergs and Currie and Delbosc on outer suburban Melbourne gives a sense of the dimensions of this issue. The data shows that 94% of outer suburban households have at least one car and 61% have at least two.

Compared to the 1970s, much of the transport disadvantage associated with outer suburban living has been mitigated by higher car ownership and to some extent by social infrastructure levies on developers.

However disadvantage is usually associated with low incomes. Currie and Sensberg found that 18% of lower income households living in the outer suburbs don’t have a car. They make up around 8% of all outer suburban households or about 1.5% of all  households in Melbourne. They are typically older, retired pensioners living alone and unemployed single mothers in rented accommodation. Read the rest of this entry »

Electric cars could have 10-20% of the market in 10 years

Evan Thornley, the CEO of Better Place Australia, predicted on Inside Business yesterday that plug-in vehicles will have 10-20% of the Australian vehicle market by 2020 and the entire national vehicle fleet will have transitioned from petrol to electricity in 20-25 years. Better Place Australia, which is in the business of providing the support infrastructure for plug-in vehicles,will start in Canberra in late 2011 and will then roll out throughout the country starting late 2012. RACV has taken a $2 million stake in the company.

Google Maps makes an art of traffic

Google Maps seems to have spawned a new genre of digital art. This one, Satellite Car Chase, joins Google Maps to Grand Theft Auto!

Ken Yeang, EDITT Tower

I think the “Garden State” could do with a few buildings that take some inspiration from the planned EDITT Tower in Singapore by Ken Yeang – of course we’d have to have a debate about whether the vegetation was native or exotic: Read the rest of this entry »

Windsor Hotel redevelopment

I’m hard pressed to see what opponents are concerned about with the proposed Windsor Hotel redevelopment. It conforms with the Planning Scheme, it was recommended by the panel and it’s supported by Heritage Victoria (with conditions).

The panel says the redevelopment is necessary for the continued viability and restoration of the historically and architecturally valuable parts of the hotel. It will add more hotel rooms to the city centre, which is good for business and tourism and therefore for jobs and living standards. Read the rest of this entry »

Housekeeping – sources for my OpEd in The Age

A reader of my OpEd in today’s The Age (Problems with fringe-dwellers are peripheral) asked for more information on sources. That sort of technical detail is not welcomed by newspapers. So I’ve set out some of the key sources I’ve used over the fold. I’ve only included those where there is a link on the web (i.e. no gated academic journals). Read the rest of this entry »

Ode to Melbourne

Since the Melbourne Urbanist is mostly about, er…Melbourne…I make no apologies for linking to this puff piece, Ode to Melbourne, by Melbourne-booster Lindsay Tanner. I think there’s some wisdom in his succinct explanation for why Docklands lacks vibrance – “these things sometimes seem to be determined by imperceptible and ethereal factors that no-one can plan for”.