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The west has Melbourne’s worst commutes – four hours a day across town

The Age, 7 March 2018
It’s 8.56am and Victoria Rogan is already anxious. She’s on the first leg of a hellish, two-hour journey from her Wyndham Vale home to Monash University in Clayton: a cross-city trip involving a car, two trains and a bus.

It’s been 45 minutes since she boarded the crowded V/Line Geelong train, and commuters have been warned of a 15-minute delay.

If her train doesn’t make it to Flinders Street within 10 minutes, the 22-year-old marketing student will miss her connection and run late to her first class of the year; three late arrivals can trigger a fail in her subject. She estimates that a third of her journeys are plagued by delays, which have caused her to miss tests and assignments in the past.

“It’s so stressful,” says Victoria, as she nervously checks the time on her phone.

Victoria is one of many thousands of people in Melbourne’s rapidly growing west who, thanks to a lack of alternatives, are forced to rely on cars to get around. Call them the “transport poor”.

Victoria spends about four hours a day commuting on public transport. Tomorrow, she will cut her travel time in half, when instead of a myki, she’ll pick up her keys and drive.

It will cost her hundreds of dollars in university car parking, petrol, tolls and servicing, but it will be cheaper than paying for rent in a property close to university.

“It’s way too expensive to move out,” she says.

“Especially if I want to be able to buy a house or apartment.”

Plus, she will claw back valuable time spent commuting on public transport, with the 55-kilometre drive along the congested Monash Freeway proving faster, even in peak-hour.

Dal Zomi lives in Rockbank, a sprawling new suburb about 20 kilometres north of Hoppers Crossing, and he had no choice but to take out a $6000 loan to buy a Toyota.

Dal walked about 35 minutes every dawn to his local station for weeks, because the bus service to the station arrived after his train left.

An Uber or taxi ride to the station was too pricey for the automotive industry apprentice, so two weeks ago, he bought a car.

“Walking made me very tired in the morning,” says Dal, a refugee from Myanmar. “It was not very good for my health; it made me cough.”

Dal lives in the municipality of Melton, which, along with Wyndham, has been listed among five spots in Melbourne where public transport is least accessible, an analysis by RMIT’s Centre for Urban Research reveals.

Bulging satellite suburbs on Melbourne’s western edge such as Rockbank have developed faster than anyone predicted, and outpaced the supply of basic services – most crucially, public transport.

About half of Melbourne’s growth to 6 million people by 2031 will see people move to growth areas in the west, north and south-east, but official figures show the greatest surge will hit Melbourne’s west, which, by 2051 will have absorbed an extra 920 000 people. That’s the size of five Geelongs.

Only 13 per cent of people in Wyndham and 4 per cent in Melton live 400 metres from a public transport service that runs every half hour.

It’s a far cry from the leafy inner-city suburbs where, in the cities of Port Phillip, Melbourne and Yarra, more than 80 per cent of people live within walking distance of a reliable train, tram or bus.

And it’s certainly miles away from reaching a state government target of 95 per cent of residences in each local area located within walking distance from public transport.