PTV released their passenger load surveys for trams and suburban trains, with results from May 2017. They used to do these twice annually, now it’s only once a year.
These surveys are used to measure crowding on Melbourne’s trains and trams in peak hour.
As usual, cancellations and major delays are excluded. Why? Because the surveys are not measuring crowding for the sake of measuring crowding. They are specifically measuring whether the timetabled services are adequate.
It’s not to work out whether cancellations and delays need to be reduced (of course they do). It’s to work out which lines need extra services added.
The main thing to note is that, as expected, the benchmark standard for trains has been modified from 798 to 900, following the removal of some seats in 2016.
Despite the ongoing confusion over Capacity vs Load Standard, they insist on using the C word in the report. The actual capacity of a 6-car train is actually somewhere north of 1300.
As you’d expect when you move the goal posts like this, there are far fewer breaches of the load standard:
- AM peak: down from 51 in 2016 to 17
- PM peak: down from 22 to 7
The worst for crowding this time around are the South Morang and Craigieburn lines, both serving growth corridors to the north. South Morang is being extended to Mernda, so clearly that line will need more services when the extension opens.
Was removing the seats reasonable? Depends on your point of view… everyone’s got a different perspective, which probably relates to how long your usual trip is, and whether your priority is getting a seat, or you’re more concerned about just squeezing onto the train.
— PTUA (@ptua) October 5, 2017
The most common comments seem to be "there's not enough seats!" and "there are too many seats!" 🤔 https://t.co/ROSt9BCIji
— Daniel Bowen (@danielbowen) October 9, 2017
I think in this case, they found a good balance (which broadly matches the new train fleet). The overall reduction in seats was about 17%.
But this kind of change is a once-off. There would be political ramifications from having a train fleet with barely any seats (I’d be protesting, for a start – trips on our train system are often 45+ minutes). There may also be technical limits due to the capacity of the motors and brakes to handle greater passenger loads.
Meanwhile on the trams, they’ve gone way too far with seat removals. The latest revision of the B-class tram (the “Apollo” model) has only 40 seats. The original layout had 76 — so it’s reduction of 47%!
And the annoying thing is that the leaning points/bum racks are set up in such a way that they barely save any space at all. They’re big and bulky, and have a substantial gap between them and the wall/window.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that the tram survey shows that the Apollo variant (with 12 fewer seats) makes no difference to the capacity of the current B-class trams fleet.
As for the rest of the survey… overall, tram load breaches are down in PM peak, but have been steady in AM peak since 2015.
It looks to me like the tram routes with the most load standard breaches are those that generally use the smallest trams, especially route 48 (almost always A-class trams) and also to an extent routes 1 and 6 (a mix of big and small trams).
Some sections of the network have had a lot of patronage growth, such as the southern section of route 58 (measured where it passes the Casino) up 27.8% in a year, following a rise the previous year as well. The northern section of route 58 had a drop in patronage, but I wonder if the route was in flux at the time, as it was just after routes 55 and 8 merged to form the 58, and operations were a mess.
On page 15 there’s an interesting note about automated counting by 2018 for tram, train and bus. That’s pretty soon… I wonder if it will actually happen.
Because the measurements for crowding are all done at the edge of the CBD (the “cordon”), this survey is not directly measuring crowding from the Free Tram Zone, though I gather that’s measured separately – it’s probably why the plan to divert route 12 to Latrobe Street (and fix poor frequency there) has not happened.
The survey has a number of non-CBD measuring points, which can capture hotspots around the network.
So the big question is: will tram fleet changes will keep pace with population growth from inner-suburban consolidation and re-development?
There’s no bus capacity survey, despite ongoing crowding on some routes. Move along, nothing to see here.