William Street — too much space for cars?

Heading south along William Street in morning peak hour, fighting for space on the street, are pedestrians (predominantly coming out of Flagstaff station), trams, cyclists and motorists.

How many of each?

Tram route 55 gets a tram about every 4 minutes in peak hour. The May 2012 PTV load survey said that each tram carries an average of 78.6 people between 8am and 9am southbound (actually measured slightly north from this point), making about 1179 people per hour.

William Street, morning peak

Pedestrians: Marcus Wong recently found some great City of Melbourne CBD pedestrian statistics. At its peak between 8am and 9am, about 5000 pedestrians head south from Flagstaff station.

Motorists: Vicroads network performance monitoring figures may or may not be of relevance to this specific street, but show that the arterial road average across Melbourne in AM peak is a bit under 800 people per hour. William Street southbound is only one lane, so let’s use that figure.

Cyclists? Dunno. I see quite a few heading up and down in peak, but the Bicycle Network “Super Tuesday” count doesn’t seem to publicly publish anything useful from the enormous amount of data they collect. Shame. In the absence of other figures, let me take a wild guess at 200 in the busiest hour.

The bike lanes aren’t properly configured. They fizzle-out in places, and around Little Bourke Street (southbound), cyclists often either have to squeeze between cars, or wait for them to shift.

William Street, morning peak

If you assume the footpaths are roughly the same width as each tram/traffic/parking lane, and the bike lanes are half that width, what do you get?

Mode % people % road space
Pedestrians 70% 22%
Cyclists 3% 11%
Tram 16% 22%
Motor vehicles 11% 44%

The most over-allocated, least efficient mode here is obviously motor vehicles — in part because they are allocated two lanes but one (at least in AM peak) is wasted on parking.

Meanwhile the footpaths get so crowded that many people simply walk on the road. In this terribly fuzzy mobile phone footage, you can see a bloke in a wheelchair give up on the footpath and take-off across the road for the other side:

(Note: it is perfectly legal to cross the road anywhere that is more than 20 metres from a pedestrian crossing.)

What could they do?

They could widen the footpath at the expense of car parking, particularly on the super-busy western side of the street. In the busiest section between Bourke Street and Flagstaff station that’s probably losing about 20 car spots. You’d lose a traffic lane in PM peak, but so what? Traffic is at a standstill now — it would still be at a standstill. If delays got longer, fewer people would drive.

They could install full time bike lanes all the way down. It’s crazy that cyclists get stuck behind cars.

Better enforcement of motorists blocking intersections; you see this every peak hour. (Could be a money-spinner for a cash-strapped government, in fact.)

And more fare gates at Flagstaff could ease congestion there, particularly in morning peak.

Ultimately, the station and trains are the most efficient mode available for getting large numbers of people into and out of the CBD. It already does this very well, but making the area more efficient and safer for pedestrians is vital.

Update: The video keeps disappearing out of this post — possible WordPress bug? The direct link is here.

Update 12:30pm: Someone anonymously sent me a link to what looks like it should be a Bicycle Network page with detailed stats, but it doesn’t work. The region or state specified is invalid

Update Thursday: I didn’t even notice this before — the Clearway (and thus the bike lane) inbound/southbound on William Street only operates during PM peak. What sort of craziness is this?!
Clearway in William Street southbound/inbound only applies in PM peak?!

See also: Motorcycle/scooter parking on footpaths – In a crowded city centre, this doesn’t make sense.

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.