If Melbourne didn’t have trams, would every CBD street look like Lonsdale Street?

Here’s something to ponder…

If Melbourne didn’t have trams anymore, would every CBD street look like Lonsdale Street?

Lonsdale Street

(Seen on Twitter recently: “Lonsdale St is the scariest, least bike friendly St in CBD. Discuss.”)

PS. Lunchtime: I’d just note that I deliberately chose Lonsdale Street over the (arguably more attractive) Exhibition or Queen Streets because I would think that if the trams had gone, we would have ended up with more Smartbus-type frequent bus services, as well as (I’d hope) fulltime bus lanes. In fact it somewhat staggers me that the Lonsdale Street bus lanes aren’t fulltime.

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17 Replies to “If Melbourne didn’t have trams, would every CBD street look like Lonsdale Street?”

  1. It could be argued that Lonsdale Street is better than Collins St. because:
    * the overhanging trees make a nicer landscape than ugly power lines
    * you can’t be run over by a tram
    * pedestrians can seek refuge from moving cars in the median strip
    * easier for cars turning right from intersection (no funny hook turns)
    * easier for cars doing a U-turn (no tram up their arse)

    But trams are better than buses (in the city) any day.

  2. One could argue that without the “ugliness” of Lonsdale Street that car flow and “ugliness” would need to spread across all the other more “beautiful” streets.

  3. The centre of road parking on Lonsdale Street seems to be unique in the CBD – a row of parallel parks for each direction, instead of the ‘straight through’ you see over on Exhibition Street.

  4. Well, I drove down King St yesterday, and it’s quite definitely different from Lonsdale St. I can imagine Flinders, Spencer and Swanston Sts being more King St-ish. (I doubt Swanston St Walk being as successful/necessary if there weren’t seventy thousand trams going up and down it every ten minutes.)

    But yes, I think trams offer more than just public transport to our city.

  5. Lonsdale St is quite ugly, but I think the lack of trams also encourages faster and more dangerous driving. I cross the Lonsdale/Elizabeth corner on foot frequently, and cars often come plummeting across the intersection even after we’ve got the green man signal to cross. Amazed no-one’s been hit that I know of. Presumably the trams act as a traffic-calming device.

  6. @Marcus Wong… Queen St is almost identical to Lonsdale St in terms of centre rd parking yet is not used a the main N/S city thoroughfare… that is obviously due to King’s Streets direct connection to the Westgate.

  7. Quite possibly – I’ve always found that trams give ‘life’ to a street over and above the standard function they perform – perhaps the delivery of people to the area. For this reason I find the occasional calls made over the years to turn Swanston Street into a ‘pure’ pedestiran mall free of trams also would turn it into a very seedy place at night well over what it already is.

    Spent another eight months in Adelaide this year and noticed the absence of trams makes a noticeable difference to the streetscape compared to Melbourne – admittedly not all like Lonsdale Street though. The return of the King William Street line through the city has also made a noticeable effect – the trams are always full passing the Rundle Mall stop nowdays for a project considered a waste of time by some.

  8. … presumably the space in the middle of the street is there for some old planning reason – otherwise it would never have been reserved in the first place … was there a tram line down the middle at any point?

  9. I’d just note that I deliberately chose Lonsdale Street over the (arguably more attractive) Exhibition or Queen Streets because I would think that if the trams had gone, we would have ended up with more Smartbus-type frequent bus services, as well as (I’d hope) fulltime bus lanes. (It somewhat staggers me that the Lonsdale Street bus lanes aren’t fulltime.)

    @Matt, it’s probably true that Lonsdale St is the predominant east-west traffic route within the Hoddle Grid, though really Victoria Street would be the main (and more logical) route for most traffic I suspect. Even better, where possible they should use CityLink to bypass the inner-city completely!

    @Marcus, my recollection (which may or may not be reliable) is Lonsdale St parking wasn’t always parallel to the traffic; it used to be more like the others. I wonder if it’s an experiment.

    @malcolm, yes, as Andrew S says, Lonsdale Street had cable trams until the 1930s. The modern day equivalents are the Rathdowne and Johnston Street bus services, which still enter the city via Lonsdale Street.

  10. Surely parallel parking in the centre must be responsible for many more traffic snarls along the street? Is there any logical reason for it?

  11. @par3182: I’ve seen many many instances where people have had difficulty getting in or out of central 90deg spots … including fsckwits who insist on _reversing_ out of them which is not only crazily dangerous, but also illegal … granted, parallel central parking is Odd because you’re parking on the driver side, it’s at least only affecting one direction of traffic …

  12. Melbourne streets without trams would be even worse than Lonsdale Street.

    They would be like Currie Street in Adelaide, a fume-laden noisy swarm of diesel buses, or George St in Sydney which is far worse, but which just might soon see trams replace the thousands of daily bus movements from Central to Circular Quay, making George St habitable again.

    I was in Adelaide this week and was staggered at the belching throngs of noisy buses clogging the streets, a reminder of how good Melbourne is thanks to the trams.

    Adelaide has expanded its sole tram line but the expansion does not appear to have replaced buses, which still parallel the tram.

    Daniel I think those strange parallel parks in Lonsdale St are new. I don’t recall them from when I worked neaby in 2009-2010, they were right-angled then.

  13. Well Swanston Street and Elizabeth Street etc would not look like Lonsdale street if it had no trams because it is not that large enough. Trams would be more environmentally friendly and have larger capacity than buses. Trams also are a vital icon of Melbourne. I would hate to see the removal of trams in Melbourne. Sydney took them off because they were too crowded and what do you know. The buses are more crowded.

  14. @Phill, firstly, no, all the major streets are the same width. As Wikipedia notes: All major streets are one and half chains (99 ft or 30 m) in width. They may look different because footpaths have been altered in width.

    Secondly, nobody’s suggesting trams be removed. It was a rhetorical question.

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