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Elizabeth St could soon be closed to cars

Rebecca Russo

Earlier this month Melbourne City Council put forward plans to create more space for pedestrians and cyclists in the CBD. Now there is a new proposal that would turn Elizabeth Street into a pedestrian priority zone.

Under this long-term plan, Elizabeth Street would get wider footpaths, more trees, better lighting, improved street furniture and, possibly, a whole reconfiguration to prioritise pedestrian, cyclist and tram access all the way from Flinders Street to La Trobe Street.

This new plan will primarily focus on the northern end from Little Collins Street to La Trobe Street. If the plan goes ahead (it’s going to be considered by Melbourne councillors on Tuesday, May 22), two blocks will be closed to cars. The sections are between La Trobe and Little Lonsdale streets and between Little Bourke and Bourke streets, both of which include tram stops.

In the other blocks without tram stops, Melbourne councillors have said that a big portion of the western side of the street would remain open, primarily for private vehicles (think delivery tricks, local access, etc). The number of on-street disability and loading parking spaces will remain but in alternative locations on Elizabeth Street.

Elizabeth Street is one of Melbourne’s busiest north-south thoroughfares. According to a March 2018 study, there were more pedestrians per hour using Elizabeth Street near Melbourne Central (1,147) than the pedestrians using Swanston Street near Town Hall (1,013). Elizabeth Street’s footpath width is only six metres compared to 14 metres on Swanston Street.

According to Transport Portfolio chair Nicholas Frances Gilley, pedestrians and people on trams make up 90 per cent of street users on Elizabeth Street, and that the street “carries fewer cars than many residential streets".

Improvement works have already been planned for the southern end of Elizabeth Street, with work scheduled to start in early 2020 after being postponed due to the new development on the corner of Flinders Lane.

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