While the debate over its public realm offering is ongoing, the lack of transportation options has limited its ability to ‘fit’ with the rest of Melbourne’s CBD. This isolation is a consequence of both poor pedestrian connections and the physical constraints of the area. Currently Docklands restricts the opportunity of linking the northern, western and southern parts of the city.
A link from an area of the Docklands known as Waterfront City connects to the suburb of Port Melbourne on the other side of the Yarra River, via Victoria Harbour (an area earmarked for future development). While previous studies had always considered a pedestrian bridge as the solution, my proposal is to use a different mode of transport, a cable car.
While the bridge idea is an attractive prospect, the business case seems to fall over at every attempt. I believe the main reason is that a pedestrian bridge proposal is expensive and logistically difficult to achieve. A bridge solution would require a bascule or swing bridge to allow vessels access to the various marinas located in the area. As the area has been developed, there is also difficulty in aligning the bridge and achieving a compliant solution within the existing conditions.
So why a cable car? On a recent trip to Medellin in Colombia, I witnessed the successful implementation of a cable car that has revitalised the public realm. The Metrocable, as it is known, offers a public transport network to the steep-lying Comunas (neighbourhoods) in the city. Not only does it allow a convenient mode of transport in difficult topography, it has also become a tourist attraction in the same way the Emirates Air Line in London operates. I believe the additional public realm and environmental benefits of a limited built footprint would gain favour with the community.
To progress the idea of a cable car crossing link between the Docklands and Port Melbourne, I envisage a developer/government PPP shared cost proposal that adds value to all parties. This may also include branding rights or sponsorship platforms, similar to the Emirates Airline in North Greenwich, London. As the proposed future development reverses the pedestrian isolation, the developer of Victoria Harbour may see the cable car solution as versatile and practicable. The state government and transport franchisee receives the benefit of a link that is cheaper and less onerous to construct. This can develop into future connections to other surrounding transport hubs, promoting the experience as a tourist attraction. The key objective here, one which was clearly evident in Colombia, is that the cable car is an integral part of the public transport network and not an expensive alternative.