Photos: the loveliness of elevated roadways

It’s easy when looking at aerial pictures to see the vast amounts of land taken up by freeway interchanges.

South Melbourne freeway interchange (Google Maps)
(Pic: Google Maps)

What is sometimes forgotten is the impact at ground level from elevated roadways. Here are some snaps from around South Melbourne — which of course being inner-city, has some of the most valuable land in the country.

I suppose there’s a certain grace to the roadway structures themselves, but underneath it’s certainly not pretty.

Car park below Westgate Freeway

Tram line below Westgate Freeway

Beside the Westgate Freeway

Tram stop below Kings Way

It really does seem that the only use for the land underneath roadways is parking — mostly for cars, but some for trucks/hire companies.

Car park below Westgate Freeway

Car park below Westgate Freeway

I only saw one exception: McDonalds seemed to be the only other business willing to be located underneath the freeway.

McDonalds below Westgate Freeway

Of course, elevated railway bridges also have an impact at ground level. But the carrying capacity for the space taken is much higher with rail, and “interchanges” (eg stations) don’t have the huge footprint, as humans alighting trains don’t need the big turning circles found on freeway interchanges.

East West Link

It’s important to note that while some is proposed to be tunnels, a big aspect of East West Link is elevated roadways. Both the western and eastern sections will involve new elevated sections. The Clifton Hill interchange will involve connections up high above the railway line, and the interchange from the eastern section to Citylink includes elevated roads — infamously surrounding the newly built Evo apartments, as well as from a tunnel portal in the middle of Royal Park. The new elevated sections won’t be just at the interchange itself, but also providing an expansion of lanes along the existing Citylink in both directions — north and south.

EWLink interchange to Citylink at Royal Park

That is, of course, if it’s ever built.

I’m told that the expansion will take the northern end of Citylink near Bell Street up to a total of fourteen lanes. Maybe one day we’ll stop pretending that motorways are an efficient form of transport for big cities.

Want to avoid Chuggers? Now you can, with City of Melbourne’s handy map

One of the great things about Melbourne’s CBD (the Hoddle Grid) is that it’s so easily navigable. There are lots of parallel streets and laneways, so when walking around it’s pretty easy to take an alternative route, and still not get lost.

You can use this to avoid Chuggers.

Charity Muggers are notorious for getting in the way of pedestrians, desperately trying to get people to sign up for direct debits to charities, to the point of irritation.

As reported in the Herald Sun today, the City of Melbourne has decided to restrict Chuggers to 26 specified locations in Melbourne’s CBD. And they’ve published these locations on a map.

City of Melbourne: Chugger map

(See more detail in the full map, in PDF form)

Some of the spots seem a little unlikely — for instance Lonsdale and King Streets, in the middle of the CBD’s strip club district, where even at lunchtime there aren’t many pedestrians around.

Some don’t seem quite logical for other reasons. At Collins and King, I often see the Chuggers on the SW corner, as it has plenty of space. But the map dictates they use the SE and NW corners — the latter is quite constrained.

There are further restrictions in the policy:

Each Registered Charity Organisation may apply to collect funds within the central city at six of the 26 specified locations per day, for a maximum of 40 days per year.

It’s not immediately clear to me if this will restrict other (non-Chugger) types of fundraising. Policies can be a bit of a blunt instrument. As seen when Metro decided to restrict them, then changed their minds, policymakers sometimes can’t seem to distinguish between Chuggers, whom many people find annoying, and more socially acceptable fundraising such as the Salvos, the RSL or Legacy asking for once-off donations of change. (Metro has since seen the light.)

Anyway, back to the map…

While it’d be impractical to memorise all the locations, if there are some on, say, your usual walk to lunch, and you’d rather not face an over-enthusiastic Chugger leaping around, trying to shake your hand, calling out to you in the street, or just generally getting in your face, then you can use this map to avoid them.

