City of Melbourne gets ball rolling on Elizabeth Street South

The City of Melbourne is looking to accelerate plans for improvements to Elizabeth Street between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane. As part of its actions for 2016-17, Council aims to consult with relevant stakeholders on the Draft Elizabeth Street Strategic Opportunities Plan, in addition to investigating and producing design options for improvements to the southern end of Elizabeth Street.

Despite being one of the most important entry points into the city and the retail core, this section of Elizabeth Street is characterised by poor urban design, an absence of trees, soft and hard landscape and constrained footpaths which results in a compromised pedestrian experience. Additionally the current state of the tram turnaround area and shelters detracts from the visual and historical significance of Flinders Street Station.

Traffic analysis undertaken by Council indicates that there are very low motor vehicle volumes in this section of Elizabeth Street, particularly southbound. According to Council the majority of vehicles which currently travel south on this section of Elizabeth Street can use alternate routes to reach their intended destination.

In contrast, pedestrian volumes are high and growing exponentially, driven in part by growth in public transport patronage.

Elizabeth Street's current state. Image: Culture Victoria

These numbers suggest that there exists an opportunity for Council to reallocate space currently used for the southbound vehicle carriageway and parking to provide a more generous space for pedestrians on the East side. City of Melbourne is considering a range of design improvement possibilities that extend from street lighting, tree planting, landscaping and furniture placement that need to be considered in line with best practice Safer by Design considerations.

Streetscape improvements in the area are intended to provide a number of benefits to the city including an improved pedestrian experience, improved amenity and presentation of this historically and culturally significant part of Melbourne.

Public Transport Victoria (PTV) is required to replace some tram tracks in the southern end of Elizabeth Street and plans to do this in early 2017. Council officers are working with PTV to better understand the opportunities to take advantage of the track works to improve the surrounding area as a fully coordinated approach.

Council proposes a program of targeted stakeholder consultation to be undertaken from 3 to 31 August 2016. The aim is to understand all the issues pertinent to formulating a design outcome for the area.

Issues are likely to include loading and deliveries, property access, stormwater management, the condition of subsurface infrastructure, bicycle access plus accessible tram boarding and alighting.

The outcomes of the consultation along with a recommendation for the next steps on the project are expected to be presented to the Future Melbourne Committee following the 2016 Council elections. This would include implications for the remainder of Elizabeth Street to inform the Draft Elizabeth Street Strategic Opportunities Plan.

Stage one: Targeted stakeholder engagement

The feedback from stage one will help the City of Melbourne develop achievable design options for Elizabeth Street South which have broad support from key stakeholders. Additionally, it will assist in developing an optimal phase two engagement process into which the wider community can have input.

To assist with these activities, materials explaining the rationale for the project and the existing site conditions will be produced.

The purpose of the stage one engagement is to help share with the community council's intention to proceed with the road discontinuance in addition to:

  • Explaining the site’s complexities, constraints and opportunities.
  • Collecting stakeholder insights and information.
  • Understanding and addressing any concerns raised.
  • Investigating further the site conditions/constraints.
  • Maximising the City of Melbourne’s ability to collaborate to ensure the best possible outcome for the site.

A report detailing the outcomes of the stage one engagement will be prepared and presented to Future Melbourne Committee in late 2016.

Stage two: Broad community engagement

A series of design options will be developed following stage one and the broader community will be engaged to provide feedback on these in early 2017. This will provide input to assist with the finalisation of the new streetscape design for Elizabeth Street South.


This isn't the first time someone has suggested improvements to this section of Elizabeth Street. Gilbert Rochecouste, founder and managing director of Village Well, and widely recognised as the man who turned Melbourne's neglected and decrepit laneways into a globally renowned attraction has previously suggested tearing up Elizabeth Street, and incorporating and revitalising the hidden waterway under it that runs down to the Yarra River, known as Williams Creek.

Elizabeth Street reimagined. Image courtesy of Thad Patradoon via The Age, March 5 2015

While his concept extended beyond the boundaries of the current study area, the idea of removing vehicular traffic in both directions and perhaps through to perhaps Collins Street may have some merit and it would be good to know that Council has at least considered every possibility and opportunity.

While certainly ambitious it certainly would represent the next stage in Melbourne's evolution: replacing defunct or underutilised infrastructure with landscape and public spaces. Similar improvements have previously been foreshadowed for Southbank Boulevard, City Road and Stage 2 of the Sandridge Bridge transforming it into a High Line style linear park: yet none of these is yet to see the light of day.

This area of Elizabeth Street provides the bookend to the Queen Victoria Market Precinct and both carry significant cultural and historical importance to Melbourne. High quality pedestrian environments and spaces at these particular key locations are critical for they have been long neglected and provide the doorsteps to two Melbourne icons and are also important interchange nodes for public transport patrons.

I'd love to hear readers thoughts.


George D's picture

I'm not sure why there are vehicles in that render. Perhaps they gave the wrong brief to the artist?

