Back in January, Lord Mayor Robert Doyle announced his plans to “activate” Melbourne after dark – to turn it into the city that dines after midnight and gallery-hops until the wee hours.
One of the first steps was to trial round-the-clock public transport on weekends for one year, starting from January 1, 2016.
On Tuesday the Victorian Government announced the trial will be extended for another six months, until June 2017, and will cost the city an extra $38.7 million.
Mike Roszbach, owner of late-night CBD bar Nieuw Amsterdam, says 24-hour public transport is one of the best things the Victorian Government has done for small businesses like his. He believes the six-month extension serves as a precursor for what will become a permanent service.
He says it’s his customers from the outer suburbs who have benefited the most – previously they had to wait long periods for taxis and spend up to $80 to get home.
“Twenty-four-hour public transport means our patronage feels safe travelling to and from the city,” Roszbach says.
“Employees and other night-shift workers can now enjoy the flexibility they deserve.”
Public Transport Victoria reported that 35,000 people use the Night Network every weekend, including tram, bus, metro and regional train services. One in five of those are shift workers from a variety of services.
In June, The Age reported a 4.7 per cent decrease in the Melbourne CBD crime rate between 2015–2016.
Drew Pettifer is an RMIT lecturer and owner of one of Melbourne’s original early-hours bars, Meyers Place. Pettifer says there is a different mix of people on the street, particularly families, but it’s still too early to tell how quickly 24-hour public transport will lead to a truly international, 24-hour city.
“There has been no impact on our turnover in the period since the introduction. In the long term I think it will offer potential new markets for our business,” Pettifer says.
“Businesses tend to follow trends rather than lead, so if a market opens up with people in the city, then I’m sure a different range of businesses will open to accommodate them.
“I think the six-month extension suggests that the government sees potential in this cultural and economic shift.”