Let us speak not of beautiful glass boxes. Let us dream not of transit-oriented design. Instead, let us talk about the multi-jurisdictional, dysfunctional pedestrian nightmare that is today’s Green Square redevelopment, (map) .
So I am walking down the West side of Wyndham Street (as I am wont to do) and want to go to the brand new Green Square Library. What am I supposed to do?
- Cross a zebra crossing to the refuge island at Bourke Street and Wyndham,
- Cross at a traffic light at Bourke Street,
- Cross at a traffic light at Wyndham Street,
- Cross at a traffic light at O’Riordan Street,
- Walk across the patio on top of Green Square Station, and then what?
- Walk down Botany Road,
- Cross at a traffic light at Geddes Avenue, and then
- Walk back up Botany Road to the library.
And do it all again when I leave. Now mind you, you have to do it in this order. If you begin on the east side of Wyndham, I think you are supposed to cross Wyndham twice!
Now, this is worse than usual due to construction, but this doesn’t make sense in the best of times. We have a high-frequency service train station. Across the street we have a Library. But we are not supposed to cross the street, as there is no intersection, no HAWK signal, no Zebra crossing, none of the animal menagerie designed to protect pedestrians from the onslaught of the more important motorised vehicles whose speed shall not be diminished. Casual empiricism suggests before the most recent installation of barricades walling off the library from its patrons, many people did, in fact, cross the street midblock in an organic but unorganised fashion, exhibiting the desire lines that ought to govern how the street system is arranged.
Ok Sydney, you all can do better than this. Better on the temporary solutions, better on the permanent solutions. I won’t say this is the worst location in town, since I have not seen them all, but this ranks up there.
Is there a solution? Well, I am glad you asked. Yes, I can think of at least one. About a year ago, for my own blog, I wrote Deleting a road in Green Square. It still holds (updated below).
In New York City it was found that traffic flowed better after the diagonal Broadway was closed to traffic in a few places, including Times Square. Sometimes there are street segments that might have once made sense in an earlier era, but have hung around far longer than needed.
Today the Pink Box is bisected by the end of O’Riordan Street (the pink line segment), which otherwise more-or-less continues to Wyndham Street on the West. Botany Road is the main north-south road on the East side. Bourke Road here is East-West through the image (though it is mostly a north-south road). As can be seen in the image, most traffic follows O’Riordan to Wyndham anyway, to the regret of local residents. That would not change.
In this proposal, the Pink Box would be an enlarged Pedestrian Plaza. A Green Square, if you will, for Green Square.
The primary required change is simple: Close O’Riordan Street in front of Green Square Station.
(While we are at it, the Wyndham Street/Bourke Road intersection doesn’t need to flare out like that either).
The other streets are all two-lanes in each direction, but this diagonal makes signalling more difficult, and increases lost time, for very little gain (traffic from O’Riordan (NB) wanting to switch to Botany (NB) or Bourke (EB/NB) and vice versa).
All of these roads start near each other (all three: O’Riordan, Botany, and Bourke end at the airport in the south; O’Riordan (i.e. Wyndham/Gibbons) and Botany (i.e. Botany/Regent) come together in the North, and run into Circular Quay, while Elizabeth, which splits from Bourke terminates there as well. Bourke itself winds up about 10 blocks east. People who want to switch paths can use an East-West link (like Bourke here, and others up and down the corridor) as needed.
By doing the following:
- Simplifying the intersection by removing O’Riordan St. from Green Square to Botany Road,
- Installing pedestrian crossings on every leg (no more Double-Crosses (missing crossings) here) (Wyndham/Bourke, Botany/Bourke),
- Installing a midblock, at-grade pedestrian zebra crossing across Botany Road from the Station to the front of the Library, and across O’Riordan where it used to intersect Wyndham Street, and
- Retiming the signals
I posit that both traffic flow and the pedestrian environment would improve. An appropriate set of pedestrian crosswalks at each leg of each intersection could be provided, and each crossing given a reasonable amount of green time. A pedestrian going from the northwest side of Wyndham to the Green Square station would only take two rather than 4 street crossings.
There is already planned a “Green Square to Ashmore Connector”, (south of this location) but the analysis of that assumes this leg stays in place. The additional capacity there is one more way for traffic to move east-west or to change north-south routes.
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