Flinders Street’s entrance crowding problem

A new Myki-related problem has emerged — during evening peak, crowds heading into Flinders Street Station’s Elizabeth Street entrance back up onto the road. This video shows it (though I’m sure I’ve seen worse crowds on occasions)

It’s not entirely down to Myki — it’s a combination of surging passenger numbers, space limitations at that entrance (due to part of the subway being dedicated to foot traffic to Southbank) and slow responses from Metcard gates to Myki cards.

Apart from getting the switch over to the new faster gates happening, perhaps the answer is to simply widen the footpath at the intersection. Given the number of people and the small amount of westbound traffic (unlike eastbound), it would be justified.

Flinders St

As you can see from this Nearmap pic, Flinders Street is one lane westbound anyway from Swanston Street; it only widens at the intersection itself. East of the intersection, the left lane is used for restricted parking (mostly buses I think) — west of the intersection, one lane is taken by the tram stop. You wouldn’t get a full lane of extra footpath, but you’d certainly gain a bit.

Update: Video from ABC News Breakfast on Tuesday:

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

17 replies on “Flinders Street’s entrance crowding problem”

Firstly, great interview! Nice to see you get more than a 10 second sound grab.

I’d also think when they replace the Metcard gates with Myki gates it might be worth moving the fence in the subway a little. Every time I’ve used it the subway there are considerably more people on the half within the station area than the other half. If they can fit in an extra gate by moving the fence line a bit I’d bet it would ease pedestrian flow considerably.

Well, I certainly have NO IDEA what to do about this. Perhaps our Lord Mayor could travel overseas to see how other countries handle this? Come to think of it, there are MANY countries out there with PT systems. He’ll probably have to take MANY MANY trips, finding facts.

Here is what I would do if possible (go with me)
a) block off Elizabeth Street between Collins and Flinders. Foot traffic and trams only (apart from Flinders Lane).
b) Move the Elizabeth Tram Terminus up to the Collins Street end.
c) create a new, wide underpass going under that intersection, leading into the subway, which you enter from the site of the former Elizabeth Tram Terminus down a huge ramp. Widen the existing subway to at least twice it’s existing width.
d) kill anyone who suggests getting rid of the ramps going up to the platforms and replacing them with escalators (because you know some idiot would).
Hurrah, problem solved, for many years to come hopefully.

At busy stations, cities such as London and New York force commuters to pretty much walk through a maze between both the street and the barriers, and then the barriers and the platform, to avoid these problems.

@nathan, moving the tram terminus just means the connection between train and tram will get worse… But if this new tram terminus is integrated with your suggested entry point to a pedestrian subway to the station, then it would be seen as a better connection than currently exists.

The video is of the entrance to the subway coming out of Degraves St, not the Elizabeth St entrance. Do they both share the same problem?

Flinders St is part of Vicroads “Principle Bike Network”, not that you would know it from the way they have laid out the road, but decent bike lanes along Flinders St are sorely needed, if only to remove bike/ped conflict from along the Yarra.

It would be good if the PT system could come up with gates that work and don’t have to eat up more space along there.

Concurring with Julian, the video shows the entrance to platform 1 having as much width as the subway entrance, seems wrong.

@Nik, no the video is the Elizabeth St entrance. The Degraves St entrance has no direct steps to the subway.

No, the Degraves St entrance doesn’t have this problem, because (before 7pm) the pedestrian traffic enters the subway north of Flinders Street, rather than crossing the road to enter.

The fence between the paid area and the route through to Southbank is not straight at the top of the steps – it widens to give more space to the gates.

@Nik Dow

I wasn’t advocating giving the steps to Platform One less space by widening the whole tunnel. That would involve considerable and expensive works on a heritage building that shouldn’t be messed with too much. That underpass might look a bit old and dank now, but with a bit of maintenance (not restructuring) it could look old and charming. One only has to look at the Swanston St concourse to see how badly the last lot of big renovations have faired on one of Melbourne’s most beautiful buildings.

Instead I was advocating simply moving the fence that exists in the underpass. It runs pretty much straight down the middle of the tunnel, yet the side inside the “ticketed” area of the train station probably has more than twice the number of pedestrians, so it makes more sense to make it a 2/3 – 1/3 split. The fence in there isn’t heritage, or even vaguely nice so perhaps they could remove it and put in something that fits with the aesthetics a bit better while they’re at it. That would still do a lot to ease pedestrian movement in the tunnel, wouldn’t post a heritage destroying risk and would cost bugger all.


I agree with Jarks. Moving the Elizabeth Street trams further away from Flinders Street it just making it less convenient to transfer. If you’re closing the section off to car traffic (which I agree makes sense), why not just have the entry points where the road currently exists? No need to move the tram terminus at all, and you’ve made connections easier. You would also ease some of the pedestrian crush that happens waiting for the lights to change on the Elizabeth Street corners.

