Swanston Street

Coordinates: 37°48′21″S 144°57′47″E / 37.8058865°S 144.96310360000007°E / -37.8058865; 144.96310360000007
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Swanston Street

Swanston Street near City Square, March 2008
Swanston Street is located in Melbourne
Swanston Street
Swanston Street
General information
Length2.8 km (1.7 mi)
Route number(s) Metro Route 34 (1965–present)
(through Parkville)
route number
Metro Route 3 (1965–1989)
(through Melbourne)
Major junctions
North end College Crescent
Cemetery Road East
Parkville, Melbourne
South end St Kilda Road
Melbourne CBD
LGA(s)City of Melbourne
Suburb(s)Parkville, Carlton, Melbourne CBD

Swanston Street is a major thoroughfare in the Melbourne central business district, Victoria, Australia. It was laid out in 1837 as part of the original Hoddle Grid. The street vertically bisects Melbourne's city centre and is famous as the world's busiest tram corridor, for its heritage buildings and as a shopping strip.[1]

Swanston Street runs roughly north–south in-between Russell Street to the east and Elizabeth Street to the west. To the south it becomes St Kilda Road after the intersection with Flinders Street, whilst the road's northern end is in the suburb of Carlton at Melbourne Cemetery. This northern section was originally named Madeline Street.[2] The street is named after merchant, banker and politician Charles Swanston.


Swanston Street was one of the main north–south streets originally laid out as part of the 1837 Hoddle Grid. Originally carrying pedestrians and horse-drawn traffic, the street resembled many typical European avenues of the 19th century. By the end of the 19th century it also accommodated 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 car traffic between areas north of the city and St Kilda Road throughout most of the 20th century.

In the latter half of the 20th century, the southern half of the street had problems with heavy traffic and its associated pollution, homelessness, loitering, and a plethora of discount stores, fast food outlets, sex shops and strip joints.

As part of Victoria's 150th birthday celebrations, Swanston Street was closed to traffic, turfed and treed between Flinders Street and Lonsdale Street for a Summer street-party on February 9-10, 1985.[3][4] The conversation then began around the permanent transformation of Swanston Street. In March 1992, the street was closed to daytime private through-traffic between Flinders and La Trobe Streets, roughly half its length.[5] 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, the newly elected Lord Mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle proposed returning private vehicle traffic to the street.[6] The move attracted opposition from the Public Transport Users Association, Australian Greens and Bicycle Victoria. The idea 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, a complete reversal of his previous stance.[7]

Use for marches, rallies and protests[edit]

Many marches, rallies and protests involve the use of Swanston Street, resulting in planned and unplanned road closures. The street is the venue for many annual events, including the Moomba parade, the AFL Grand Final parade and Melbourne Cup parade. It is also the major route for the Anzac Day parade because Swanston Street leads into St Kilda Road, the site of the Shrine of Remembrance.

Becoming car free[edit]

Swanston Street was one of the busiest roads in Melbourne, carrying a large volume of private car traffic, mostly transiting through the city. In 1992, the street was made partially car-free, with limited exemptions for small freight, buses and private cars during certain times of the day. After that, proposals for the street to become entirely car-free gained momentum.

On 27 January 2010, it was announced that the entire length of Swanston Street would become car free.[7] 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 was for emergency vehicles and small-scale freight at certain times. The modifications to the street commenced in late 2011 and were completed in late 2012.

Notable buildings[edit]

Flinders Street station
The Chinatown Archway on Swanston Street

Many of Melbourne's most noteworthy precincts and prominent buildings face Swanston Street as the city's historic main avenue, including:

Both the University of Melbourne and RMIT University also have campus buildings fronting Swanston Street.


Tram routes 1, 3, 5, 6, 16, 64, 67 and 72 currently run along the street, with the frequency of trams making Swanston Street the world's busiest tram corridor.[1] Two of the busiest railway stations in Melbourne are located near the street, with the hub Flinders Street station at its southern end and, further north, the underground Melbourne Central station at the intersection of La Trobe Street. The Metro Tunnel is being constructed under Swanston Street, and should be completed in 2025.

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.[8] 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.

Swanston Street was previously served by bus services to Gardenvale and Middle Brighton. When Melbourne-Brighton Bus Lines' licence periodically came up for review, the Melbourne City Council and Melbourne & Metropolitan Tramways Board always opposed.[9][10][11] Finally the buses were removed from Swanston Street in October 1989, by which time they were operated by the Public Transport Corporation.[12]

In popular 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 honour of the music video.

It is also referenced in The Distillers' song "Dismantle Me", as singer Brody Dalle is originally from Melbourne, as well as TISM's song "Get Thee in My Behind Satan" and Courtney Barnett's "Elevator Operator".

Jane Halifax (Rebecca Gibney) of the Halifax f.p. television series is shown living in an apartment at 339 Swanston Street (Jensen House;[13] now converted into a UniLodge) opposite the State Library.


See also[edit]

icon Australian roads portal


  1. ^ a b Carey, Adam (30 May 2015). "Melbourne to be split in two as Swanston Street is torn up". The Age. Retrieved 22 October 2016.
  2. ^ "GENERAL NEWS". The Age. 3 March 1925. p. 10. Retrieved 6 June 2016.
  3. ^ "Swanston Street Summer Party [picture] : Melbourne, 9 & 10 February, 1985".
  4. ^ "Imagine a City: Swanston Street Party and the greening of Melbourne". 8 September 2016.
  5. ^ Melbourne Trams Services Trolley Wire issue 249 May 1992 page 25
  6. ^ Lucas, Clay (2 December 2008). "New mayor driving down a wrong-way street". The Age. Archived from the original on 3 December 2008. Retrieved 6 June 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  7. ^ a b Dowling, Jason (27 January 2010). "No cars, new city squares: Doyle's Swanston Street reversal". The Age. Retrieved 6 August 2010.
  8. ^ "Herald Sun | Breaking News and Headlines from Melbourne and Victoria | Herald Sun".
  9. ^ Private Buses to Stay in Swanston Street Truck & Bus Transportation January 1953 page 5
  10. ^ Swanston St Buses to Stay: Licences Increased to 7 yrs Truck & Bus Transportation June 1956 page 59
  11. ^ Licence renewal Truck & Bus Transportation July 1970 page 34
  12. ^ Buses out of Swanston Street Fleetline issue 174 January 1990 page 12
  13. ^ "Barlow Jensen House - Swanston Street. MELBOURNE [Walking Melbourne Building Information]". walkingmelbourne.com. Retrieved 15 August 2020.

External links[edit]

Media related to Swanston Street at Wikimedia Commons