A follow-up to last week’s post mapping out the number of train services per station.
Commenter Andrew suggested I compare it against patronage – happily I’d been working on this anyway!
Here it is – and as a bonus I’ve got hold of 2017-18 station patronage data.
The darker the blue, the higher the boardings per service. Click on a station to see the numbers.
What’s interesting is that the top ten stations for boardings per service are not what you might expect.
- Melbourne Central 51.060
- Sunshine 46.142
- Southern Cross 45.337
- Box Hill 44.133
- Flinders Street 42.08
- Williams Landing 41.522
- Watergardens 39.459
- Footscray 39.360
- Essendon 38.933
Remember, these are figures across the entire day. Peak would be a lot busier.
I was surprised that two of the top five are well outside the CBD. And if you’re boarding at Williams Landing or Watergardens and you think it’s busy, it’s not your imagination.
Is it an anti-west bias? I wouldn’t jump to that conclusion. Historically, development in Melbourne has spread further to the east and south than the west and north. So the train lines are longer, with more stations, and thus overall higher patronage. So more train services are needed.
Of course the north and west are now growing fast. Is provision of PT keeping up with demand? Nope… but that’s the case across most of the city.
Charting the numbers
Here is the data on a chart – services per weekday on the X axis, and boardings on the Y axis.
Note the patronage (Y axis) is on a logarithmic scale. It was even messier without this, because just a handful of stations have daily boardings up between 10,000 and 100,000 per day.
The middle range, between 500 and 10,000 per day is a bit of a dogs breakfast because of a large number of suburban stations in that range – and in many cases, they also have identical service levels, thanks to being on the same line. More on these below.
Broadly, you can see that the higher the patronage, the more services a station probably gets.
But does patronage follow service, or service follow patronage? A little of both – authorities tend to try and respond to demand/crowding, but the convenience of frequent services attracts more passengers (including more development around stations – hello South Yarra!)
The underground stations at Parliament and Melbourne Central (and to a lesser extent Flagstaff) get a lot of people going through them, despite only having four platforms and about half the number of train services as Flinders Street.
The highest ranked Zone 2 station is Box Hill, followed by Dandenong. Some zone 2 stations have seen a big increase in passenger numbers since the fare cap was introduced in 2015.
Zooming in on the suburban stations of under 7000 boardings per day, things become a little less muddled:
A few stations like Newport, Camberwell, Clifton Hill and Burnley are getting more trains than you might expect for the patronage, thanks to their junction status. They are important for interchange, and different lines converge there, resulting in more services. (In contrast, Caulfield gets slightly more services, but has the patronage to match thanks to the adjacent university campus.)
Some inner-city stations also get more services than the patronage might suggest – but this certainly is not an argument to cut services – one could expect recent infill development has seen the numbers of passengers continue to increase in recent years. Consistent stopping patterns are also important – running some trains express burns up track capacity and creates confusion.
There are also some very busy middle and outer suburban stations that appear not to be getting enough services, such as Sunshine, Essendon, Glen Waverley, Watergardens, Werribee and Hoppers Crossing.
This Channel 9 story in February (which is where the patronage data came from) highlighted the mismatch between demand and supply:
Regulars here would know my message from all this: as Melbourne grows, so does overall travel demand. The number of services provided around the rail network needs to continue to grow, including outside peak hours – as well as boosting tram and bus services.
- See more on the Channel 9 patronage story from February
- Patronage in 2017-18 at some stations was affected by major works, for instance Rosanna (and surrounding stations), the Dandenong line and Frankston all had closures.
- Projects such as the metro tunnel will enable increased train services on many lines, but the timing and number of these is unclear.
- I’ve been reminded that Philip Mallis posted a different set of data, showing annual patronage at stations, including both V/Line and Metro.