This job of course would be huge and would need to be done with considerable thought to the heritage of the current pedestrian subway. Hopefully they’d find a tile maker that can match the current tiles pretty well (and fix the existing ones up a bit while they’re at it) and have it cleanly merge with the existing tunnel. Of course the whole job would be huge and expensive. It’s probably far more important to concentrate on pedestrian access at some of the other city loop stations first before doing something this expensive at Flinders Street, which isn’t suffering quite so badly.

Could they not just move the barriers (or some of them) to the bottom of the steps? Maybe also include more staggered myki gates from the subway itself to provide more entrance points?

I think I read recently that there’s a carriageway easement in favour of CoM for that part of the subway that’s outside the paid area, specifically for Southbank pedestrians. They’d need to be a party fo any proposal to move the fence.

@ Daniel

“No, the Degraves St entrance doesn’t have this problem, because (before 7pm) the pedestrian traffic enters the subway north of Flinders Street, rather than crossing the road to enter.”

Much alike the busy stations across the world that I was talking about – get the people into an underground maze ASAP and then go through the gates. In this case, the laneway from the Degraves St steps doesn’t actually take you through a maze, but rather to a larger space with several ticket barriers that can accomodate the number of people.

@Gobillino, they couldn’t move the barriers to the bottom of the steps; the subway at the bottom is much narrower than the entrance, so they’d have to drastically reduce the number of gates.

But yes, they could put in a few more along the subway.

@Jarks, yeah the other benefit of the subway is that avoiding the traffic lights means the people arrive at the gates in a constant stream, not waves.

There’s not much that could be done easily at Elizabeth St. Really, it was a stupid idea to close off half of the subway to provide pedestrian access to Southbank.

The subway could not be easily widened – the Elizabeth St creek flows just the other side of the western subway wall. The creek would also make it difficult to put a subway under Flinders St – you would be restricted to the eastern side of the intersection.

I would not like to see any more barriers in the actual subway. Those that are already there are choke points for people moving to and from the platforms. Try and get from a Frankston or Werribee train in the morning peak!

You could put the barriers at the top of the ramps and make the subway entirely open. That would require more staff though.

Of course, now everyone has Myki, you could put barriers at both ends of the subway and remove the fence. People walking through the subway would simply tag on at one end, walk through and tag off. Provided they did it within 15 minutes Myki would simply cancel the tag on. Exploit a feature of Myki!

Subway would be a good idea but they’d have to watch the water (runoff) management if it came from further along Elizabeth St e.g. @Nathan’s proposal.

Why? Elizabeth St runs along the course of an old creek, as can be seen by some amazing old flood photos, and the flooding from a year or two ago. The slope is from north to south, so it would be an awesome funnelling effect down the subway if they weren’t careful.

The entry from Degraves regularly floods (or so I have been told – does it?) so, they’d need to design against it, doubly, for Elizabeth St directly. Wouldn’t be good for the heritage underpass!

Duh – sorry for the unoriginality… that’ll teach me not to read ALL previous posts. @Andrew has made the point about the path of the creek, though I didn’t know the current drainage is west of the western wall – thanks for the enlightenment. Runoff from street level would stiill be a concern.

And I like the touch on-off idea. Useful!

If you’ve got some time to spare before your train, and don’t mind a bit of a walk, maybe consider entering the station via platform 1, then use the underpass that connects all the platforms to get to the platform you want.

You can see a few barriers on the top right of the video that lead straight into platform 1, but hardly anyone is using it (compared to the main set of barriers). Would help to ease the crowd using that entrance.

Also, putting the barriers at the end of the ramps (suggested by Andrew) seems like a viable solution, though would inconvenience those who need to use the ramps to change trains, and would require a few more staff. Those ramps are fairly steep though, wonder if that will cause any problems.

All these solutions will only be temporary solutions when they do the redevelopment of Flinders Street Station. I know some will say “I’ll believe it when it happens”, but the construction of a pedestrian bridge over the train lines and providing access to the platforms should be the first thing built. Then train commuters will go above the trains to access the platforms and Southbank traffic will use the subway. The pedestrain bridge would then form the first part of a roof over Flinder Street Station.

For a solution that is quicker, why not have gates at each ramp from the subway. Commuters changing platforms could use the Degraves St subway. Then the Elizabeth Street subway would be all open to use by all, and there would be no gates at the top of the steps. This may cause a few troubles at the bottom of the ramps, but it will eliminate a big problem in Flinders Street. Someone will get hit by a car with all those people at the gates.

Andrew, how close is the water to the western side of the subway. Is it water everywhere just behind the wall or is there just a small pipe. I was asking because they could put lifts in on the western side to provide better disabled access. This will become a factor as well as it has become with tram stops. A ramp will have to be provided at Elizabeth Street to enter Flinders Street Station as well.

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