Commuters take the Wyndham challenge
Guess who won a peak-hour race involving bicycles, buses, cars and trains all trying to get to the city from public transport-starved Werribee.PT0M0S 620 349
It is quicker to charter a boat from Melbourne's western suburbs to the CBD than it is to hop in your car and attempt to brave the crush of the West Gate Freeway.
On Wednesday morning the Wyndham City Council held a race into Federation Square, pitting motorists, cyclists and public transport users against each other. But even the council did not expect these results.
Despite having to travel more than 30 kilometres, the cyclists came out ahead, zipping well ahead of the cars as they groaned along the Princes Highway. They also beat the commuters who had taken a bus to their local railway station.
''I didn't think that would happen,'' said cyclist Joe Patamisi, who made it to Federation Square from Tarneit in just over an hour.
''It's probably a bit embarrassing that we can have somebody [on a bike] beating public transport or even a car into town over 30 kilometres.''
The race was organised by the council to raise awareness of the urgent need for multibillion-dollar investment in growth suburb transport projects. At 7.30am more than a dozen teams set off from different points in the municipality bound for Federation Square. Each travelled up to 40 kilometres by car, bus, train, boat or a mixture of two modes of transport.
At 8am on the Werribee line, the peak-hour train was already packed down the aisles, with passengers forced to suck in their stomachs as more filed in.
But, despite the uncomfortable state of affairs, these sardines knew they could have it worse.
Looking to their right out of the train window, they could see hundreds of cars creeping painfully slowly towards the West Gate Bridge, their brake lights glowing.
Joe Patamisi. Photo: Jason South
Wyndham councillor Peter Maynard said a quarter of the almost 200,000 people who live within the municipality spent more than two hours in their car each day. ''That equates to about 20 days driving a year.''
On Wednesday it took Cr Maynard's team more than 90 minutes to travel just over 27 kilometres from Point Cook, averaging a speed of about 17 kilometres an hour.
''I suppose at times you could have walked faster than you were driving. In fact for the first 10 to 15 kilometres, [the driver] Marie didn't get out of second gear,'' he said.
The first competitors to roll into Federation Square on Wednesday were two women who had ridden from Point Cook and Tarneit to their nearest railway station before travelling the rest of the way on public transport. Their journey took a little under an hour.
Just 10 minutes later, they were followed by two men who cycled the entire way on their bikes, beating two Labor MPs who travelled on the Werribee train line.
The cars were still nowhere to be seen when at 8.43am a speedboat came up the Yarra River and pulled up at a nearby wharf, following a picturesque journey from the Werribee South boat ramp.
Passenger David Fragapane had gleefully snapped photos of the West Gate Bridge, choked with trucks and cars, as they passed.
In the end it took the race's wooden-spoon winner one hour and 41 minutes to make his way by car from Tarneit to Federation Square, a return trip of more than three hours.
So why even bother?
Wyndham Mayor Bob Fairclough said that many outer suburbs in the west had indirect and infrequent bus connections to railway stations. Also, he said it was very difficult to get a car park at many of the stations by the time peak hour hit.
Cr Fairclough said a relatively small investment in more frequent trains and direct bus services from the suburbs to the train stations could make a big difference.
“What this race proves is when the public transport system is working it’s great, but when there is an accident on the West Gate Freeway it really is gridlock conditions,” he said.
The mayor said he also hoped the results would encourage more to consider cycling to work, though he acknowledged even this faster and healthier option was “no picnic”.