This is Flagstaff station yesterday at 8:50am.
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.
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.
In central Melbourne, if you want to travel a reasonable distance east-west, it’s easy to do so on most of the streets by hopping on a tram. Flinders Street, Collins Street, Bourke Street and Latrobe Street all have multiple routes serving them, making for reasonably frequent services most of the day.
Not so Lonsdale Street.
Once upon a time, Lonsdale Street had trams. Cable trams ran from Collingwood and Carlton via Elgin, Lygon and Russell Streets, and also from West Melbourne, to Lonsdale Street, from the 1880s to the 1930s — though some sections of track were built as late as the 1920s.
It’s all buses these days, but until recently they were a mass of different routes, turning off at different places, and many of them running infrequently outside peak hours.
However, late last year (just in time for the election) a batch of four bus routes that go down Lonsdale Street from the Doncaster area got upgraded to Smartbus status, under the name Doncaster Area Rapid Transit. (As one wit observed, lucky it doesn’t serve Frankston.)
There’s some doubt over whether they’re the best solution for Doncaster to CBD travel (many would like to see a train line), but within the CBD the result is that four frequent (well, for Melbourne) routes combine to make a very frequent service virtually all the way along Lonsdale Street — from about half-a-block from Spencer Street to Spring Street (and beyond to Victoria Parade).
With their totems, the bus stops are easier to find than the average Melbourne bus stop, though are not as prominent as tram stops, and are not quite as consistently spaced (though there is a stop roughly every block).
The buses are distinguished by their 900-series route number (905, 906, 907, 908) and the grey and orange Smartbus livery, making them easy to spot amongst the others that use the stops (but don’t go all the way down Lonsdale Street).
The combined frequency is a bus each way about every 3-4 minutes on weekdays from about 7am to 9pm, with more during peak times. That puts it roughly on a par with other east-west CBD streets during off-peak hours, and more frequent than Latrobe Street.
On weekends and in the evenings it’s a bus about every 7-8 minutes.
Not bad, and while many may prefer trams to buses, this completes the set of frequent routes along Melbourne’s CBD’s main east-west streets.
They’re not perfect. They have a lowish frequency at times, lack of bus lanes outside peak hours, and the buses are likely to be a tad slow due to heavy loading eastbound in the evening peak hour. And the fancy automated signage at most of the eastbound stops doesn’t work yet.
But already I’ve spotted people other than myself using the buses for hops along Lonsdale Street, and it’ll be interesting to see if this catches on. Perhaps if they were clever, they’d promote it.
So don’t you think they could forfeit a few street parking spaces in the “Little” streets so some narrow footpaths could be widened?
For instance, Little Lonsdale Street has parking along both sides for most of its length, and has so many pedestrians at busy times that some are forced to walk on the road.
Removing parking spots along one side would be only a few dozen lost, but would make a big difference to the width of the footpaths — to cope with (and encourage) increasing pedestrian numbers, and also to ensure wheelchair (and pram) accessibility.
A number of traffic lights used for crossing the “little” streets in central Melbourne don’t have green/red men.
Some do, however, particularly along Swanston Street where there are heavy pedestrian flows and — I suspect — more people likely to be just following everyone else like sheep, and not looking for cars before they cross the road.
I had been assuming that if there was no green/red man, you could cross at any time if no cars were coming. Not so, says the VicRoads web site:
Fines apply to pedestrians who commit the following offences:
cross against an amber or red traffic light
Of course, it’s uncertain what is likely to happen if caught crossing on a red in a spot where you can’t physically see the light in question.
What’s so special about King Street, in Melbourne’s Central Business District?
Well, it’s the only main street in the Hoddle Grid which has absolutely no scheduled public transport running along it.
So you might think, given the rhetoric is to help people get onto PT, especially for trips into the CBD, that they’d avoid giving private vehicles along King Street priority at intersections — especially since Wurundjeri Way and Citylink are available as city bypass routes.
King Street is the only main street in the CBD that gets 2/3 of the signal cycle time at most intersections — 60 out of 90 seconds, which means pedestrians get less time to cross it, and trams and buses along intersecting streets have to wait. In the case of the trams, they stop despite the lack of any tram stops there.
King Street is about the only main street in the CBD that gets green arrows for right-turning traffic, even in the middle of the day. (At least one Exhibition Street intersection gets them in peak hour, but certainly not at lunch time.)
King Street and Bourke Street is one of the only CBD intersections where turning cars don’t have to do hook turns to stay out of the way of the trams. At least, that’s how it works in practice. It’s uncertain quite what was intended, because although the correct arrow markings are on the street for hook turns, no signs are displayed, so motorists ignore the arrows. So it’s not uncommon to see trams having to gong their bells because of cars blocking them, and also cars zooming off narrowly avoiding pedestrians when they see a gap in the traffic.
All this makes King Street an anachronism. It belongs to the 60s car-domination thinking which is long gone. It probably doesn’t need PT services serving it (given blanket coverage of surrounding streets), but it sure as hell shouldn’t have the road traffic priority that it does.
