Railway and Brunswick Streets community

Interviews were conducted with local residents of Railway and Brunswick Streets, Fitzroy North. They provided their opinions on the research project thus far. The aim of the survey series was to gain insight into the local community and how they use the site.

The following graphics represent the findings of the surveys:

20141003 railway community #1

20141003 railway community #2

20141003 railway community #3

20141003 railway community #4

Based on these research findings, the following conclusions were made:

  • There is a mix of household types from young families, share houses and retirees.
  • There is an almost even mix of owners and renters.
  • For those who are relatively new to living in their current residence, they have been locals of the area for a significant amount of time.
  • There is a significantly low number of bicycles owned.
  • There is a high percentage of car ownership per household.

20141003 railway community #5

20141003 railway community #6

These access and usage patterns reveal the following:

  • Half of the residents have access to a private courtyard, of varying sizes.
  • 40% have a private garage, the remaining car owners have an allocated street parking space.
  • 100% of the residents make use of their private open space and of the street. Socialising is inclusive of picnics, dining, entertaining and relaxing. Exercise activities include rehabilitation and dog walking.
  • There was general agreement that the grassed area adjacent to Railway Street was underused.
  • Many of the residents were not aware of the high use of the bicycle path, especially during peak periods.
  • Many of the residents were aware of the sale and subsequent evacuation of the residents of the Casa Elda Vaccari building.

Image sources

  1. Personal details, this and subsequent images copyright of author.
  2. Work details.
  3. Distance travelled to work.
  4. The household.
  5. Access to private open space.
  6. Use of the street.



Railway and Brunswick Streets traffic conclusions

The data collected in my traffic survey sessions was collated to summarise the use of the site by cars, cyclists and pedestrians.

20140929 railway street traffic conclusions #1

  • 1,597 cars use the site per day. There is approximately one car journey every 25 seconds during peak periods and every 40 seconds during off peak periods, driving at an average speed of 43km/hr.
  • 2,412 bicycles use the site per day, on average. There is approximately one bicycle journey every 12 seconds during peak periods and every 35 seconds during off peak periods, riding at an average speed of 19km/hr.
  • 500 pedestrians use the site per day. There is approximately one pedestrian journey every 110 seconds during peak periods and every 100 seconds during off peak periods, either walking or running at an average speed of 8km/hr.
  • In every hour, cars spend 12 minutes driving through the site, each taking 11 seconds to travel from the north end of Brunswick Street to Park Street.
  • In every hour, bicycles spend 17 minutes riding through the site, each taking 10 seconds to travel from the former Casa Elda Vaccari building to the bike crossing at Brunswick Street.
  • In every hour, pedestrians spend 11 minutes walking or running through the site, each taking 33 seconds to travel within the area outlined by Railway, Park and Brunswick Streets.

20140929 railway street traffic conclusions #2

The analysis of journeys that start or finish within the site area, compared with those in transit reveals an extremely low percentage of users actually stopping within the site.

  • 3% of car journeys are arrivals or departures. Approximately 46 arrivals and departures occur per day, of 1,597 cars total.
  • 1% of bicycle journeys are arrivals or departures. Approximately 22 arrivals and departures occur per day, of 2,412 bicycles total.
  • 2% of pedestrian journeys are arrivals or departures. Approximately 11 arrivals and departures occur per day, of 500 pedestrians total.

The broad conclusions from the traffic surveys conducted are:

  • Railway Street is a dead street, in terms of car, bicycle and pedestrian traffic.
  • The bike path perpendicular to Brunswick Street is highly frequented and opportunities lie in channelling this frequency.
  • Bicycle usage during peak periods are significantly higher than off peak periods.
  • The site is almost always used as a thoroughfare.
  • The grassed area is rarely used as a park.

A shortcoming of the data collected is that it fails to recognise the following:

  • The average speed of cars and bicycles does not take into account the fact that journeys through the site are often interrupted by vehicles stopping to give way to other traffic. This is especially prevalent during peak periods.
  • There are typically two types of bicycle speeds: cyclists on a mission (22 – 26 km/hr) and lazy Sunday riders (12-17km/hr).
  • Brunswick street is typically only used by cars.
  • Cars tend to significantly speed up over the 40km/hr speed limit after driving over a speed hump along Brunswick Street.

