Melbourne and her sisters: the sustainable future of Australian cities

Victoria state plans more compact cities better connected by public transport.

Melbourne and her sisters in the next twenty years: cities that will be more compact and better connected thanks to a capillary network of public transport. Infrastructure Victoria, the independent analysis center that for the last 30 years has sustained and planned the Australian state’s infrastructure development, points the way to achieving the goal of sustainable cities built around the needs of people. Starting with Melbourne, the state’s metropolis, with its more than 5 million inhabitants who live in less than 10,000 square kilometers.

“The future shape of Melbourne and our regional cities will have big impacts for our quality of life, the economy, and the environment as Victoria grows,” Infrastructure Victoria Chief Executive Jonathan Spear said in the report.

The study, “Choosing Victoria’s future: 5 urban development scenarios,” analyzes how the cities might develop and what great infrastructure works might benefit the development of a modern and livable metropolis.

More compact and connected cities

Infrastructure Victoria’s study considered various different urban development models, from dispersed cities, those that develop with vast suburbs, to so-called “compact cities,” urban conglomerates that develop primarily their centers with a high population density. According to the report, a city like Melbourne, left unchecked, could spread over 30,000 hectares over a few years, forcing its residents to spend 70% more time in traffic compared to now.  In a spread out city, infrastructure investments would also be greater, some 41 billion Australian dollars by 2056, or 59,000 dollars for each new home. On the other hand, compact cities require modern and efficient infrastructure, but developed within a limited amount of territory. That is precisely Melbourne’s case and its current investments in great transport infrastructure that today are guiding the city towards a modern and sustainable urbanization model.

Melbourne's great public works

Melbourne, according to Infrastructure Australia, is certainly at the heart of this new urban development project. Already the city has a capillary transport network, of rail, underground and roads, that connects it internally and externally to rural areas and other cities in the state. Melbourne’s tram network, for example, is one of the more capillary in the world, so much so that its trams have become one of the city’s major tourist attractions. This is boosted by its underground lines, railroads and large highways, that connected it to the rest of the country. In this context, one of the largest projects currently underway is the North East Link, an urban highway that will decrease the city’s congestion, allowing 15,000 trucks a day to bypass the city and cutting commuting times by 35 minutes. The Webuild Group is participating in this work that is Australia’s largest infrastructure project being realized with a public-private partnership. And it is also an example of exactly the kind of urban development promoted by Infrastructure Australia, that is a large road that will free up the city and make it more livable.