Changes to Pedestrian Access at St Vincent’s Plaza

St Vincent’s Plaza, named for St Vincent’s Hospital which it services, sits in the middle of Victoria Parade.  It also serves the Eye and Ear Hospital, as well as the Melbourne Campus of Australian Catholic University.

St Vincents Plaza Jan2016
St Vincent’s Plaza from above, screenshot taken from Google Maps

Over the latter part of 2015, Victoria Parade was given a makeover, receiving Bus Lanes and associated infrastructure upgrades to support these. These upgrades included some changing of the sequencing of traffic lights, removal of roadside parking, new bus shelters, and changes to kerbs. Unfortunately, not all of these changes are beneficial to pedestrians or public transport users.

Impossible to Cross in One Go?

Many people walk from Parliament Station to Victoria Parade, either to get to St Vincent’s or to the nearby ACU campus. However, it is impossible for a person to walk the whole distance across Victoria Parade travelling South-North, with the light sequencing at each crossing either side of St Vincent’s Plaza not lining up.

Birds Eye View of St Vincent's Plaza with Labeled Crossings
One day I will learn how to make effective labels to convey information. Until then, this.

At Crossings A and B, Crossing B starts before crossing A does, and ends before most pedestrians cross A, unless they run. However, there is a chance to continue crossing, a ‘dead space’ in the pedestrian sequence. Cars who come from Gisborne Street turning right into Victoria Parade have a longer sequence than the pedestrian light where cars heading east on Victoria Parade have a red light and therefore cannot enter the intersection. This means that the Pedestrian light could potentially stay green for the entire time cars are allowed to turn right from Gisborne Street without interrupting traffic, and letting pedestrians cross the road in one go.

At crossings C and D, crossing D similarly starts before crossing C. Many pedestrians start their crossing before C has a green signal, and many continue to cross at D once again after the red signal has started flashing or turned red.

Crossing E on the same intersection also has some interesting dead space. While all traffic signals are at red, it has a green man. This ends as the eastbound signal starts, and once it is green, the Green man is shown again, and meaning there is several seconds of the red man showing where there is no conflicting traffic movements, only for it to turn green again.

The Dead Space on crossing D also has created some problems with crowding. As a Part of the changes to Victoria Parade, the Brunswick Street Turning lanes were widened to allow a bike path. While this has a great benefit to cyclists heading into the city, to install these lanes, the footpath was narrowed, and has not been widened. This can lead to crowding and difficulty walking between the two crossings.

Crossing F also features dead space, with a long gap in the red signal for southbound traffic from Brunswick Street to the green signal for pedestrians to cross. This could also be improved for pedestrian access to St Vincent’s Plaza.

A new Crossing?

Before upgrades, many people, most of them students from ACU, took their chances and crossed the road between the northbound tram platform and the opposite corner. This was a perfectly safe move to make, as long as there was eastbound traffic on Victoria Parade, as it can only continue eastwards, and not turn.

With the upgrades to Victoria Parade, it was obviously seen fit to upgrade this unofficial crossing to an actual one. However, to make it an actual crossing, it had to discourage the crossing of the northbound tram tracks, and a railing was installed, meaning that the main use of the crossing was discouraged.

A railing was installed as part of works last year to discourage illegal crossings over the tram tracks.

Most who use this crossing have just alighted from a Route 11 tram. These trams head north, not past the front door of the university, and thus all students alight here. They then cross both tram tracks to cross at crossing D. Route 109 and 12 trams do not have such extreme cases of this crossing per tram, as their numbers of alighting students are split between St Vincent’s Plaza and Lansdowne Street, the next stop on those routes.

This railing also means that many pedestrians are unable to use this new crossing, as many trams move forward to face the intersection, blocking the crossing, before they have a clear signal to cross into Brunswick Street.

A Tram moving forward before receiving a white signal, blocking access to the crossing

Despite the high use this crossing already receives however, the signals have yet to be commissioned (as of March 25 2016) and do not react when the buttons are pressed, deterring pedestrians who are not familiar with the intersection from crossing.

The Future

The complicated intersections between Gisborne Street, Victoria Parade and Brunswick Street obviously prove to be a difficult intersection to manage for all forms of traffic, pedestrian, car, tram and bicycle.

As ACU expands, and as the area gradually increases in density, the amount of traffic, especially pedestrian going through this intersection is only going to increase. Some improvements could be removing the dead spaces in cycles and improving the size of footpaths in the median strip to prevent crowding.

Some more radical suggestions for the future could include:

  • Moderate: Extending the bike lanes south into Morrison Place to link them with the dedicated bike lanes on Albert Street, Victoria Parade having no dedicated bike lanes of its own.
  • Radical: Rebuilding the St Vincent’s Plaza tram stop so that the North Platform is an island platform backing onto the centre platform. Using a right hand drop, eastbound pedestrian traffic would be encouraged across the new crossing.
  • Extremely Radical: A footbridge above or subway underneath the platforms, linking one side of the street to the other. These could either link into St Vincent’s and the Eye and Ear Hospital, or across into ACU. Spacing would probably be an issue however, especially in ensuring DDA compliancy.