I don’t know why I didn’t think of this before: slicing and dicing GTFS data is not as intimidating as I thought it might be, and it’s pretty easy to import into Google Maps so you can visualise it.
Once you find what you want and figure out its quirks, you can get some pretty useful stuff.
Let’s start with this: a map of the total number of weekday Metro train departures per station. Click here (or use the View Larger Map icon) to see it bigger.
It’s easy to import into Google Maps, though there is limited control over the groupings and colours.
So, the stations are grouped into:
- red (under 140 departures per weekday)
- yellow (140-202)
- green (203-262)
- and cyan/light blue (above 262).
Departures includes both directions (including arrivals for terminus stations), per day, for Monday to Thursday. Fridays run a slightly different timetable due to Night Network overnight services.
A few things I noticed
Unsurprisingly the central stations have the most train services, with lines except Stony Point (and Alamein outside peak) converging there.
Junction stations such as Caulfield and Clifton Hill (and inner stations on that line) that serve multiple lines also do well here, as do major stations served in peak by expresses and stopping trains, such as Box Hill, Glenferrie and Newport.
Dandenong probably just sneaks into this category thanks to late-night shuttles from Cranbourne adding to the departure/arrival count.
Green accounts for most stations on the lines with frequent all-day services out to Frankston, Dandenong and Newport, as well as some stations that have very frequent peak service such as Box Hill to Ringwood.
Yellow is mostly lines that run only every 15-20 minutes off-peak, but have a more frequent peak service.
Why do Middle and West Footscray and Tottenham not quite make yellow? Because they are bypassed by some trains from Sunbury in peak, which probably helps balance train loads, but adds to waiting time.
It’s a similar story for some stations that are yellow, not quite green: Highett and Southland, and many of the zone 1 stations on the Ringwood line.
Red stations have relatively infrequent service: all-day 20ish minutes (such as the Altona Loop, Williamstown, Alamein and Upfield lines) or good peak but infrequent off-peak (such as the outer sections of the Sunbury, Hurstbridge lines, and the Ringwood and Dandenong branches) or just very few services such as the Stony Point line.
The interesting thing to look for is red stations close to the City. Some of these I expected, such as the Upfield line, with only a basic service all day, in part due to the single track.
I didn’t expect inner sections of the Hurstbridge line to show up in red. Stations such as Westgarth fall just below the 140 threshold, thanks to only 20 minute frequency off-peak, and some peak express trains bypassing them.
The need for upgrades
The nature of a visualisation like this is that not all stations can be cyan and green.
But the challenge for government is to boost services to those red and yellow stations, particularly those close to the CBD, to keep up with demand – not just train crowding, but overall suburban travel demand, including that sparked by infill development.
While adding peak service is tricky on some lines due to capacity, a boost to all-day off-peak/weekend/evening frequency is easy – and would bring huge benefits to passengers by cutting waiting times and crowding, and improving connections.