Swanston Street, Melbourne

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Swanston Street North, looking north.

Swanston Street is a major thoroughfare in the centre of Melbourne, Australia. It is historically one of the main streets of central Melbourne, laid out in 1837 as part of the Hoddle Grid, the layout of major streets that makes up the central business district. It is named after Captain Charles Swanston, a Tasmanian banker, politician and prominent member of the Port Phillip Association.

Swanston Street runs roughly north to south, between Elizabeth Street to its west and Russell Street to its east. The street runs through the middle of Melbourne's city centre, just to the east of the centre of the rectangular Hoddle Grid. To the south, it crosses the Princes Bridge over the Yarra River before becoming St Kilda Road. As it runs north and leaves the CBD, it passes the University of Melbourne, and ends at the Melbourne General Cemetery. This section was originally named Madeline Street.[citation needed]

The street passes a number of iconic Melbourne landmarks, including the Capitol Theatre, Manchester Unity Building, St Paul's Cathedral, Federation Square, Flinders Street Station, the Melbourne Town Hall, the State Library of Victoria, the City Square, the Melbourne Central and QV Village shopping centres, Curtin House, the pub Young & Jackson as well as the Hi-Fi Bar, which is a prominent live music venue. Both the University of Melbourne and RMIT University are on Swanston Street.

History[edit]

Henry Burn, Swanston Street from Princes Bridge, 1861.
Swanston Street, looking north from Princes Bridge, 1959.
Buxton's Rooms on Swanston Street, which were the site of the 9 by 5 Impression Exhibition in 1889 by noted Australian impressionist artists.

Swanston Street was one of the main north–south streets originally laid out in the 1837 Hoddle Grid. Originally carrying pedestrians and horse-drawn cart traffic, the street resembled many typical European avenues of the 19th century. By the end of the 19th century it was carrying one of the major tram lines through the city. With the advent of the automobile in the early 20th century, the street became a major thoroughfare, carrying automobile traffic between areas north of the city and St Kilda Road throughout most of the 20th century.

The southern half of the street historically had problems with heavy traffic and carbon monoxide pollution, homelessness and loitering, and a plethora of discount stores, fast food outlets, sex shops and strip joints, throughout the later half of the 20th century.

In the 1990s the street was closed to daytime private through-traffic between Flinders and La Trobe Streets, roughly half its length. This section is known as Swanston Street Walk. Swanston Street was redeveloped in 1992 with a number of public sculptures being established through the Percent for Art Program. The most famous of these statues is of a small bronze dog called Larry La Trobe by Melbourne artist, Pamela Irving. By the turn of the 21st century, the street carried nine tram routes, with the frequency of trams being the highest in Melbourne.

In November 2008, newly elected Lord Mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle proposed to return private vehicle traffic to the street.[1] The move attracted opposition from the Public Transport Users Association, Australian Greens and Bicycle Victoria. This proposal was rejected and by January 2010, plans to make the entire length of Swanston Street in the city car-free, were announced by the Lord Mayor himself, representing a complete reversal on the issue.[2]

Route[edit]

The street runs in a straight line, north-northwest to south-southeast, between Elizabeth Street to its west and Russell Street to its east. The street runs through the middle of Melbourne's city centre, just to the east of the centre of the rectangular Hoddle Grid. To the south, it crosses the Princes Bridge over the Yarra River to become St Kilda Road. As it runs north and leaves the CBD, it passes the University of Melbourne, and ends at the Melbourne General Cemetery.

Transport[edit]

A pair of southbound Melbourne trams embark passengers in Swanston Street just north of Little Collins Street, May 2012.
The iconic Flinders Street Station, on the corner of Flinders and Swanston.

Nine tram routes currently run along the street, with the frequency of trams being the highest in Melbourne. Along it are located two of the busiest railway stations in the city; Flinders Street Station at its southern end, which is the hub of the suburban railway network; and Melbourne Central station, an underground station beneath the Melbourne Central Shopping Centre area at La Trobe Street.

Swanston Street is also a major route for commuting cyclists to and through the city, with bike lanes from the northern suburbs and from St Kilda Road in the south, and the Capital City Trail on the Southbank of the Yarra River.

The parking of tour buses along the street caused controversy in September 2008 when a young cyclist was killed by a bus as it turned out of a parking spot.[3] There had previously been calls to the council to relocate the large buses from the street where there was little space between buses and trams.

Use for marches, rallies and protests[edit]

Many marches, rallies and protests involve the use of Swanston Street, resulting in planned and unexpected road closures. It is used for many annual events, including the Moomba parade, and the Anzac Day parade, which passes through much of the city centre, but uses Swanston Street as a centrepiece on its way to the Shrine of Remembrance in St Kilda Road, as well as the AFL pre-grand final parade, Melbourne Cup parade and others.

Car-free proposals[edit]

Swanston Street was one of the busiest roads in Melbourne, carrying large private automobile volumes, before being converted to a restricted traffic strip in 1992. The street was made partially car-free, with limited exemptions for small freight, buses and private automobiles during certain times of the day. Since the 1990s, proposals for the street to become entirely car-free have continuously gained support and momentum.

On 27 January 2010, it was announced that the entire length of Swanston Street would become car-free.[2] The $25.6 million proposal included plans for several city squares along the street and several large tram stops. Aside from trams, the only motorised vehicular access is for small-scale freight at certain times, and emergency vehicles. The construction program commenced in late 2011 and was completed in late 2012.

In poplar culture[edit]

Swanston Street was the shooting location for the 1976 video for AC/DC's song "It's a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock 'n' Roll)". It led to a nearby street being renamed ACDC Lane in honor of the music video.

It is also referenced in The Distillers' song "Dismantle Me", as singer Brody Dalle is originally from Melbourne.

It is referenced in TISM's song "Get Thee In My Behind Satan".

See also[edit]

Portal icon Australian roads portal

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lucas, Clay (2 December 2008). "New mayor driving down a wrong-way street". Age. Fairfax. Retrieved 6 August 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Dowling, Jason (27 January 2010). "No cars, new city squares: Doyle's Swanston Street reversal". Age. Fairfax. Retrieved 6 August 2010. 
  3. ^ http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,24365228-661,00.html

External links[edit]

Media related to Swanston Street at Wikimedia Commons

Coordinates: 37°48′23″S 144°57′47″E / 37.8064°S 144.963°E / -37.8064; 144.963