Image sources

  1. Traffic conclusions, this and following image copyright of author.
  2. Transit vs exit / arrival.


Railway and Brunswick Streets traffic analysis

The following traffic survey was compiled through a series of 6x one hour observation and data recording sessions of my selected site: the intersection between Railway Street and Brunswick Street, Fitzroy North.

20140929 railway street traffic #1

Observations and analyses of the site stretched over 2 weeks, at varying times of the day and night and under different weather conditions. Data was recorded on Thursday August 21st and Saturday August 23rd. The collection of data includes: the number of cars, bicycles, pedestrians and any other modes of transport (e.g. scooters or skateboards) as well as the direction travelled and whether they were in transit, exiting from or arriving into the site.


Weekday morning peak
Total number of journeys = 728


Weekday day
Total number of journeys = 238


Weekday evening peak
Total number of journeys = 592


Weekend day
Total number of journeys = 157


Weekend night
Total number of journeys = 96

Image sources

  1. Looking south down Brunswick Street, with cycling track running east-west. Photo taken 20th August 2014. This and subsequent images copyright of author.
  2. Weekday morning peak.
  3. Weekday day time.
  4. Weekday evening peak.
  5. Weekday night time.
  6. Weekend day time.
  7. Weekend night time.

Railway and Brunswick Streets

Railway Street in Fitzroy North sits perpendicular to Brunswick Street and directly parallel to Holden Street. The street contains private residences on the northern side and public parking along the southern side which abuts a public green space and cycling track.

20140911 railway and brunswick #1

What attracted me to this quiet, one way street was the potential of the underutilised grassed area next to it. I was curious about the remnants of an old railway line which sporadically appeared within the green space, like a wound splitting the ground.[1]

20140911 railway and brunswick #2

I questioned the apparent lack of interaction with this public grassed area from residents whose properties line Railway Street. The consideration of this grassed space as an extension of Railway Street led me to also include the adjacent section of Brunswick Street in my analysis and future proposal space.

20140911 railway and brunswick #3

There are 17 dwellings along Railway Street, however only 6 of these have a Railway Street address. The remaining residences face onto Brunswick, Holden or Porter Streets. Opposite Railway Street is a heritage listed former electric railway substation. Up until recently the building functioned as an elderly residential village, Casa Elda Vaccari hostel, run by Southern Cross Care. The building was sold in June 2014 and has since remained vacant.


The following images are a series of mapping studies representing the characteristics of the street:

20140911 railway and brunswick #5








  1. Architect and academic, Nigel Bertram, gave a lecture recently (18th August 2014) for the Australian Institute of Architects, entitled Urbanism: The Fine Grain. In it he spoke about his project, Box Hill Gardens, a small scale urban design project that repurposes bricks from an existing building on site. This project is a strong example of embedding the history of a site into a new masterplan.

Image sources

  1. Railway Street, sourced from Streets Without Cars; Nicholls Ward analysis.
  2. Unused railway track, copyright of author.
  3. Brunswick Street, sourced from Streets Without Cars; Nicholls Ward analysis.
  4. Former Casa Elda Vaccari building, 863 Brunswick Street Fitzroy North, copyright of author.
  5. Street dimensions, this and subsequent images copyright of author.
  6. Car, bicycle and pedestrian lanes.
  7. Car parking.
  8. Building types.
  9. Building footprints.
  10. Street and private trees.
  11. Parks and gardens.

Nicholls Ward analysis

50% of the streets in the Nicholls Ward of the City of Yarra were visited, photographed, mapped and diagrammed over a period of two weeks from 7th – 21st of August. I conducted this research in collaboration with Petar Petrov.

20140911 nicholls ward #1

We observed:

  • The majority of the streets are residential streets.
  • The majority of the buildings are residences, though there are commercial and hospitality, major and minor precincts.
  • Less than 50% of the streets have access to green space i.e. abut a green space at any point along their length.
  • Less than 10% of the streets have public transport running along them.

20140911 nicholls ward #2

20140911 nicholls ward #3

20140911 nicholls ward #4

20140911 nicholls ward #5

Analyses collected for the 115 streets visited within this precinct can be downloaded in .pdf format here (24Mb).

