It turns out some are floating the idea of the Swanston/Flinders Street intersection being converted to a pedestrian scramble crossing (aka a Barnes Dance/Barnes Walk).
THE CBD’s busiest intersection, at Flinders and Swanston streets, could get a pedestrian-friendly makeover under changes forced by the Metro Rail tunnel project.
Lord Mayor Robert Doyle has revealed one option Melbourne city council is considering is the introduction of a traffic light sequence in which pedestrians can cross the whole of the intersection from different directions.
— Herald Sun: Metro tunnel forces rethink of pedestrian crossing at Flinders and Swanston streets (pay wall)
The only scramble crossing at present in the CBD is at Elizabeth/Flinders Street. It works well when cars stay out of it during the pedestrian phase.
What is a Pedestrian Scramble/Barnes Dance? This is. Not suited to everywhere, but can work well.?? pic.twitter.com/LmANc6msNs
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) June 13, 2017
Bourke/Spencer is probably the top candidate elsewhere in the CBD. Swanston/Latrobe could also work well.
As for Swanston/Flinders, potentially it could work, though the best locations for them are where there are lots of pedestrians in all directions.
At this intersection, most of the traffic is north-south from the station to the shops on the western side of Swanston Street. There are also heavy flows between the station and Federation Square and the tram stop, but this is well south of the intersection — though there is a case for moving the tram stop (and enlarging it) to be closer to the intersection, for better interchange with trams on Flinders Street.
There might be other, easier alternatives, but whether a scramble crossing works or not probably depends on the design of the traffic light cycles. If they minimise green time for cars, and maximise it for pedestrians, as well as having more spots in the cycle to let trams through, then it’s got potential to improve things.
Indeed, issues around the Federation Square tram stop are a reminder of the importance (alluded to in the Herald Sun article) that we need to think big picture.
What are the effects the metro tunnel will have on pedestrian movements? (It’s likely to provide underground walkways from the current station to the new one.) What about trams along Flinders Street, set to increase with some Elizabeth Street trams running to East Melbourne? And could/should there be a move to reduce or even eliminate private vehicles from Princes Bridge and this section of Flinders Street?
There are safety benefits to scramble crossings — accidents from turning cars reduce, though this is less important at this particular location where there are virtually no turning movements at the same time as walk signals.
And I do think there’s another important benefit to scramble crossings: on a psychological level, they improve the walking environment. Giving the entire space to pedestrians, even if only once each traffic light cycle, sends the message that (here at least) pedestrians are not, and should not be marginalised.