Chuggers are also increasingly found in the suburbs. Not sure they’re mapped anywhere — you’ll just have to use the other avoidance strategies: keep walking, don’t slow down. Smile or acknowledge but don’t engage otherwise — and certainly don’t shake hands with them if they offer.

Some good stuff in the City of Melbourne’s Draft Walking Plan

You might have seen media coverage (Age / Herald Sun) of the new City of Melbourne Draft Walking Plan.

There’s lots of interesting stuff in the document (PDF, 35Mb).

Below are some notes from a skim through. (Page references refer to those at the top of the page, eg numbered from the start of the PDF including cover sheets/intro, not the start of the document.)

William Street, morning peak

p1. The economic benefits from dense city centres and improved walkability, underpinning the need for action: “A 10 per cent increase in the connectivity of the Hoddle Grid’s walking network is estimated to increase the value of the economy by $2.1 billion per year by making it quicker and easier for people to move around the city to do business, access services and jobs.”

p6. The bottom line on numbers: 840,000 people visit the city daily, expected to rise to 1.2 million by 2030.

p10. Updated figures (2011) for journeys to work in the City of Melbourne: Public transport 50.4% (Train 39.5%), vehicle 37.7%, walking 5.5%.

Note that the City of Melbourne is a lot bigger than the CBD, and the Hoddle Grid — I would expect figures for just the Hoddle Grid to show a higher proportion of public transport trips, but this walking strategy covers the whole council area.

p12. Weekday trips within the City of Melbourne are dominated by walking (66%).

p16. The importance of resolving crowding: “Crowding discourages people from walking, creates delays which waste time and money and undermines Melbourne’s international reputation for liveability.”

p20. Yikes: “In the City of Melbourne, a pedestrian is killed or sustains a serious or other injury every two days.”

p21. They’re aiming/expecting to increase walking, and public transport and bicycle use, with private car trips reducing.

Another CBD spot in need of a footpath upgrade. Wonder if @DoyleMelbourne is looking at these?

p30. They’re seeking to work with the Vicroads SmartRoads network operating plan, which already highlights which streets should prioritise which mode.

p32. Ever wondered why more traffic lights don’t automatically show a green man, even if nobody presses the button? Or wondered what it’s called? Apparently this is called “Auto pedestrian phase signals”.

Sounds like it will be implemented at a lot more crossings, which is good. Why is it important? As the document says: “They reduce waiting times for pedestrians (pedestrians do not miss an opportunity to cross if they get to the intersection after the time a walk phase could start). They give pedestrians a similar level of service to motorists, public transport vehicles and cyclists who do not need to manually activate lights.”

I’ve spotted this at a handful of recently re-programmed suburban traffic lights… would be great to see much more of it — it should be the standard.

p33 has a map of where they plan to implement it, which is encouraging. Thing is, I’d like to see it become the default for all signalised intersections — particularly as typical traffic light programming means a pedestrian who just misses the start of the green phase has to wait until the next one starts to get a green man.

p34 notes some (about 15) CBD intersections don’t have green man displays (“pedestrian lanterns”), apparently a legacy of the original installation in the 1940s! They’re going to install them — I suppose it may seem more restrictive for pedestrians, though as the document says “people with disabilities face significant difficulty when crossing the street as they are not alerted when it is safe and appropriate to cross”.

p36-47 goes into some detail about increasing pedestrian priority across the CBD, with five proposed categories:

  • Street as place — eg a destination, for instance Centre Place, Degraves Street
  • Walking street — for instance Bourke Street Mall, and proposed for the bottom of Elizabeth Street
  • High mobility walking street (public transport corridor) — for instance Swanston Street at present, and proposed for the remainder of Elizabeth Street
  • High mobility street (public transport corridor)
  • Other streets used by pedestrians

p50 talks about improved maps around the city.

p52. Stop lines to be moved to require motorists to give way to pedestrians when exiting minor lanes.

p56-57 talks about works to assist current areas of pedestrian overcrowding, such as around railway stations.

p59. Widen pedestrian crossings at intersections, and build-out kerbs. Also act on motorists who block crossings.

