Public space vs private property in central Melbourne

It’s interesting to see that around the CBD, a subtle line is often marked on the pavement, where (I’m assuming) the publicly-owned pavement ends and the privately-owned property begins.

County Court, William Street

Quite a few buildings include this kind of open space, particularly at the front, and I would assume the boundary would have legal significance.

Telstra shop, Swanston/Bourke Sts

In some cases it’s less subtle, where they’ve made no effort to match the paving styles on the private land to the public footpath.

Queen Street

An infamous boundary among Melbourne’s news media is Southern Cross Station. Security guards will descend if the media set up their cameras on the wrong side of the line without authorisation — even when the story has nothing to do with the station itself. That’s why in news reports you’ll often see them looking into the station, having filmed from the footpath outside. Why go there? Well for some (for instance channels 7 and 9) it’s close to where they have their offices — and unlike other CBD railway stations, you can just about see platforms and trains from the street.

Entrance to Southern Cross station

Can you combine street art, classic video games and a Melbourne street map? Yes!

Can you combine street art, classic video games and a Melbourne street map?

Yes!

Pac-man: street art map

CDH Art: “Using the familiar street art motif of retro gaming, I created a walking guide-map to Melbourne’s street art.”

Daniel’s theory of paving: The better it looks, the slipperier it is.

I reckon the better a paving surface looks, the slipperier it is, particularly in the wet.

Asphalt: ugly, but grips well, even in the wet.

Tiles (as platforms at Flinders Street station have been converted to, but thankfully not ramps) and blue-stone (increasingly common on CBD streets) look nicer, but are more slippery.

And some types of tactiles (bumps, for the vision-impaired) often aren’t that great in terms of grip either.

Flinders Street station ramp

Agree? Disagree? Is it my shoes?

The new Swanston Street superstops – do they work?

Last week the first of the new Swanston Street tram superstops opened. On Monday I went down at lunchtime to have a look, and came across Lord Mayor Robert Doyle, City of Melbourne planner Rob Adams, and Yarra Trams’ Michel Masson all down there having a look, and talking to the media about it.

Robert Doyle at the Swanston Street - tram stop/bike lane
Robert Doyle fronts the media — note the man incorrectly crossing the tracks behind the tram

It’s good to see this space finally being rid of cars, and the priority given to the main users of Swanston Street — pedestrians, tram passengers, and cyclists. And of course it’s great to get some more accessible tram stops in the CBD — the first for Swanston Street that are actually within the Hoddle Grid.

A pedestrian walks along the Swanston Street tram stop/bike lane

During the first couple of weeks, they’ve got people dressed as lifeguards and umpires etc using some humour to direct people to the right spots.

This is important because the space needs to deal with tram passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists. Thankfully motorists are (theoretically) out of the equation, though at one stage I observed a motorcyclist unwittingly ride in.

A motorcyclist intrudes at the Swanston Street tram stop/bike lane

The real problems here are that (a) they’re a unique design — in fact one keen observer reckons they’re unique in the world –and (b) they’re not intuitive.

For pedestrians, it’s simply not obvious that the space where you board the trams is not where you should walk along. For cyclists it’s a little clearer where they should be, and from what I saw, they seemed to realise they needed to stop and give way to passengers getting on and off trams.

I haven’t been there at the relevant times, but I’m particularly curious to see what happens when large numbers of tram users getting on and off (such as during the University peaks) intersect with large numbers of cyclists.

Cyclist rides along the new tram stop/bike lane

Even after adding small “bicycle” markings onto the bike lane, pedestrians and passengers seem confused. Maybe they’ll learn, but it will take some getting used to — something acknowledged by Masson and Doyle (and Adams I assume). I’d expect some further tweaking, but I doubt there’ll be any major re-design any time soon.

Like anything else, it requires the critical mass of people to know how to use them, and then (most) visitors will hopefully just follow everybody else. Whether this will happen, only time will tell.

And in the mean time, work will begin on the next two stops, further south.