Merrifield Connect feature in the Herald Sun
Merrifield developer creates its own public transport system.
MELBOURNE’S booming new housing estates are swelling so fast they’re leaving public transport and infrastructure behind.
So one of the city’s developers has taken matters into its own hands and made its own public transport system.
From January 30, a bus service will link the Merrifield development in Mickleham with local schools, shops and Craigieburn train station.
Believed to be a first for the state, the development by MAB and Gibson Property Corporation has scheduled its own transit until the state-run services can catch up.
Merrifield project director Matt Planner said the idea, which had taken a few years to come to fruition, would connect with Metro timetables at Craigieburn train station and had been cleared to use existing bus stops where possible.
“It’s really about providing the stepping stones to the services that will come in the fullness of time, but allowing the community and residents to benefit from them in the short term,” Mr Planner said.
The service will cost residents $20 a year and will run at peak travel periods in the morning and afternoon, with demand from families, school kids and commuters already strong.
Mr Planner said more than 50 people had paid for the service prior to its launch, with 25 seats available on the bus — but they would reassess this based on demand, with Merrifield expected to house more than 30,000 people once complete.
“There’s been a lot of thought go into the route, but we will certainly be listening to the community about the service,” Mr Planner said.
It was hoped demand for the bus service would help fast track government plans for permanent public transport features in the area, he added: “We expect the patronage will help provide a reason for the government to create more permanent services in the long run.”
Providing the service at an earlier stage is also expected to encourage more people to commute long-term.
“Behaviour patterns can be established early on, so having the service that typically doesn’t exist in these growing communities should give people choice,” Mr Planner said.
He urged other developers, and even community groups, to consider setting up their own public transport systems.
Merrifield resident Mandy Glassey, who’ll be among those to take advantage of the service, said she was looking forward to becoming a commuter after driving three hours a day to her job in South Melbourne.
“Getting a train will mean I can get some time back,” Ms Glassey said.
“I would have survived without it, but it might have meant I looked for other work.”
A Transport for Victoria spokesman said the government was working to improve public transport across the state, but was supportive of communities identifying solutions to local transport challenges.
“The Government is investing in new and better bus networks across metropolitan and regional areas as the population and demand for public transport services grows,” he said.
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Originally published in Herald Sun on 29 January 2018