Working paper

The allocation of street space is strongly contested in many cities, particularly in locations such as activity centres where high traffic flows conflict with popular places and key destinations in their own right. Despite the stated importance of allocating street space in an equitable manner, few studies have explicitly measured how much actual street space is allocated and used by each mode of transport, particularly in Australian cities. Using a case study of Melbourne, the aim of this research was to understand how much street space is allocated to each mode of transport and how this compares to the use of each mode of transport.

A total of 57 sites located in major activity centres, generally within 10 km of Melbourne’s CBD, were selected. Each site was measured in terms of the amount of street width provided to each mode of transport, including shared space. Observational person counts, classified by transport mode, were then undertaken at each site and converted to a measure of concentration, of people per kilometre, to account for differences in average travel speeds between modes.

A key implication from the findings is that space for pedestrians could be increased at some activity centres, potentially through converting existing on-street parking, as is the case with the recent emergence of parklets. However, considerable variability was found in the results when viewed across individual sites, so this highlights the importance of developing a site-specific approach to street space reallocation. In addition, while recognising that the reallocation of street space involves a range of governance, political and ethical considerations, efforts to reallocate street space should be informed by empirical evidence of street space allocation and use where possible. This will help to ensure that street space can be distributed more equitably to users and support broader goals for increasing the uptake of more sustainable forms of transport.

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