If ever you want to see what the priorities really are, look at the resources they’re given.
At this tram stop — Bourke/Spencer Street westbound — the few in cars have clearly been prioritised by the many in trams. While passengers are squashed into a narrow pathway, motor vehicles (if any turn up) are given two spacious lanes.
Who on earth designed this tram stop? And who approved the design?
It opened in 2007, with Yarra Trams (under its previous operating company) saying at the time:
The new platform stops comply with Disability Discrimination Act requirements and include ramps for wheelchair and pram access, as well as passenger shelters, lighting and real-time tram information.
“We want to ensure that reliable, accessible and sustainable transport options are available across Melbourne”
That said I expect it would have been a collaboration between the tram company, the Department, VicRoads and the City of Melbourne.
Fast forward to 2016, and it’s clear the stop isn’t fit for purpose. Yet they knew it would be a busy stop, because it’s been designed to be two full tram lengths wide. (Connect Melbourne’s busiest tram line with a huge busy station serving almost every suburban line, all the regional trains and coaches, and the Skybus — of course it was going to be busy!)
The width of the platform isn’t ideal, but the real problem is the main exit ramp, towards Southern Cross station, as well as the sequencing of the traffic lights.
As you can see from the video below, crowds coming off trams get caught on the ramp. This clears so slowly that often not all the people can exit during the green phase of the traffic lights.
Once people have crossed the road to leave the stop, the majority of them have to wait for another green phase to cross Spencer Street to enter the station.
If you sit through the entire clip (yes it’s a bit monotonous; that’s what alighting tram passengers get every day) you’ll see numerous people are tempted by the design to jaywalk.
Or jump to 3:30, where you’ll see a large number of people walk across against the light. A few seconds late you’ll see some people try to cross parallel with the westbound green phase, risking being hit by turning cars.
It’s not the only super stop with these types of problems. But clearly in this case design is flawed.
A wider platform (at the expense of a car lane) would help. So would better traffic light sequencing — perhaps a pedestrian scramble so people get a green sequence to cross directly into the station.
With the trams getting ever busier, it can’t stay the way it is.