City of Melbourne councillors will consider a proposal to make Elizabeth Street safer, greener and more pedestrian friendly.
The Elizabeth Street Strategic Opportunities Plan sets out a long-term vision to transform Elizabeth Street through streetscape improvements.
The plan proposes widening footpaths, upgrading lighting, improving street furniture and planting more trees.
Acting Lord Mayor Arron Wood said the proposed changes would reconfigured Elizabeth Street to prioritise access for pedestrians, cyclists and trams.
“As the gateway to Melbourne’s retail and commercial heart, Elizabeth Street plays a key role in how visitors, residents and workers enjoy our city,” Mr. Wood said.
“We want people to feel more welcome, so when they cross the road from Flinders Street Station they can easily walk down wider bluestone paved footpaths, pop into one of the many retail outlets, take a seat on new street furniture and enjoy alfresco dining.”
The City of Melbourne’s recently released draft budget includes $2.1 million for streetscape improvement works on the southern end of Elizabeth Street from Flinders Street to Little Collins Street.
The Strategic Opportunities Plan focuses on the northern end from Little Collins Street to La Trobe Street.
“If endorsed, project works will be phased over the next six years as we work closely with key stakeholders and the Victorian Government to coordinate and communicate changes to the city,” Mr. Wood said.
“Under the plan two city blocks that include tram stops will be pedestrianised and closed to vehicular traffic between La Trobe and Little Lonsdale streets and between Little Bourke and Bourke streets.”
Mr. Wood said footpaths on both sides of the street would be widened to boost safety and accessibility for people using busy city tram stops.
“In blocks without tram stops, a large portion of the western side of the street will remain open for private vehicles to maintain local access, business servicing and delivery requirements,” Mr. Wood said.
“The tram stops and transit interchanges at Flinders Street and Melbourne Central are some of the most congested parts in the city. We’re proposing to widen the footpaths to make it safer and easier to access trams.”
Mr. Wood said pedestrian flow is vital to the city’s economy, with a 10 per cent increase in walking connectivity in the Hoddle Grid worth $2.1 billion in economic uplift.
Transport Portfolio Chair Nicolas Frances Gilley said traffic modelling showed the changes would have minimal impact on the road network, as few cars use Elizabeth Street as a through-route.
“Elizabeth Street today carries fewer cars than many residential streets. Pedestrians and people on trams make up 90 per cent of street users but have the least amount of space,” Mr. Frances Gilley said.
“In the afternoon peak hour there are on average 3580 people walking south along Elizabeth Street at La Trobe Street, but only about 261 cars make the same trip. That is 14 times more pedestrians than people travelling by vehicle, and yet cars get allocated more space.”
If endorsed, the City of Melbourne will commence further engagement with stakeholders on detailed streetscape designs.