Disappearing tram stops on Elizabeth Street

Earlier this week Yarra Trams closed another tram stop in the Melbourne CBD – stop 6 at Elizabeth and Franklin Streets. This isn’t the first stop to be removed on Elizabeth Street – so why did they go?

Northbound B2.2118 still has to stop at closed Franklin Street stop because of the traffic lights

The stops

Currently Yarra Trams is rebuilding the tram stops at the south end of Elizabeth Street, replacing the former ‘safety zones’ with new platform stops that occupy a full city block each.

Elizabeth Street entrance to Melbourne Central Station: a big fence prevents passengers from use the most convenient route to the tram stop

Once the work is completed later this month, the list of stops used by route 59 trams along Elizabeth Street and Flemington Road will be as follows:

  • Stop 1: Flinders Street
  • Collins Street
  • Stop 2: Collins Street
  • Bourke Street
  • Stop 3: Bourke Street
  • Lonsdale Street
  • Little Lonsdale Street
  • Stop 5: La Trobe Street
  • A’Beckett Street
  • Franklin Street
  • Therry Street
  • Stop 7: Queen Victoria Market (Victoria Street)
  • Queensberry Street
  • Stop 9: Haymarket (Royal Parade)
  • Haymarket roundabout
  • Stop 14: Grattan Street
  • Royal Melbourne Hospital entrance
  • Stop 15: Park Drive
  • Stop 16: Gatehouse Street
  • Royal Children’s Hospital entrance
  • Stop 19: Royal Children’s Hospital (Abbotsford Street)
  • Stop 20: Melrose Street
  • Stop 21: Racecourse Road

All up that is 12 tram stops, as well as 21 sets of traffic lights. Note how the stop numbers jump around!

Z3.150 northbound on route 55 on Flemington Road at Gatehouse Street

To explain the gaps in tram stop numbers, I consulted the Edition 27 of the Melway (dated 2000) which gave me the following list of tram stops.

  • Stop 1: Flinders Street (Flinders Lane)
  • Stop 2: Collins Street
  • Little Collins Street
  • Stop 3: Bourke Street
  • Little Bourke Street
  • Stop 4: Lonsdale Street
  • Little Lonsdale Street
  • Stop 5: La Trobe Street
  • A’Beckett Street
  • Stop 6: Franklin Street
  • Therry Street
  • Stop 7: Queen Victoria Market (Victoria Street)
  • Stop 8: Queensberry Street
  • Stop 9: Haymarket (Royal Parade)
  • Stop 13: Peel Street (southbound only)
  • Stop 14: Grattan Street
  • Royal Melbourne Hospital entrance
  • Stop 15: Park Drive
  • Stop 16: Gatehouse Street
  • Stop 17: Royal Children’s Hospital
  • Stop 19: Abbotsford Street Interchange
  • Stop 20: Melrose Street
  • Stop 21: Racecourse Road

So a decade ago there were five more tram stops and three fewer sets of traffic lights encountered by route 57 trams.

What happened?

Some inconsistencies in tram stop numbering can be easily explained: stops 10, 11 and 12 never existed, the gap due to route 55 joining route 59 at Peel Street. Stop 18 is also missing from the 2000 list: presumably it was eliminated before that time.

Stop 4 at Lonsdale Street is a victim of the present program of work on Elizabeth Street,due to it being a short walk from the new stops a block south at Bourke and Little Bourke Street, or a block north at Little Lonsdale and Lonsdale Street. A side effect is the removal of the interchange between Elizabeth Street trams and the SmartBus services towards Doncaster – the same change was made to Swanston Street last year.

Further along the line, we start to find large gaps between tram stops. The removal of stop 6 at Franklin Street a more difficult one to justify, forcing passengers to walk two blocks north to the Queen Victoria Market, or two blocks south to La Trobe Street. The original safety zones at the site were located a reasonable distance from the neighbouring stops: presumably building a platform stop there was canned as traffic lanes would be lost.

Competing demands on road space also killed stop 8 at Queensberry Street: it was removed as part of the VicRoads managed rebuilding of the Haymarket roundabout. The rebuilding of the Haymarket roundabout was also responsible for the two new sets of traffic lights: one at the entry to the central island, and a separate out-of-phase set on the exit.

Another oddity in tram stop spacing is between Park Drive and the Abbotsford Street Interchange, and is a result of the rebuilding of the Royal Children’s Hospital: stop 17 outside the former entrance was removed a few years ago, replaced by an upgraded platform stop down the road at stop 19. For the similar reasons stop 16 at Gatehouse Street is probably on death row: still just a safety zone with Flemington Road’s right turns lanes adjacent, there isn’t enough room to build a new platform here.

So trams are now faster eh?

One would think by removing stops, trams would now being able to travel faster along Elizabeth Street and Racecourse Road. On that front, you are wrong: every single set of traffic lights along the way appears to be configured to do the opposite. Here is an example at the removed Franklin Street tram stop:

If it isn’t bad enough for to roll up to a set of traffic lights and need to wait, this tram copped it even worse – the traffic lights change to red right in front of it.

The most obvious fix is traffic light priority – but we’ve been asking for that for a long time.

Further reading

Notes

Stop 1 is the Sir Robert Risson terminus: rebuilding of this stop is still to come.

