Southbank Boulevard was built in 1988 by joining the former Nolan and Maffra Streets in South Melbourne. It was seen as an opportunity to create an alternative thoroughfare for city-bound traffic when Swanston Street was first closed to traffic. During its first few years of operation, up to 40,000 vehicles a day used Southbank Boulevard. By comparison, Kings Way currently has a daily traffic volume of 50,000 vehicles.

In 2001, access to the CBD via Southbank Boulevard was closed when Queensbridge Square was constructed. Traffic volumes on Southbank Boulevard dropped sharply. Today, only 13,000 vehicles a day use Southbank Boulevard. For much of every day, Southbank Boulevard operates as a local road with little traffic or delay outside of peak periods. Thursday and Friday evenings can be the exception when p.m. peak traffic combines with events at nearby arts institutions or sporting venues.

While the traffic has been decreasing, the population has been rising rapidly.

The graph below plots traffic volume against population over time.

Bicycle lanes

New bicycle lanes are proposed for Southbank Boulevard in both directions. This will provide an additional bicycle route to the CBD by connecting existing Linlithgow Avenue and St. Kilda Road bicycle lanes to Southbank Boulevard. Future connections to a proposed new bicycle lane on Kavanagh Street will also be established.

Public transport

Public transport is critical for residents and workers in Southbank. Up to 40% of Southbank residents use public transport to get to work and 51% of the 45,000 workers who travel to Southbank each day use public transport. Three bus routes (216, 219 and 220) and the Route 1 East Coburg/South Melbourne Beach tram route use Southbank Boulevard.

To meet the future needs of public transport, new public transport infrastructure is proposed. A new accessible and elevated tram stop is proposed in front of the Melbourne Theatre Company (MTC) and Melbourne Recital Centre (MRC). Two existing tram stops – a city bound only at the corner of Sturt Street and Southbank Boulevard – and a South Melbourne bound stop in front of the MTC/MRC will be consolidated into one stop.

New bus stops are also proposed along Southbank Boulevard.