Why most people don’t use public transport

Despite petrol at record prices and traffic congestion, most people still don’t use public transport. Its share of the market sits stagnant at about 8% or so.

Why? Because most people will only choose PT over driving when it’s convenient: when it goes where you want to go, and when it’s frequent. How frequent is Melbourne’s PT? Here are the figures for the number of routes running every 15 minutes or better:

Peak Weekday off-peak Weekend Evening
Trains 72.7% 50.0% 18.2% 13.6%
Trams 96.3% 96.3% 96.3% 11.1%
Buses 11.7% 6.0% 1.3% 0.3%
All routes 22.1% 15.8% 9.7% 2.0%

Say, for example, you want to go out at the weekend, and you don’t want to have to wait around too long, and you don’t want to check a timetable and time your trip to match the services. Well you’d better hope your trip is along one of the few routes that are running frequently:

Melbourne: PT services every 15 minutes or better, weekend

All those spaces beyond the marked spots on the map are filled with suburbs: houses, shops, people. But no PT frequent enough to be competitive with driving.

This is why most people drive everywhere. It’s no wonder the roads are so congested… even on weekends.

See all the figures and maps.

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12 Replies to “Why most people don’t use public transport”

  1. Good, but there are some routes not listed. Such as that out my way, route 270/271 has a 13-17 minute off-peak service (used to be exactly 15 minutes, but is now 13mins between buses, followed by 17, then 13 and so on), which I would still count.

    Also – why not also do one of routes running 20/30-minutely or more on a Sunday, plus Sunday evening services (past 6pm)? I’m sure few bus routes would qualify.

  2. Thanks, I’ll check out the 270/271.

    For the purposes of this exercise, the line was drawn at 15 minutes. 30 minute services obviously do get some passengers, but they are not competitive for most people who can drive.

    But you’re right — a map showing those running on Sunday nights (or other times) would be useful for other purposes.

  3. You should take in the 20 minute waits, Daniel. This includes the Upfield lines and the Werribee lines which we who live in the western burb’s regularly have to put up with in peak hours, let alone the 30 minute waits on weekends and during off peak. Especially now that Wyndham/Hobsons Bay municipalities are two of the fastest growing areas.

    (And it KILLS me that those maps only go as far as Altona in the west yet Chelsea gets a look in.)

    The only time I take a train on weekends is to get to an event in the city – and even then I drive to Footscray because I’m guaranteed a train whereas from homebase I’m not. They’d replaced train services with coach a couple weeks ago – no announcement, nothing.

  4. Somebody: Added.

    Ren: Well, they’re not going on the map, because that’s what it’s trying to highlight. Why is it that most stations east of Richmond get a train every 10-15 mins most of any weekday, but almost anybody west of Footscray only gets them every 20 mins, including peak hour?

    Sorry about not going further west — but nevertheless I think it makes the point. Compared to the eastern suburbs, the west is missing out badly.

  5. Ren,

    Trains run on the Werribee line 20-minutely all the way to the end on weekends – they only run 30-minutely REALLY early morning & night, and 40-minutely on Sunday mornings (how come Sydney has its first trains on a Sunday at 5am instead of 7-8am :?).

    Its not Connex or the government’s fault if an unexpected incident. Also I think you will find that minus Stony Point and V/, they use route service or charter buses for replacements, not coaches.

  6. I was pretty favourably impressed with the Melbourne transit system–buses, trains and ***streetcars***??? Much better than where I live–here there’s only a bus system, and buses only run once an hour. I live almost 30 km from my work, and it generally takes 2 to 2 1/2 hours to get to or from work. That’s stressful and tiring!

  7. …why I’ll always live in the inner suburbs (or the country where I can walk)

    But then driving is not an option

    But riding my bike is (and takes me half the time on PT to get to work – as soon as you need to catch 2 forms of PT Melbourne is pretty useless)

  8. Bob, in Melbourne we normally refer to them as trams.

    What buses did you catch – as the majority don’t run past 7pm or at all on Sundays, and the average frequency is 30-40 minutely off-peak or so.

  9. somebody in the www,

    Not sure which routes I took, but I do remember getting around the inner city and some of the closer-in suburbs pretty easily (my shopping trip to St. Kilda was a treat). I don’t think I could have done it with the transit system we have here in Vegas.

    Oh, btw, anybody going to Chicago should ride their trains–clean and fast. Recommended.

    Meanwhile, I’m in the market for a car–the old one died in May, and I’ve been stuck at the mercy of the bus system all summer. No More! I’m gonna buy the largest, petrol-suckingest aircraft carrier of a car I can.

  10. But there is a difference between a coach and a bus:

    Coach = High floor vehicle with luggage hold designed for long-distance country journeys, ie V/Line servces such as Melbourne to Mildura. Has comforts like onboard toilets, seatbelts etc.. Ie: Long distance V/Line & interstate services

    Bus = Low floor (nowdays) vehicle used for metropolitan route service. Ie: What you see running the buses that service your house (until 7pm Mon-Sat only, that is ;))

  11. You’d think public transport would be encouraged, but not in my neck of the woods: the local bus company has been cutting routes (bye-bye Fort Apache and Rampart, which means no north-south service west of Rainbow) and making it even less convenient to ride (tokens abolished now). What the &$*# are they thinking? The RTC is shooting itself in the foot, and meanwhile everyone who can drive, does.

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