This is not progress.
This is the corner of Flinders Lane and Spring Street, in the CBD. Should be a priority pedestrian area — it’s certainly flagged that way under the SmartRoads strategy.
But the zebra crossing that was here before has been removed and replaced with a traffic light. Which means that while before pedestrians had absolute priority, now they have to wait for the green man.
Worse, unlike every other intersection in the CBD, the green man doesn’t activate automatically. Neither does pressing the button when the parallel traffic has a green light get you a green man until the next sequence comes around.
So pedestrians are going to patiently wait ages to cross a tiny street, or more likely, they’re going to ignore the red man. Neither is a good outcome.
If there’s anywhere pedestrians should have priority, this is it. It’s clear that in this case, they don’t.
Over the years, my taste in clothing (as well as other things such as food) has improved immeasurably. Various influences – in particular certain girlfriends – have led me to try and take a little more care of my appearance. I’m not quite up to the standard proffered by The Age recently of the "Metrosexual", but I don’t enjoy looking like a slob. Even if I still do look like a slob sometimes. It’s a gradual progression, as the clothes budget becomes available, and more importantly, as I get inspiration and figure out what it is I want.
I decided during the week that I was in dire need of a new jacket for work. The old ones aren’t exactly falling to bits, but they’ve started to take on that kind of scruffy look that means I don’t feel very comfortable wearing them. I don’t want to look like a scruff. I want to be under the delusion that I’m well-dressed. Particularly at work. I’m meant to be a successful urban IT professional, and I should look it, too.
I am the world’s worst clothes shopper. If I don’t have inspiration, the sheer stamina required to put up with my endless umming and ahhing is monumental. It’s a trip I should do alone. After looking all week for inspiration from the people at work, the people on the train, the people walking around the city, but not finding anything, I had taken a look around some city shops on Friday after work. Nothing had grabbed me, but inspiration came later from watching The Sopranos
that night (I’d taped it on Monday). I found myself watching and thinking – hey, you know that’s a nice jacket that (sadistic maniac) Ralph is wearing. Something like that might be good.
So with that little nugget of inspiration, I went shopping on Saturday afternoon. A little retail therapy after the auction to get over the minor disappointment about not getting the house.
Where should I go? Some of the jackets I had seen in DJs in the city had been quite good, if a trifle on the expensive side. But I couldn’t be bothered going to the city, could I? Instead I got in the car and drove to Chadstone. Ah, Chadstone, a hundred thousand square metres of shops, and never a parking spot free, and buses only every hour on Saturdays. I drove around and around for what seemed an age, but was probably about five minutes, and eventually found a spot. But could I find a jacket that I liked? No. Hmmm. 2:30pm. Remembering that I wouldn’t have time the next day to go shopping, I drove to Southland.
Ah, Southland. Not quite as big as Chadstone, but just as annoying to find a parking spot in. No, more annoying. I tried on the eastern half initially. I drove around and around, watching as the other cars I saw started to look more and more familiar. They were driving around in much the same circles as I was. Ah! A spot! There! No, damn, it’s for parents with prams. I wish I still had that old pram in the back of the car.
Also on the train into the city – two blokes and a washing machine.
I drove out of the car park and considered looking for somewhere to park in a nearby street. But instead I drove over to the newer western part of the centre. Up the ramp to the top, and I immediately found a spot. The last spot, it appeared, as other cars continued to circle up there. Then I looked around the shops. Saw various jackets, and almost considered thinking about buying one in DJs, but decided No. It really wouldn’t do. It was not quite what I wanted. Fussy bastard, aren’t I?
It was 3:30pm. Hey, what about the ones I had seen in the city at DJs? On sale until tomorrow? They didn’t seem to have the same ones at Southland and Chadstone. Yeah, they’re nice. What time do they close? I drove home, and checked. 6pm. Plenty of time. So I jumped on the train, and half an hour later, with no parking hassles whatsoever, I was in DJs in the city looking at their jackets, and miracle of miracles, I found one I liked. No, really liked. On sale, though still almost stupidly expensive. No matter, I bought it anyway. It’s totally lovely, and I’ll feel and look great (well, apart from the recurring acne, why am I still getting that at 32 years old?!) tomorrow morning when I go to work. Retail therapy works!
I came home, then headed out to the supermarket looking for food. I settled on the ingredients for enchiladas for dinner. Good stuff. And as I was leaving through the checkout, the bloke behind me saw my cloth bag and by golly decided he’d ask the checkout chick to put his groceries into his backpack. Obviously with recent debate, the whole plastic bag thing is increasing in peoples’ consciousness.
I ate enchiladas and dug out a video of Earthshock to watch. Ahhhh… relaxation.
So the lesson for me in all of this? In clothes, look for inspiration everywhere. Once it’s found, go shop. Make sure the credit card is cleared and ready for action. And don’t bother looking in the suburban shopping centres – go for the city – it’s got it all and more.
Hey… you know… I need some new ties…