Population dispersion could increase worker numbers in Melbourne’s CBD

Melbourne tram Infrastructure Victoria

Melbourne tram on Elizabeth St on route 19 to City. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Victorians could live further away from their workplaces as remote habits become entrenched in the coming decade, the state’s infrastructure advisor says.

Infrastructure Victoria modelling shows if one-third of workers are working from home two to three days a week by 2036, Victoria’s population will further spread out within a radius from Melbourne and nearby regional centres.

Infrastructure Victoria acting chief executive Jonathan Spear said fewer days in the office would outweigh intolerance for longer commutes.

“But access to major job precincts remains a factor in people’s housing choices, which means these dispersion effects occur in the immediate vicinity of Melbourne and big regional cities, but do not extend to other regional areas further away,” Spear said.

Yet contrary to uncertainty that working from home could be a death knell to CBDs, the independent public infrastructure body argues that the change could in fact increase workers in central Melbourne.

The report argues Melbourne’s CBD will continue to offer workplace locations where employers can access the biggest workforce catchment, leverage the advantages of being physically near each other and close to existing transport networks.

“Our modelling provides hope that more working from home can actually help boost inner Melbourne’s job numbers in the longer term,” Spear said.

The report, titled  The Post-Pandemic Commute: the Effects of More Working from Home in Victoria, recommends the Victorian government deliver green and social infrastructure to Melbourne’s growth areas.

As populations disperse, it also highlights a need for stronger planning protection for peri-urban areas of environmental sensitivity, bushfire risk, or agricultural value.

A focus on employment support outside of central Melbourne for a number of priority suburban hubs, reform of transport network pricing, and making the most of existing rail capacity by discounting off-peak fares and increasing off-peak services are among further recommendations.

This article was first published by The Mandarin.

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