Elizabeth Street transformation begins

Melbourne City will start work soon on its Elizabeth Street south project, a new public space that will begin the transformation of this car-choked, major north-south CBD artery into an attractive and more bike-friendly environment.

As a stand-alone project, this new public space between Flinders Street and Flinders Lane, is not a bike project, and in fact will reduce access to Flinders street for bikes.

But the benefits for riders will come as the street is dialled back as a route for cars.

The whole length of Elizabeth Street has tremendous potential for improved retailing, especially on the back of the apartment boom towards the northern end.

The upgrading of the southern block will soon result in clamour for similar improvements further north.

Such traffic calming should see the development of an improved bike route to the university, Royal Parade, and Sydney Road that could rival Swanston Street in its attractiveness to riders.

The current plans for Elizabeth South reveal a block that has eliminated south bound traffic, but trams stay, and there is a new pedestrian area on the eastern side.

Bikes will be permitted to ride in to destinations in the block, but are included in the traffic ban exit to Flinders Street. Traffic counts show that hardly any riders make this movement currently.

The Elizabeth Street tram tracks are being connected into Flinders Street, which will remove the option of left turning traffic.

Northbound traffic out of Flinders into Elizabeth Street will remain to serve a commercial carpark exit around the corner in Flinders Street.

As commercial car parking is heading for extinction in the CBD, it is likely that this will be a temporary arrangement. The whole block could be later pedestrianised.

It is possible that other changes will influence how Elizabeth Street evolves. Obviously the Melbourne Metro Tunnel will impact the city significantly during its long construction.

And Flinders Street Station will require modifications to its entries and exits in order to move the numbers of people that will be arriving in the new, longer trains carrying many more passengers.

All of these changes create opportunities to reduce motor traffic and prioritise bike movements in Elizabeth Street and adjoining bike routes.