Bourke and Spencer Street – where cars take priority

If you have ever caught a tram down Bourke Street and alighted at the corner of Spencer Street, the massive wait for the pedestrian lights to turn green should be quite familiar. So how long will you get stuck waiting there?

We start at 2:21:06 PM – a St Kilda bound route 96 tram has disgorged a full load of passengers, who have filled the narrow walkway leading towards Southern Cross Station.

Tram load of passengers depart a route 96 service at the corner of Bourke and Spencer Streets

There are no cars driving down Spencer Street, yet both the tram and departing passengers still have to wait.

No cars using the intersection of Bourke and Spencer Streets, but the tram and departing passengers still have to wait

40 seconds later, and the tram finally gets a green light to turn from Bourke into Spencer Street.

D2.5020 on route 96 finally gets the traffic light to turn from Bourke into Spencer Street

It takes the tail end of the tram 10 seconds to clear the intersection, but the passengers are still waiting.

Route 96 tram clears the corner of Bourke and Spencer Streets, but departing passengers are still waiting

Now over a minute has passed since the passengers left them tram, and the pedestrian lights finally turn green, allowing passengers to leave the tram stop.

Finally - departing passengers get a green light to leave the tram stop

Note that for anyone bound for Southern Cross Station, after crossing Bourke Street, there will be a second wait for the pedestrian lights to cross Spencer Street!

If there is a location in Melbourne that needs a scramble crossing, then the corner of Bourke and Spencer Street is it.

Don’t believe me?

Just to prove how pedestrian-hostile the corner of Bourke and Spencer Streets is, here are a few more photos.

Hoards of passengers attempt to leave the tram stop at Bourke and Spencer Streets

Note that once the narrow walkway gets filled with departing tram passengers, it is impossible for any intending passengers to reach the tram stop.

Crowd of exiting tram passengers waiting for the traffic lights at Spencer and Bourke Street

In addition, waiting pedestrians overflow the west end of the path, and have to squeeze out of the way of turning route 96 trams.

Woefully inadequate for a main entrance to the Melbourne CBD, isn’t it?

2018 update

In 2018 VicRoads announced that a raised pedestrian crossing would be added halfway along the westbound tram stop. Works began in February 2018 and was expected to be completed by July 2018.

Six months on. the additional pedestrian crossing to the Bourke and Spencer Street tram stop is still waiting to be opened

However the crossing sat unused for months, a fence blocking access.

The additional pedestrian crossing to the Bourke and Spencer Street tram stop is still waiting to be opened

Eventually opening for use in March 2019.

The additional pedestrian crossing to the Bourke and Spencer Street tram stop finally open!

Further reading

In January 2012 the City of Melbourne commissioned a report titled ‘CBD Pedestrian Congestion and Public Transport Access‘ – inside it details the growing congestion that faces pedestrians accessing public transport in the Melbourne CBD, and how it can be addressed.

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11 Responses to “Bourke and Spencer Street – where cars take priority”

  1. Rohan says:

    Absolutely correct, it’s a long wait! I tend to just cross if there’s no cars, and I’m at the front. At other times I have tried driving down Spencer, and it’s been a slow moving queue of cars, so that’s prob why they get priotity, but doesn’t explain the wait on Bourke St. Yes a scramble intersection!

    Should we all email someone?

  2. Tom the first and best says:

    I am not normally a fan of scramble crossings as they are to the advantage of only some pedestrians and the disadvantage of others (mostly pedestrians wanting to go across only one of the streets, who by law have to wait while motor traffic heading in the same direction as them is allowed to go and this is very frustrating).

    However at this t-intersection with its tram stops, similar to the Flinders and Elizabeth Sts crossing (where the scramble crossing is the best option other than extending the pedestrian subway under Elizabeth St), a scramble crossing would likely be an improvement and should be implemented.

    I would also remove the option of turning right into and out of Bourke St and consider diverting all traffic eastbound along Bourke St into Godfrey St and thus into Little Collins St.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      The west end of Little Collins Street is one of the few ‘little’ streets in Melbourne with two way traffic – the only other one is Flinders Land between William and Market Street.

  3. Ben says:

    Yes it’s nasty.

    Elizabeth and Flinders intersection is similar in many ways, T junction, tram stop, zillions of pedestrians, but it does have a scramble crossing. Not sure if the fact the Elizabeth street trams terminate there makes a difference to the design?

  4. Beren Scott says:

    To be honest, the tram stop is in the wrong position. It should be on Spencer street. Basically replace the tram stop pointing towards Spencer Street, with two stops on Spencer Street. Leave the one which is heading away, and this would greatly fix the congestion issues.

    It would split traffic a bit more. The intersection is dangerous, and not just that the tram literally has to take a very slow corner avoiding the pedestrians.

    But, if you didn’t wish to do that, simply close the Burke St end to road traffic.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      One problem is how long the new tram stops are – if you moved the St Kilda bound tram stop onto Spencer Street, it will be right up against the existing stop at Collins Street.

  5. Andrew says:

    I am all for King Street being treated as a main thoroughfare through the city for cars. It is part of our national highway system. But every other intersection in the city should be much more tram and pedestrian friendly. Bourke and Swanston has a quick traffic light cycle and it works well, admittedly without cars. I am surprised you could get a photo of the situation without people illegally crossing. I would and do.

    • Marcus Wong says:

      Since the completion of CityLink having National Route 1 and 79 use King Street is just a historical artifact. But of all the traffic sewers in the CBD, King Street is the one with the most connectivity north and south of the Hoddle Grid.

  6. […] Southern Cross Station at capacity in peak times and pedestrians spilling out onto Spencer Street, many people have called for the pedestrian subway to be reopened, including the City of […]

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