Stops 2, 3 and 5 have been just rebuilt as platform stops.

Stop 4 at Lonsdale Street is about to closed.

Stop 6 at Franklin Street has been eliminated, forcing passengers to walk north to the Queen Victoria Market, or south to La Trobe Street.

Stop 7 at the Queen Victoria Market was rebuilt as a platform stop in 2007.

Stop 8 at Queensberry Street was removed in 2011 as part of the rebuilding of the Haymarket roundabout, forcing passengers to walk a block north to Royal Parade, or south to the Queen Victoria Market.

Stop 9 was rebuilt as a platform stop at the same time two sets of traffic lights replaced the Haymarket roundabout.

Stop 13 at Peel Street also also removed as part of the rebuilding of the Haymarket roundabout.

Stop 14 at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, and stop 15 at Park Drive were rebuilt as platform stops around 2008.

Stop 16 at Gatehouse Street still remains as a safety zone, but is probably on the kill list due to the proximity of the Park Drive stop.

Stop 17 at the Royal Children’s Hospital was removed in 2011, at the same time as the new platform being opened at stop 19.

Stop 20 at Melrose Street is still a safety zone, and will require road lanes to be removed if a platform stop was built.

Stop 21 at Racecourse Road is also a safety zone, and would probably get killed off due to the proximity of the existing platform at stop 22, Boundary Road.

Footnote

Between writing this piece and publishing it, Yarra Trams have announced the death of stop 21 at Racecourse Road:

Since the introduction of Stop 21 Flemington Road and Racecourse Road, safety requirements for tram stops have changed.

Yarra Trams is committed to ensuring the safety of its passengers.

A recent review by Yarra Trams has concluded that this stop should be closed permanently in both directions, effective from Sunday, 24 November 2013.

Routes 57 and 59 – Stop 21 Racecourse Road and Flemington Road will close permanently in both directions.

Passengers can catch trams from Stop 20 Melrose Street and Stop 22 Flemington Road.

Another one bites the dust.

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6 Responses to “Disappearing tram stops on Elizabeth Street”

  1. Dave says:

    The lack of permeability through the block-long superstops is a real issue. Most ‘old style’ safety stops had a few gaps so you could join the stop mid-block, aiding both tram travellers and those just crossing the street. (It of course being legal to do so if you’re more than 20m from the closest intersection). Now an engineering solution effectively precludes this legal action, noting the more athletic are already jumping these fences.

    I’m not entirely against some stop rationalisation, but there is really no point if the traffic light priority isn’t fixed. If the trams are still stopping constantly for red lights they may as well offer passengers a chance to board or alight.

    I saw on Twitter Tony Morton saying 500m is too far apart for CBD stops (Vic Market [Franklin St deletion] – LaTrobe) but the median walk is only 250m, and there’s no cross-streets delivering transfer passengers (unlike Collins, Bourke etc). I also think ther would be space to reinstate at Franklin St if needed; there’s currently parking lanes along there which could turn to traffic lanes, allowing a superstop. This would be consistent with both City of Melbourne, RACV etc support of removing parking lanes before traffic lanes.

    In my view the Queensberry St loss was a bit more acute, being located on a hill – gradient makes a difference to the time/effort to reach the closest stop. Again though, low traffic in comparison to adjacent stops so useful, if and only if again, traffic light priority means the tram is rarely caught there.

  2. dean says:

    It serves all these people right who become overweight that they have to get off their fat arses and walk

  3. scott says:

    Not many people get on or off at Franklin St, however it is quite a long way from Vic Market to Latrobe St

    • Dave says:

      But again, people aren’t walking from Latrobe to the Vic Market; some literally stepping out of their door at Franklin need walk ~250m in either direction. I don’t think you’d want stops further apart in the CBD, but equally, I don’t think the stop loss is an issue from a stop separation perspective, it’s just an issue from a delay perspective (if it’s normally getting stuck at a red light there).

  4. Robbie says:

    It is interesting to note that there appears to be no provision for Myki top up machines on any of these new stops as there are in Collins Street. This is a prime tourist route and making it easy to top up should be a priority consideration in the design of these stops.

    Its not just the distance between stops on Elizabeth Street that is an issue – not all public transport users are overweight but many are elderly – that extra walking distance can be quite off-putting for the not-so-able.

    When asked in consultation sessions about the designs of these stops, I have always maintained that there should be at least one centre exit point on the long stops to alleviate congestion at the ends. The suggestion has been unilaterally ignored. One wonders why the Trams people bothered conducting community consultation sessions especially as it seemed many of them had never even used the trams nor the stops in question.

    As a regular user of the Elizabeth Street routes, I am often in a position to observe the traffic behaviors… it concerns me that the road widths beside these stops are so narrow in places that there will be issues of safety for the large numbers of cyclists that use this route through and into the city.

  5. Scott says:

    Yarra trams are now running low floor trams along the 19 route. This is quite dangerous as along royal parade and Sydney rd, tram stops are not separated by barriers. As the trams are low floor, there is only one small step once the tram door opens, many motorists do not stop at tram stops which poses a serious safety risk for passengers exiting the tram, especially considering that some passengers don’t check to see if motorists have stopped before exiting the tram. The low floor trams are good for patients at the royal Melbourne hospital and eye and ear hospital.

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