With the Erskineville Station Upgrade nearing completion and recent changes to cycling infrastructure around Erskineville Station, it’s timely to consider how well the streets around Erskineville Station are serving people walking.
We recently visited Erskineville Station to conduct a Walking Space Level of Service Assessment using TfNSW’s excellent Walking Space Guide. We focussed on two streets—Bridge Street to the south, and Swanson Street to the east—that are in the opposite direction of the local high street, Erskineville Road, and whose streetscapes have received comparably less attention.
We picked a Wednesday evening and counted pedestrians over 15-minute intervals. We found between 300 and 400 people walking on each street per hour, or between 150 and 250 people per footpath, placing all footpaths in Type 3 according to the TfNSW Walking Space Guide.
Level of Service varied between E and F, the two worst levels of service in the Walking Space Guide, along all footpaths surveyed. The western footpath on Bridge Street and the southern footpath on Swanson Street both rated exclusively Level of Service F.
The western footpath of Bridge Street is only 1.3m wide, leaving insufficient space for a wheelchair to turn on the footpath that will be used to access Erskineville Station via the new “accessible” southern concourse. On the other side of Bridge Street, street tree plantings intermittently reduce the Walking Space to 1.2m, insufficient space for a wheelchair to navigate safely.
The footpaths on Bridge Street are so poor that many people abandon them altogether. Many choose the carriageway, while some choose the separated cycleway. When we visited we saw a woman pushing a pram down the separated cycleway because the footpath was too narrow, while a cyclist rode past her on the carriageway because the cycleway was occupied. When you plan for walking last, the effects spill over to other modes too.
The southern footpath on Swanson Street, the busier of the two footpaths on that street, has a maximum Walking Space of 1.7m and a minimum Walking Space of 1.2m around the bus stop, leaving insufficient space for a wheelchair to navigate safely.
The Level of Service for people walking on footpaths on Swanson Street and Bridge Street is so poor that it qualifies as an intervention trigger under TfNSW’s Walking Space Guide. Alarmingly, footpaths used to access the station are inaccessible to wheelchair users, highlighting the need to consider station access more holistically than in terms of new concourses and lifts.
Fortunately, however, there is ample road space in both locations to achieve basic amenity for people walking and the bare minimum for people using wheelchairs.
Bridge Street offers no through road to private vehicle traffic but it is still laid out as if it were. Although the footpaths on Bridge Street should eventually be widened, this may not be possible in the short term if the upfront cost is too high and the benefit cannot be immediately realised because the mature street tree plantings must be retained. In the interim, it may make more sense to envision the street as a residential way or some other street type that functions as a shared space with a self-explaining design that indicates that people driving need to travel at a slow speed and negotiate priority with people walking.
On Swanson Street, the lane closest to the southern footpath is reserved exclusively for the 355 bus, a service that only runs around once every 30 minutes. Allowing the bus to stop in-lane—as happens elsewhere on Classified Roads like William Street in Darlinghurst—could free up more space for people walking and cycling.
We believe that these two streets serve as a case study for why comprehensive studies and funded upgrades must occur around stations to make best use of public infrastructure andand realise the sustainable transport vision that government strategy (and business cases) envisage.