Flagstaff Stn and William St pedestrian/passenger congestion needs fixing

This is Flagstaff station yesterday at 8:50am.

Flagstaff station, 8:52am

It’s not a once-off occurence, but happens regularly. As patronage has grown at Parliament and Melbourne Central, more gates have gradually gone in… fitting more in at Flagstaff is probably a challenge, but one that will have to be looked at, perhaps in conjunction with the conversion from Metcard to Myki gates in the next year or so.

But the problems aren’t confined to the station.

The footpaths on William Street and also Little Lonsdale Street no longer cope with the pedestrian traffic coming out of the station in the morning, and going back into the station in the evening.

William Street pedestrian congestion
(This doesn’t quite capture how crowded the footpaths get, but there is a reason multiple people are walking on the road.)

Some people resort to walking on the road to try and speed up their journeys.

I haven’t got out there with a measuring tape, but my perception is that the footpaths around Flagstaff are narrower than comparable spots around the other CBD railway stations. It’s probably in part due to the fact that Latrobe and William Streets are some of the few CBD streets that allow two lanes of car traffic (in each direction) during peak hours.

Street furniture such as news stands and cafe tables are important for the street scape, but don’t really help pedestrian flows.

Given a clear preference for sustainable transport access into the CBD, I think it’s time that was reviewed. Something more along the lines of Collins Street might be appropriate — one lane for trams, one lane of traffic, a bike lane, and one lane either for parking or for tram superstops.

Of course it wouldn’t help traffic congestion. But parts of that area get clogged in peak hour anyway (especially on Friday night), even with two lanes of traffic.

If there are multiple demands on that space, the priority should be for the most space-efficient use of it — which is clearly pedestrians and public transport.

Flagstaff station turns 25

Next Thursday marks 25 years since the completion of the City Loop. Flagstaff Station was the last loop station to open — on the 27th of May 1985.

It’s the only station in Melbourne that is closed on weekends — being in the middle of the legal precinct, it’s a bit quiet around there on Saturdays and Sundays, though there are increasing numbers of residential buildings in the area.

It’s probably the least used of the CBD stations. That said, with a lot of office buildings nearby, it gets pretty busy during peak hour, but is quieter in the middle of the day and in the evening.

I hadn’t seen much of it until recently when I started using it regularly. Maybe you haven’t seen much of it either.

Flagstaff station entrance
It’s named after the gardens above, of course. The gardens in turn are named after the flagstaff, erected on the hill in 1840 to signal ships in the bay. This entrance is in the corner of the gardens, and saves you crossing Latrobe Street if you’re headed for the north side of the street. This picture was taken a few months ago, after the Connex logo had been covered up, but before the Metro logo had taken its place.

Flagstaff station morning peak
In the morning peak, as each train arrives, swarms head up the escalators, through the fare gates on the concourse and then up more escalators to William Street. Chuggers, when present, are just outside the fare gates, and it’s also where you’ll find the not-very-busy Myki Mates, and Authorised Officers (inspectors). I quite like the main concourse; it feels very spacious, very airy for somewhere underground.

Flagstaff Station main entrance
Most people head out onto William Street, coming out in the shadow of the huge adjacent Commonwealth Law Courts Building, and flooding William Street’s southbound footpath. In the evening peak the tide comes back the other way. The building includes the Family Court, and metal poles in the footpath around this area are to protect from attacks with cars.

Flagstaff station signage
Thankfully the Connex logo didn’t get onto everything. This signage didn’t need to be changed when Metro took over. It’s amazing how many people should probably use the lifts but don’t look for the signs, and can be found trying to get their bicycle or pram up the escalator.

Flagstaff station off-peak
Outside peak hour it can be dead quiet (not helped by less frequent trains, and agonisingly slow escalators). This picture was taken in the middle of a weekday.

Flagstaff station evening peak
By the time evening peak rolls around, the platforms fill up again.

Asbestos warning, Flagstaff station
Barely noticeable on the platforms are these little signs, warning future renovators to come of the precautions they should take.

I don’t mind the design of Flagstaff. It doesn’t have to cope with the influx of people that Melbourne Central does, so it gets away with not having the open platform design.

And for a station designed in the 70s and opened in 1985, the interior design hasn’t aged too badly.