Melbourne has still got a long way to go before it realises that putting private vehicles into the crowded inner city is a very low-value use of very high-value spaces.

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pdoff's picture

The area has been in desperate need of a spruce up for as long as I can remember and they should remove the awnings while they're at it. I'm all for putting pedestrians and public transport before the motor vehicle in inner urban areas, but there would be limited benefit in closing this strip off to vehicles completely...

Traffic analysis undertaken by Council indicates that there are very low motor vehicle volumes in this section of Elizabeth Street, particularly southbound.

Slow moving, lighter vehicle type, lower volume traffic areas aren't that unpleasant to be around as a pedestrian and in the CBD it's what motorists should expect to navigate. The other routes vehicles would need to take are Flinders Lane and Collins Street. Do we want more traffic forced along these routes? There would be a greater blockage of the already under pressure Elizabeth (travelling south) into Collins St hook turn. By all means, fix up the visual appeal and public amenity of the area but I think the negatives outweigh the benefits in terms of closing it to traffic completely.

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Melb on's picture

They could go further and close the street from Collins to Flinders and turn it into city park.Terminate the tram from Flinders Lane and give that end of town a breathing space with trees gardens buskers and open air bars cafes etc?

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SYmlb's picture

Pdoff; I was just about to comment about the awnings on Elizabeth Street. Absolutely agree.

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Primal Beauty's picture

Agree with Melb On...this is the opportunity to reimagine this space once again and redevelop it as a preeminent public space in the heart of the city...perfect spot next to the station entrance and potential to be much more intimate than the Swanston Street with the masses of trams running up and down the Street...I love Swanston Street redevelopment but Elizabeth Street has got potential to transform that part of the city and create an urban oasis!

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Primal Beauty's picture

I got so excited about this idea and thought I might be too greedy of suggesting even better idea...if possible there should be no traffic up to Bourke Street excpet for the trams to terminate at Flinders Lane,so that we can tie up the whole pedestrian experience with Bourke Street Mall...only in my dreams though...but I am allowed to dream!

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Peter H's picture

I agree: pedestrianise it to Flinders Lane, similar to the Acland St redevelopment, and extend pedestrian tunnel under Flinders St, installing a travellator to emerge outside Coles in the new zone.

Why a travellator? Because they can be used by people that can't use escalators, and it compliments the existing ramps to the rail platforms at that end of Flinders St Station. It then provides accessible links from the new platform tram stop to the trains, without having to go all the way to Swanston St (and back again if catching a train via Southern Cross, so as to allow the driver to use the wheelchair ramp), and the existing traffic lights could be resynched to a tram access set similar to outside the Port Phillip Arcade.

It could be partly funded by the long term rental (and additional rates & land tax) from a couple of in-tunnel retail/cafes.

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Evan Cottle's picture

The RACV supports closing the street at Bourke Street. When a motoring lobby group says that sort of thing, it's probably well and truly due!

However PTV has plans for the trams to continue into Flinders Street and out to the terminus at Wellington/Hoddle. I can't see them changing their mind on that.

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gobillino's picture

Are they still planning that Evan? Where did you get that information from? I thought that the Flinders St connection was only to support the potential rerouting of Swanston St trams in the event that was required as part of the Melbourne Metro works (no longer required now that they've decided not to 'cut and cover').

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Steve Raider's picture

Yeah, I'd be surprised if much changes.The City of Melbourne seems bent on keeping private car access and the parking of private cars a priority for the Hoddle grid.

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Peter Maltezos's picture

Most people who travel by tram to the Flinders Street terminus, often then continue their journey on trains from Flinders Street Station. It would be insane to have the terminus relocated to Flinders Lane and making people walk the extra block!

The tram terminus needs to be redesigned with more space for commuters between the trams and ideally should have a pedestrian tunnel connecting with Flinders Street Station as well.

As for the rest, by all means stop the cars at Flinders Lane, turn the remaining area into a plaza and have it cleaned a lot more often!

I collect, therefore I am.

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kbmelb's picture

insane is a strong word Peter, making people walk an extra 70m through a revitalised part of the city can't be all that bad can?

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Evan Cottle's picture

Gobillino - It's a Metro Tunnel related thing, but my understanding is that it's a change enabled by the reduction of trams on Swanston Street (thus a balancing of light phases at Swanston/Flinders) rather than a construction diversion. Indeed, the current construction plan involves a closure of Flinders Street for a bit, so it'd be a pretty lousy diversion!

Unfortunately it's difficult to find hard information on it, but it is listed here under "Other Tram Works": - along with things like the Park Street Link, all of which is about tweaking the tram network to use the freed capacity from St Kilda Road to better serve other parts of the city.

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theboynoodle's picture

insane is a strong word Peter, making people walk an extra 70m through a revitalised part of the city can't be all that bad can?

Agreed. It's no different to the extra walk someone makes if they get on the train at one end as opposed to the other.

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