20140911 nicholls ward #6

20140911 nicholls ward #7

These streets reflect the general character of the Nicholls Ward – that of quiet, residential suburbs, located within walking distance of commercial, hospitality and recreational precincts.

Image sources

  1. Nicholls Ward map, this and subsequent images copyright the author and fellow student, Petar Petrov.
  2. Nicholls Ward parks.
  3. Nicholls Ward building types.
  4. Nicholls Ward street types.
  5. Nicholls Ward transport types.
  6. Railway Street analysis.
  7. Brunswick Street analysis.

Social Cities

The Grattan Institute is an independent research group that collects empirical data related to the wellbeing and social characteristics of Australians, and their interactions with built and social environments. Through subsequent analysis, recommendations are provided to government for the improvement of people’s lives via public policy change.

20140819 grattan institute #1

In March 2012, the Grattan Institute released a report entitled Social Cities by Jane-Frances Kelly. The report addresses questions regarding the importance of social connection for the individual, and the impact cities have on our perceived sense of wellbeing.

These days, we collectively put a lot of emphasis on the creation of sustainable and highly productive cities, yet we often fail to consider the social welfare of the people that populate these cities. Wellbeing and social welfare are difficult to gauge just by looking at a person, and are often misinterpreted when there is the presence of material goods (which more often than not encourage antisocial behaviour). Australian society idealises independence and self sufficiency, a state reflected by the rapid growth in single dwelling unit[1] On the other hand, the pursuit of independence often leaves people more susceptible to loneliness and facilitates a loss of social connection with those around them.

20140819 grattan institute #2

20140819 grattan institute #3

20140820 grattan institute #4
People with a greater need for transport (i.e. living in the outer suburbs of the city) experience a higher commuting time and have significantly lower perceived feelings of wellbeing than people who live closer to their places of work.

As aspiring architects, we are interested in the way the design of the built environment impacts social relationships. Architecture and urban infrastructure have the capacity to hinder or encourage social interaction, but we are often not taught to explore the social potential of design. The Social Cities report highlights the influence cities have over social connections and is a useful resource when designing with the intention of facilitating and nurturing social interaction.

The interaction between external and internal environments is not a new field of study. Studies were conducted in the late 1960s by William Whyte, which showed the following:[2]

  1. People prefer the edges of spaces over their centres, as they provide an open vista and a sense of protection (there is no chance of being attacked from behind).
  2. People like to have the choice between sun and shade.
  3. People are more sociable when provided with seating that faces each other.
  4. People like to be where other people are.

An example of design for social interaction is the concept of co-housing. This is a form of housing with an emphasis on community. It enables social interaction with neighbours via the sharing of facilities and spaces such as a backyard, laundry or even walking paths.

20140820 grattan institute #5
Co-housing is a strategy to overcome social wellbeing disadvantages associated with living in isolation. Co-housing first emerged in Denmark in the 1970s.

The endeavour to increase and improve social connection raises the importance of direct engagement with the outside environment. A study conducted by VicHealth in 2011 suggests that children who walk to school are better oriented and better connected to their local community and the people who live there.[3]

20140820 grattan institute #6
In the VicHealth study, children were asked to draw pictures of their route to school. The drawing on the left is by a child who walks to school each day. The drawing on the right is by a child who is driven to school each day.

The study suggests that we are better off out of cars and directly interacting with our environment. This is the underlying principle of Streets Without Cars.


  1. Kelly, Jane-Frances; Social Cities; Grattan Institute; Melbourne; 2012; p. 5. Single dwelling units represent 25% of Australian households and are the fastest growing household type.
  2. Ibid., p. 24.
  3. Ibid., p. 29.

Image sources

  1. Grattan Institute, logo and map sourced from Grattan Institute website.
  2. Causes of loneliness #1, author’s own image.
  3. Causes of loneliness #2, author’s own image.
  4. Commuting time and reported wellbeing, sourced from Social Cities report, p. 16.
  5. Cohousing community, sourced from Social Cities report, p. 47.
  6. Children’s drawings  from VicHealth study, sourced from Social Cities report, p. 29.