Edit: This page also notes they plan to move blockages such as street furniture (eg bins) away from busy intersections.

p64-69 goes into some detail about access in and around railway stations, including investigating re-opening the Little Collins Street pedestrian subway into Southern Cross Station).

I’m somewhat amused that they believe they need to “investigate ways to encourage use of [the Degraves Street] entrance” to Flinders Street Station. One look at it makes it pretty obvious what the problem is — there’s zero signage telling you it goes to the station.

p72-73. More formal pedestrian crossings, such as mid-block crossings.

p76-77. It notes that it is completely legal to cross more than 20 metres from a crossing, and because this is important for reducing walking distances and delays, and because they can’t provide crossings absolutely everywhere, they want to make streets easier to cross between the crossings.

The example they give (William Street outside Flagstaff station) is slightly odd — the reason people cross here is to avoid the packed footpaths. It’s unlikely many would cross between the station and the old Mint car park — though some using the car park might be going to nearby buildings.

p84 onwards. The appendices cover a number of interesting topics, including pedestrian countdown timers — not generally seen as recommended as trials haven’t shown they improve signal compliance.

Barnes walks (scramble crossings). They conclude they’re not worthwhile due to overall delays to pedestrians, trams and motorists — though oddly that’s based on a study of two locations seemingly chosen at random. They really should have looked at spots which are more obvious candidates, for instance those with busy buildings on all corners and a railway station on one side: say, Spencer and Bourke, Spencer and Collins, and Flinders and Swanston.

Pedestrian early starts — showing a green man before parallel traffic gets a green light. Fair enough — it’s really of benefit when turning motorists aren’t correctly giving way, and this isn’t a big problem at signalised intersections in the CBD.

p95. An interesting couple of tables about “Pedestrian level of service” — that is, different standards for how quickly a pedestrian can cross the road at traffic lights.

p96. Another interesting table showing a Transport For London reference on pedestrian comfort levels (PCL), based on how congested a pavement is, measuring the number of people and how restricted movement is at each level.

“At Pedestrian Comfort Level D, walking speeds are restricted and reduced and there are difficulties in bypassing slower pedestrians or moving in reverse flows.”

This is important research — for someone who hasn’t regularly experienced such conditions, it can be difficult to understand why a photo of a bunch of people on a footpath which appears to have plenty of space is, in fact, quite restrictive if you’re actually trying to walk on it. (This is why people resort to walking on the road.)

Pedestrian Comfort Levels (from City of Melbourne draft walking strategy, originally from a Transport For London document)

Conclusion

The draft document makes a lot of good points, and it’s fantastic to see the breadth of thought and research into a topic that’s so important for the City of Melbourne, including recognition of such issues as permeability and crowding levels on footpaths.

Cities like Melbourne need to plan carefully to cater for more pedestrians. On foot (in conjunction with public transport access) is the most efficient way to move more people around a busy city centre.

The only niggle I have is that it completely fails to talk about motorcycles parked on footpaths — as I’ve noted before, the guidelines don’t seem to be well-known (or followed), and certainly aren’t enforceable.

But overall, a big thumbs up — and it’ll be great to see some of the proposed changes implemented.

Autumn in Melbourne

It must be autumn.

Autumn in Melbourne

PS. Just noting the passing of Sir Jack Brabham, the only Formula 1 driver to ever win in a car he built himself. I couldn’t but help recall Herge’s nod to him in Tintin: The Calculus Affair. (Apparently in the original French, it’s Fangio instead.)

Vale Jack Brabham

Guess the suburb

Here’s a puzzler for you: look at this lovely old house.

Can you guess the suburb it’s in?

House

Update 12:50pm: Mike got it, by tracking the posts to my Flickr account!

It’s in Nicholson Street, central Footscray. While I don’t subscribe to the generalisations of the run-down inner-west, I was delighted to find such a house, in such well-kept condition, so close to the retail centre of the suburb — particularly as it seems to be a private house, not requisitioned by a medical centre or university.

View it in Google Streetview