By David Schout
After two years of consultation with experts and the public, the City of Melbourne has finally endorsed its 10-year transport plan for the city.
The Transport Strategy 2030 sets out council’s response to Melbourne’s population growth and gives definitive priority to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport users.
For residents, workers and visitors to the CBD, the strategy in particular aims to clear and widen footpaths after an overwhelming survey response last year suggested people were struggling for space within the Hoddle Grid.
Further research confirmed that nine in 10 trips within the CBD were done on foot, yet pedestrians were granted just a quarter of the space.
The final plan, endorsed at the October 15 council meeting, identified an “urgent need to reallocate road space in the central city and invest in walking and cycling infrastructure.”
More immediately, this will include the creation of 300 new on-street motorbike parking spaces (to clear footpaths) and protected bike lanes on Exhibition and Latrobe streets.
Long-term, projects include pedestrianising large stretches of Elizabeth St and converting the city’s “Little” streets (including Little Bourke, Little Collins and Flinders Lane) into “pedestrian priority zones.”
Motorists will unsurprisingly be hit hardest by the plans, as the council has made no secret of its plan to reduce what it sees as a space-inefficient mode of transport.
While “essential” trips won’t be targeted (people with a disability, trade, service and emergency vehicles), other motorists will.
A draft plan to reduce speed limits to 30km/h throughout the Hoddle Grid was, however, was not included in the final strategy.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said it was time to address the commuting disparity.
“We are seeking the right balance between all modes of transport,” she said.
“We need all modes to work together for a liveable city, from building separated bike lanes for those riding, widening footpaths for pedestrians, introducing on-street parking bays for our motorcyclists and creating speed consistency for our motorists.”
Cr Capp said significant population growth was a key driver behind the changes.
“We want to encourage everyone to come to Melbourne as a destination, whether it is by train, tram, car, bike or foot. However, we know that we need to make changes and upgrade our infrastructure to cope with our booming population. By 2036, another 500,000 people will be moving in and around the City of Melbourne each day.”
In total, the council received nearly 1800 submissions for the new strategy – its largest ever public response.
Over eight areas were covered, including walking, cycling, motor vehicles, public transport and parking.
Alongside advice from transport consultants and academics, the strong public feedback regarding the need for changes to pedestrian and cyclist access was key in shaping the council’s strategy.
Transport chair Nicolas Frances Gilley said targeting congestion benefitted everyone.
“We have thought very carefully about the kind of Melbourne we want and need in order to boost prosperity and efficiency but also to be a place for people to meet, dine outdoors, shop and have space to enjoy everything our city is famous for,” he said.
“We can achieve this by alleviating congestion on our footpaths, where 89 per cent of trips are made, by welcoming people whose end destination is the city, by committing to make Melbourne the nation’s leading bicycle city and by creating great civic destinations around our city stations.”
An economic assessment by Deloitte suggested the prospective improvements to foot traffic would create significant economic benefits.
Other CBD specific plans outlined in the 10-year transport strategy include:
Shortening pedestrian wait times at traffic lights;
Reduce by half the proportion of through-traffic;
Moving bicycle parking away from busy footpath areas; and
Working towards a maximum of one traffic lane each way on all streets in the Hoddle Grid, except King St.