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Impacts of Planned Activity Centres on Local Employment and Accessibility: Evidence of Progress Toward a Polycentric City

The University of Melbourne
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This project responds to a strong consensus among policy makers, that Melbourne needs to adopt a multi-nodal metropolitan planning strategy in order to foster local economic development, reduce commute burdens on households, and make jobs more accessible to where people live – particularly lower-income and disadvantaged workers. For decades, metropolitan planning strategies have sought to promote non-CBD activity centres in metropolitan Melbourne. Since the 1980s and before, Victoria’s metropolitan urban planners and state governments have been trying to develop activity centres – local job, shopping, and recreational centres that serve the local population. The idea is that activity centres reduce the need for commuters to travel to the city centre, and supply firms with incentives to locale in a jobs cluster, rather than choosing dispersed locations. In theory, there is an overall benefit to commuters and taxpayers, through reduced commutes and more local jobs.

The core focus of this demonstration is to identify spatial patterns in employment locations, commuting behavior, worker job accessibility, and their relationships to each other, in the Northwest Corridor of metropolitan Melbourne. More specifically, we wish to understand whether spatial policies aimed at cluster development have resulted in employment clusters, reduced commuting burdens, or a better set of accessible job choices for workers in the Northwest. Since 2000, strategic plans and statutory policies have included six planned Central Activity Districts (CADs) – later renamed Central Activity Areas (CAAs) – and 131 Activities Areas (AAs). The CAAs were meant to be major centres in Box Hill, Ringwood, Footscray, Frankston, Dandenong, and Broadmeadows, and one regional centre, Geelong. Two of these centres, Footscray and Broadmeadows, are in the Northwest Corridor study area. The cyclical pattern of development, implementation, and revision of metropolitan planning policies provides a convenient analytical backdrop for analysis of the outcomes of the programs. This demonstrator project will provide a metropolitan-wide analysis of clustering policies and their impacts from 1981 to the present, but will emphasise findings for the Northwest region. It is necessary to complete a metropolitan study in order to understand how the Northwest compares to the rest of the metro area. The work will provide descriptive analysis on the relationships between where people live, where they work, and spatial trends in employment and accessibility in Metropolitan Melbourne.

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