30-minute Melbourne

The road (and rail) to the future of the world’s most liveable city


Generating nearly 80 per cent of our national income, and home to 84 per cent of Australians, our cities are the heart of Australia’s economy.

The future prosperity of Australians depends almost entirely on whether or not our cities thrive. That can happen only when all their citizens feel included, connected and fulfilled.

There are a number of factors that create a sense of inclusivity and connection, including physical access to places and people, jobs, healthcare and other essential services, and entertainment. With population growth pressures adding to the challenge for Melbourne, how do we ensure we take the right road to the future for the world’s most liveable city?


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Why do we talk about a ‘30-minute city’?

Research across different periods of time, countries and cities has consistently shown that people will average no more than 60 minutes’ travel per day. Beyond 60 minutes, behaviours change to reduce travel time back below this threshold. This phenomenon is known as ‘Marchetti’s constant’.

Improved transport has enabled our cities to expand whilst still adhering to this rule. The evolution of public transport and the increased accessibility of personal vehicles has allowed people to access a greater geographical area than ever before. However, we are now reaching a new point for Melbourne where a combination of factors is putting upward pressure on travel time and causing behavioural change.

These behavioural changes impact both the individual and broader society. For example, an individual may choose a job that doesn’t suit their skillset but is located closer to home. Not only are they less happy at work, but the economy and broader society also suffers due to lost productivity. People may choose not to get medical advice or eat fresh fruit and vegetables due to increased travel, putting their individual health at risk and adding strain to our healthcare system in the longer term. The list goes on.


Why is the 30-minute city desirable for Melbourne?

If we move towards a 30-minute city, we not only reduce downside factors but also bring into frame a whole new range of positives. People have more time to exercise and spend money in their local community, they will work in roles that match their interests and skills, and more time is able to be dedicated to supporting the family unit. Benefits include:

  1. Improves liveability and public amenity by reducing congestion, improving accessibility to services and reducing commute times
  2. Increases housing supply by promoting higher density development in close proximity to rail stations and through urban renewal, supporting broader efforts to improve housing affordability. This is especially so where there is provision of CBD-style functions in other metropolitan and regional precincts (based on the unique economic and social strengths of these regions)

  3. Drives productivity growth by improving connections to employment and services, promoting agglomeration economies and contributing to a more efficient transport network, including through the efficient movement of freight

  4. Improves long term sustainability of public infrastructure by increasing utilisation and reducing government subsidy.


What is the current state?

Melbourne faces challenges in maintaining the 30-minute city. We have a monocentric structure where high-order services (e.g. health, education), sporting and cultural amenities, and employment are focused on the CBD.

As our population continues to grow, transport networks (roads and public transport) become increasingly congested and the ability to access services and jobs within 30 minutes drops away dramatically.

Key precincts outside the CBD which could accommodate growth in these high order services and jobs (e.g Fishermen's Bend, Arden McCauley and Monash) are underdeveloped and have varying levels of accessibility.

While the Government is making progress in addressing the issue, the challenge is growing. The Government has a range of current and future transport investments that will improve accessibility for some suburbs that have lower ratings, including Melbourne Metro Stage One and Two, City Loop Split, Western Distributor, North-East Link, Melbourne Airport Rail Link.

Government and the private sector are more strategically planning precincts to harness their economic and social strengths, and to provide well-planned and accessible high-order services, sporting and cultural amenities, and employment.

However, population is growing rapidly and we need to ensure that infrastructure investment and precinct development recognises this. Melbourne had the largest growth of all greater capital cities in the ten years to 2016 (964,600). 

Knowing what we do about the benefits of a 30-minute Melbourne and its current state, what is the best vision for the future? Find out our view in our new report 30-minute Melbourne.

Current overall accessibility (within 30 mins)

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Contact us

Peter Konidaris
Managing Partner – Melbourne, PwC Australia
Tel: +61 3 8603 1168

James van Smeerdijk
Partner, PwC Australia
Tel: +61 3 8603 4814

Christian Greatorix
Director, PwC Australia
Tel: +61 3 8603 0647

Joseph Carrozzi
Managing Partner - Sydney and Cities Agenda Leader, PwC Australia
Tel: +61 2 8266 1144

Kylee Anastasi
Partner, PwC Australia
Tel: +61 2 8266 5069

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