Overall most lines are improving or about the same, the exception being the Dandenong and Werribee lines, both of which are becoming more crowded.
One of the side-effects of counting all the people on a train is they have published figures on which carriages are, on average, carrying the most people. It’s probably no surprise that the most crowded are the carriages near the middle.
The graph shows what percentage of the load is in each carriage, on average across the whole network for AM and PM peak.
In the AM peak it’s the 2nd and 3rd carriages; in the PM peak it’s the 3rd and 4th. In both, on average the last carriage is the least crowded.
Obviously this will vary line-by-line, and even service-by-service. All the figures are on the PTV web site.
I suspect a lot of people aim for a carriage close to the exit at their destination, to minimise queuing on the way out, though you might also end up in the carriage close to the station entrance at the start of your trip if you have to run for the train.
For instance PM peak Sandringham trains have the most crowded rear carriage, with 17.6% on average — this might be partly because passengers for Elsternwick want a quick exit, but a big factor would be large numbers of people arriving at Flinders Street Station via Degraves Street and Elizabeth Streets, and boarding the train
in the dungeon at platforms 12 and 13, where the rear carriage is the closest.
Meanwhile on the Alamein line, almost half the passengers (48.8%) are in the middle two carriages in PM peak.
PS. There are proposals overseas to add sensors inside carriages that can detect how crowded each carriage is, and transmit that information to screens at stations. I don’t think this has actually been implemented anywhere yet.
Many systems around the world have indicators of how many carriages are in approaching trains. This arguably isn’t an issue in Melbourne anymore — unlike the bad old days when they skimped and ran short trains some of the time, virtually all trains now run as 6 cars.