Last week’s Age reported that Metro proposed multi-storey car parks at some stations.
When it comes to how people get to the station, Park And Ride gets a lot of attention, probably because it’s so obvious. In terms of land taken up, car parks often dwarf the stations they serve.
But it’s important to remember that park and ride doesn’t actually cater for the majority of train travellers.
The PTV’s station patronage data is a couple of years old, but it shows that even in zone 2, where feeder services are often lacklustre, park and ride users are in the minority, though it is a sizeable minority.
Of course, the number of park and ride users isn’t always limited to car park spots at the station. Often they fill local streets, causing headaches for councils, with parking restrictions being a common result for the streets immediately around the station.
I’ve pulled out the stats to compare zone 1 (which often has good quality feeder tram services, and sometimes very little parking) against the zone 1+2 overlap (where feeder services are often not that great, and until this year many people would drive to avoid paying a two zone fare) against zone 2-only stations.
- I have excluded CBD stations from these figures, as I’m more interested in suburban station access. CBD access is heavily skewed towards walk and tram.
- The total number of boardings (excluding CBD) was 474,820, which gives an indication of how many individuals use the train system each day, though of course people heading to some locations outside the CBD would be counted at least twice.
- Of those 474,820 boardings outside the CBD, walking to the station was the most popular access mode, at 49.7%. Car 28.3%, bus 11.2%, train 6.7%, tram 2.6%, bicycle 1.0%, other 0.5%
- Access to the station by train means people changed from another train service. It’s interesting to see the large number of train interchanges in zone 1 but outside the CBD.
- Unsurprisingly the number of people driving to the station in zone 2 is higher than in zone 1, but even in the outer suburbs, the non-car modes outstrip car.
- Bus access is quite low in zone 1, perhaps reflecting that many feeder services tend to be trams.
- Tram usage barely rated in zone 2, but wasn’t actually zero — there were 363 people counted, all at Box Hill! Due to the way the zones worked, most of these people might have been catching a train outbound from home.
- Unfortunately it doesn’t distinguish between those who drove to the station themselves, and those who were dropped-off (“Kiss and ride”)
- Not sure what “other” is — rollerblade? Skateboard? Motorbike perhaps. (The source data says “car”, not “motor vehicle”)
- While car is a minority mode overall, it’s still a substantial number, and at some stations it is more than 50%. Highest was East Malvern with 84%, then Merinda Park with 73%, Sandown Park 73%, Brighton Beach 67%, Officer 67% (but that’s only 63 people!), Laverton 65%
- These numbers are for 2013-14, before the 2015 zone changes. I’ve known friends who could have walked to a zone 2 station but chose to drive to zone 1, so it’s likely that these figures will need an update once newer data is available.
- Feeder services into zone boundary were also disadvantaged. Often the train fare to the City was zone 1, but the connecting bus was zone 2. This is no longer an issue.
- Some early figures available from PTV suggest this has led to a drop in patronage at zone boundary stations, in favour of those further out, as they no longer cost more for the trip into the city. For instance, Laverton dropped by 22%, with Aircraft up by 56%, though I’m told by locals other stations have jumped in patronage too.
It’s worth remembering that Park And Ride is extremely expensive to provide. Ground-level spaces cost on average around $17,000 per space.
Multi-level is extraordinarily expensive, with Syndal station’s new multi-level car park coming out at $43,200 per additional space provided. That’s 5,744 daily fares, or, based on 250 trips a year (which might be typical weekday usage), 23 years worth. That of course doesn’t count any additional revenue to run or improve train services. Metro’s idea of prefabricated structures might being the cost down a bit, but it’s likely to still be an exorbitant way of getting extra people onto the trains.
Some park and ride will always be needed in the outer suburbs, particularly for stations that serve passengers coming a long way from home just to be able to catch a train.
But many passengers are only coming a relatively short distance to the station, and to serve them it would be far better to improve feeder services from the surrounding areas, as even the biggest car parks fill up at morning peak hour. Better feeders all day mean even those travelling after peak hour can get to the station. And indeed, those who don’t or can’t drive.
And after all, you shouldn’t need to be able to drive to be able to use public transport.