Pedestrian priority

By David Schout

Plans for the busy southern end of Elizabeth St have been released by the City of Melbourne, including a basketball court-sized increase in space for pedestrians.

The designs signal the first step of a wider effort to pedestrianise several parts of the street, which the council has called a “primary pedestrian thoroughfare” in the CBD.

Between Flinders St and Flinders Lane, the southbound lane on Elizabeth St will permanently close by the end of 2020 to make room for those on foot, while the designs also included plans to “beautify the streetscape” and reduce flooding during heavy downpours.

Cars will continue to travel northbound after the changes.

The intersection at Flinders and Elizabeth streets is one of the busiest in the CBD, with up to 9000 people crossing during the morning and afternoon peaks.

In announcing the plans, Lord Mayor Sally Capp remained on-message with her plans to reassign space in busy parts of the city.

In recent years the council has made no secret of its effort to instil a merit-based approach to commuter areas within the CBD and more specifically, cutting down space-inefficient vehicles in the busiest parts of the city.

“Pedestrians outnumber all other street users on Elizabeth St but have the least amount of space,” Cr Capp said, before confirming a 400 sqm increase in space for those on foot at the southern end – roughly the size of a basketball court.

“This will reduce congestion access around key public transport interchanges at Flinders Street Station and the Elizabeth St tram terminus.”

Streetscape improvements as part of the designs include footpath upgrades, new street furniture, lighting and paving.

A new underground drain network will also be installed to alleviate the chance of flooding, the last of which occurred during 2011 when a severe rainstorm caused flash flooding and disruptions to transport.

“Elizabeth St was once a creek that flowed into the Yarra River and it has been the site of major flooding throughout Melbourne’s history,” Cr Capp said.

“We have seen how quickly and severely the weather can change this summer and we know the trends indicate that we will experience extreme weather events more frequently.”

“Intense storms lead to increased flash flooding and Elizabeth St remains a low point in the catchment so we have worked closely with authorities while designing this project.” 

The council’s wider strategy for Elizabeth St, released last year, include plans to pedestrianise significant parts of the street from Little Collins St all the way to La Trobe St.

That report stated changes would “enhance both the civic experience and economic viability of the street by improving amenity, safety and accessibility”.

It aimed to progressively close car lanes to widen pedestrian space, subject to approval.

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