Visualisation: how many services from your station?

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.

Craigieburn line at Parliament Station, 2:57pm on a Monday

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.

By Daniel Bowen

Transport blogger / campaigner and spokesperson for the Public Transport Users Association / professional geek.
Bunurong land, Melbourne, Australia.
Opinions on this blog are all mine.

11 replies on “Visualisation: how many services from your station?”

If you want some more ideas… try combining it with boardings at each station to give a visualisation of trains/useage (i.e. the geographical pattern of which stations are poorly served for their usage). I’m not quite sure how to do this, but a visualisation of cumulative load on the trains at each station could be interesting as well…

@andrew, I have already done that actually, and will probably post that in the next blog!

Yes, cumulative load (assuming everyone goes into the CBD, and travels out again, which isn’t really the case, but is where the system is most stressed) would be an interesting one. Tricky though given lines with express services.

I don’t think the green on Laverton station accurately reflects the service provided. As around 1/3 of peak hour services are via the Altona loop and thus are slower than simply waiting for the next express train the actual customer experience is similar to Aircraft or Williams Landing. Newport is the last station with a truly frequent service.

I’d like to see average travel speed to the city from each station, including waiting time, based on arriving at the station at any minute of the day. That would sort out the Richmonds from the Lilydales.

Great tool.
For me its the constant problem of how to get from Flinders St to Surrey Hills in the evening in a timely manner. There are a couple of large gaps in services after 6:00 pm. When they cancel a Blackburn service (which seems quite a regular thing) the gaps are exacerbated.
It would be interesting to see a chart of the network for the 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm weekdays period.
I see in your chart that Surrey Hills is yellow even though its a ‘premium station’ (still not sure what that means.. I think it goes back to the days not so long ago to when it was very special to have a station attendant for most of the day).
Surrey Hills gets only a portion of the express outbound services stopping in the evening. It’s not clear about the logic timetablers used to determine which services actually stop there. It seems to be too few for the numbers using the station which heavily concentrates passengers and exacerbates the overcrowding on the narrow east end of platform 2. This of course impacts the dwell time for the service with its 1000 plus patrons still on board heading for the points further East.
There are times when the queue to swipe off at the platform gates extends well in to the first carriage. You run the risk of doors closing before the queue can get out, and then off to Box Hill it is (I’ve seen it).
I try to avoid these services and frequent the Blackburn services where you can get a seat. But it’s slower, less frequent (particularly after 6:00 pm), and suffers regular cancellations.
When I do use the limited expresses or even that rare ‘super train’ service that goes direct from Richmond to Surrey hills, I head down to carriage 5 and 6. Still standing room, but at least I can get out, and by the time I reach the platform exit the worst of the crush has dispersed.
By the way, I’m loving the new line marking in the north side car park at Surrey Hills. Finally the random parking is now more orderly and the gifted that previously left big gaps or no space between cars are given the guidance they seem to need. But it’s 20-30 years too late and the pot holes are still there inviting you to turn an ankle in the dark. Oh, and then there’s the other random parking area on the south side of the station. Maybe we need another election lead-up to get that car park lined.

Highett and Southland miss out on green, while Patterson-Glenhuntly are included and that is because of the last 2 of the 3 morning peak trains to start from Moorabbin have open to passengers counter-peak stopping services that stop Glenhuntly-Patterson, while the morning and evening peak stopping services that terminate at Cheltenham all run without passengers. In the course of discovering this, I noticed that from the train before 8am to the train after 8:40am that Hawksburn-Malvern has a terrible counter peak service.

Great analysis Daniel once again.

I have been saying for years (and a few times as comments on your blog) that the Hurstbridge Len beyond Eltham is the worst electric train service in the system. This map shows this very well: Diamond Creek, Wattle Glen and Hurstbridge (63 services over 20 min peak, 40 min inter peak, and 60 min evening from 7pm). Sunbury and Diggers Rest come in second (91) and Upway, Tecoma and Belgrave third (104).

Another good map would be to show frequencies for each station – am peak, inter peak, pm peak, and evening.

One thing that people have pointed out is the large number of green stations in the east, whereas yellow/red dominates in the west. Before one jumps to conclusions about funding biases, I would note that over many decades, 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.

And you’ll see the same skewing towards the east with tram routes, and Smartbus services.

(RRL provided a bunch of services into the west, but isn’t shown here because this subset of the GTFS data is Metro trains only.)

@Stirling, yes that’s a quirk of the data – it’s services, not qualified by where they go.

The same is seen on other lines with express tracks, such as Cheltenham and Box Hill. (Think of the Newport to Laverton section as similar to the express tracks on the Frankston and Ringwood lines)

@Philip, that’d be interesting, but strikes me as very complex!

@Anonymous, the ridiculous PM peak Ringwood patterns really need to be fixed. There’s something like a dozen different stopping patterns. It doesn’t make sense that Surrey Hills gets occasional express trains stopping there. They really should focus on simplicity, which can maximise the line capacity, so frequency can be more easily boosted – including more stoppers for the people going to East Camberwell, Canterbury, etc.

@Tom, that’s right – bearing in mind some stations are only *just* under or over the colour threshold, so there’s very little difference, eg Highett 201 (yellow), Patterson 203 (green).

As a Seaford resident, this map gives a good visualisation of my regular frustration at trains terminating at the so-near-yet-so-far Carrum station. I’m really looking forward to the new stabling at Kananook hopefully fixing this problem.

I presume that Frankston is only green due to the trains heading out to Stony Point. Given the size of the population in Frankston it seems almost scandalous that services to the city are not more frequent.

Great post man, didn’t know such a great dataset was publicly available. Looks to make for a great portfolio project using PowerBI

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