Freight gets short shrift in new Melbourne CBD plan

A recent proposal by the City of Melbourne to further restrict access to key city thoroughfares for commercial vehicles has drawn criticism from the Victorian Transport Association (VTA).

We argue that such restrictions, as outlined in the Future Streets Framework, disregard the importance of freight and transportation in supporting small businesses and city traders.

It’s important to shed light on the essential role commercial vehicle access plays in maintaining productivity and economic vitality in urban centres, so that other major jurisdictions avoid the path civic leaders in Victoria have embarked on.

The VTA emphasises that small businesses heavily rely on the transport industry to thrive. With over 5000 commercial vehicles servicing the city of Melbourne’s ‘Hoddle Grid’ every day, the freight industry acts as the lifeblood for numerous businesses, commercial developments, and public transport projects.

By restricting access to motor vehicles, the proposed plan overlooks the fact that these vehicles play a crucial role in delivering goods, collecting waste, and ensuring the smooth functioning of daily operations.

The plan’s focus on prioritising cyclists and pedestrians neglects the reality that cars account for a significant proportion of trips, particularly during and after the Covid-19 pandemic.

There are significant unintended consequences of limiting commercial vehicle access to the city centre. Removing loading zones to accommodate dedicated bicycle lanes not only inconveniences businesses but also puts delivery workers and pedestrians at risk.

Without nearby loading zones, delivery workers may be forced to transport goods on trolleys and pallet jacks, increases the chances of injuries

Furthermore, outright bans on vehicles hinder the flexibility required by commercial drivers who operate under tight timelines in a congested urban environment.

The VTA acknowledges the importance of creating sustainable and accessible cities, and it supports efforts to attract workers and shoppers back to the city centre. However, achieving these goals should not come at the expense of small businesses and transport operators.

The VTA argues that a comprehensive plan should strike a balance between sustainable modes of transport, such as cycling and public transit, and the continued accessibility of commercial vehicles. Neglecting the needs of the transport industry jeopardises the viability of city traders and their ability to cater to the community effectively.

We’re concerned with the City of Melbourne’s historical disregard of the freight and logistics sector in planning decisions.

The limited mention of “freight” and “truck” in the 64-page report on the Future Streets Framework is indicative of the oversight and follows on from similar ambivalence toward the industry in the municipality’s Transport Strategy 2030.

The VTA asserts that policymakers must recognise the immense value of transport operators and their workers in upholding the vitality of the city. Collaborative efforts should involve representatives from the transport industry to ensure their perspectives are considered in urban planning and development.

Access for commercial vehicles is crucial for maintaining productivity, sup- porting small businesses, and enabling the smooth functioning of urban centres. The proposal by the City of Melbourne to restrict motor vehicle access overlooks the essential role of the freight industry in the city’s economy.

To create a truly welcoming and accessible city, policymakers must find a balance that accommodates sustainable transportation options while ensuring the continued vitality of businesses and the transport sector.

By recognising and addressing the needs of the transport industry, we can build a prosperous city that thrives on the synergy between various stakeholders.

  • Peter Anderson is CEO, Victorian Transport Association

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