Foot traffic confusion at Degraves St

By Rhonda Dredge

The precinct surrounding Flinders St has come under pressure.

Commuters bewildered by footpath closures stream down the middle of Flinders St and businesses are struggling to deal with the changes to foot traffic caused by metro tunnel works.  

Traffic officers are standing at the entrance of Degraves St to redirect people further down Flinders St to a new crossing.

But old habits die hard and some are getting off the trams and taking the shortest route to their favourite haunts. 

When officers are not looking, they are ducking beneath a new boom gate, to the amusement of those looking on and the annoyance of officers. 

“I’m sick of telling people,” said one, whose job was to patrol the gate, letting vehicles such as taxis through but not pedestrians.

People working in businesses close to the Degraves St intersection also reported having more trouble with deliveries since Flinders St was closed to traffic three weeks ago. 

Some expressed fears that local businesses would fare as badly as those in Sydney when it undertook roadwork to re-introduce trams.

But not everyone is pessimistic even though most of the businesses in this thriving tourist precinct depend on passing foot trade. 

Backpackers World Travel at the corner of Degraves and Flinders streets said the council was trying to help with marketing, while Happy Travels, which sells tours to tourists by talking to those walking by, said the impact wasn’t as bad as expected.

“We thought it would be worse,” they said.

Desk staff at Backpackers United were also upbeat. “We’re okay because people book online. It has affected a bit of foot traffic to the bar.”

Pedestrians now have to negotiate a maze that includes a dead end on the footpath between Degraves and Swanston streets. There is no way of getting between the two streets without circumnavigating the block or crossing over the road. 

Yin Aye at Vodafone, next to the boom gate, said she didn’t know how they were going to survive.

“This is a new i-Phone release. We should be packed. No one is here.”

Julia Ting at CT Mart is finding it really hard, she said. Her convenience store is close to the dead end on Flinders St.

“We’re still negotiating to see if we can get a better solution. The rent is very expensive – $400 a day.”

Ms Ting said she had only been in the business for two months when Flinders St was closed. 

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