The creative future of public spaces

By Jake Koumoundouros.

The old Slussen. (Source: Stockholms Stad).

Redeveloping a major transport interchange is a substantial challenge for any city. Along with ensuring that the new interchange will cope with any projected traffic increase, there is also increasing pressure on cities to incorporate new and exciting public spaces into these. In a local context, the Melbourne Metro rail tunnel project will be a catalyst for major change in Melbourne and associated with it is the chance to redevelop a number of our key transport interchanges.  
Influencing Traffic Projections
In terms of the coping with projected traffic increases, to understand what could be possible it is useful to analyse comparative examples in a global context. In Stockholm, the ‘Slussen interchange’ in the Sodermalm district is aiming to achieve a 0% increase in car traffic between now and the year 2030. Is this possible? Well, apparently so! According to Stockholms Stad (Stockholm City Council), the current motor traffic in Slussen is approximately 30,000 cars per day, and - in 2030 - the projected figure will remain so.  How? Investment in alternative transport modes – such as cycling and walking – to ensure that cycle traffic will more than double during the same period (refer below). If achieved, this will be a remarkable accomplishment for the city as it will allow them the opportunity to transform the interchange for the better. However, is this achievement possible in Melbourne?

                                                              Source: Stockholms Stad.

Let’s compare Melbourne’s Domain interchange with Slussen. Under Melbourne Metro, the Domain interchange will have a brand new underground rail station which will also continue to include surface tram and bus routes (and will therefore not be dissimilar to Slussen in this sense, which also includes metro, commuter rail and buses). However, the difference is that there seems to be no ‘deliberate’ effort to halt the growth of car traffic through the Domain interchange.
Enhancing the Public Realm
Keeping car traffic stagnant in Slussen holds the potential for Stockholm to incorporate new public realm works that activate the part of its waterfront that otherwise would not be possible. Refer below. The new Slussen interchange will include squares, plazas and an amphitheatre and beautiful boardwalks across the river, completely activating a once desolate and barely permeable  corner (speaking from experience) of an otherwise vibrant city.

                                                  The new Slussen. (Source: Stockholms Stad).
Wouldn’t it be exciting to replicate this for the Domain Interchange?
Domain’s broader surround are already densely populated and incorporates a large employment precinct in St Kilda Road North and South Melbourne. What makes the redevelopment of the Domain Interchange particularly interesting is that it is flanked by the Royal Botanic Gardens, giving an opportunity to activate the interchange in such a way that acts as an extension of the gardens or which complements them, rather than removing heritage-listed vegetation and altering the boulevard character of St Kilda Road for generations to come. It could be that the interchange incorporates a new piazza (which could become the vibrant heart of the neighbourhood), which is critical as St Kilda Road North and South Melbourne host an ever-increasing local resident and worker population. Either outcome would become a significant, valued community asset.
To conclude, managing population density will become increasingly problematic as our cities continue to grow and evolve. More than ever, we need to be more creative in the ways that we plan for our public spaces at key public environments such as transport interchanges. Stockholm’s Slussen example is one way that we can begin to incorporate new public realms into our transport infrastructure on a local scale.  

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