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Access to the CBD losing importance 10/12/2013

Where we live and work has important implications on our lives, but for the majority of Perth’s residents proximity to the CBD is not a deciding factor in where we live.

We go to a real estate website and the first question we are asked is location. We have several options but we also have to strike a balance between how close we want to live to where we work, where other amenities are, such as schools, shops, nightlife or a beach, and the cost of living in these areas.

Do you prefer to live closer to amenities and commute longer distances? Perhaps you want to live close to work, but closer to your work or your partner’s?

Moreover, it is not necessarily distance but instead access that is of great importance.

A number of commentators and policy makers unfortunately judge a city on a notion of access – or more often, distance – to the CBD. This simplistic and archaic notion is premised on a misconception that the CBD is of utmost importance in everyone’s mind when deciding where to live.

But we know, based on the Census in 2011, that the CBD is the work destination of just 15 per cent of employed Greater Perth (includes Mandurah) residents. Even if you include surrounding areas such as Subiaco, Wembley and Leederville, the proportion increases to just 21 per cent of Perth workers.

Why is there a misconception?

Australian cities are radial, with train lines all heading towards CBDs. CBDs are also areas that are noticeably large job centres; there are large commercial buildings throughout these areas.  

Whilst commercial buildings dominate the Perth CBD skyline and contain thousands of jobs which are key contributors to the state’s economy, there are many small, medium and large businesses located outside of the CBD. The latest business counts from the ABS showed that there were around 171,000 businesses located in Perth and less than 9 per cent of these were located in the Perth CBD. When we take a more liberal definition of CBD, fewer than 15 per cent of businesses are located in the Expanded CBD. Although businesses employ varying numbers of workers, the presence of so many businesses outside the CBD is an important factor explaining commuter patterns in Perth.

The following graph illustrates that the probability of working in the CBD varies greatly depending on a workers place of residence. There is a 50.5 per cent probability that residents of the City of Perth work in the Perth CBD. Meanwhile, there is a 2.2 per cent probability residents of the Shire of Murray commute to the CBD. And overall, there is a 15 per cent probability that an employed Perth resident works in the CBD. When you expand the catchment area, there is a 20.7 per cent probability that Perth residents commute to the Expanded CBD.

In recent decades, there has been a strong focus on employment decentralisation in Perth. It is important that there continues to be this holistic approach which makes meaningful attempts to strengthen a diversity of employment across all of Perth.

View employment characteristics in your area

The Institute has prepared an interactive spreadsheet that enables you to better understand the employment patterns in your area. It provides an industry by industry breakdown for each Local Government Authority, including estimates of ESS and ESC, and method of travel to work data. Access the Employment Patterns Tool here.

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