Tumbling patronage

Just a quick post today.

The State Budget Papers obviously give an overview of the state’s finances, and new funding initiatives.

In Victoria, they also provide the only regular, consistent view of metrics for a range of government services, including public transport patronage. (In contrast, other states put this data out far more regularly.)

Anyway, here’s a graph showing Melbourne’s public transport patronage since 2000.

Melbourne public transport patronage 2000-2021

This is Metro trains, trams and buses, and the year shown is the financial year end.

These numbers don’t include V/Line, which provides substantial numbers of trips in Melbourne’s western suburbs.

Up to 2011 is from an old PTV “patronage long series” document; after that it’s from the Budget Papers.

The sharp growth in train patronage from 2005-2010 is very apparent here. This led to a crowding crisis, arguably caused Labor to lose the 2010 state election, and strong agenda in system expansion (from both sides of politics) since then.

There’s also been a steady growth in the other patronage on the other modes, with a spike in tram patronage (about 15%) between 2013/14 and 2015/16, when the Free Tram Zone was introduced.

But what I really wanted to focus on was the obvious effects of COVID-19, with patronage plummeting in 2019/20, and even further for the 2020/21 year. This final number is an “expected” figure given it was published in May – and I won’t be surprised if the “actual” figure published next year is even lower given the current lockdown.

Whether and how much it recovers coming out of the pandemic is very much dependent on how travel patterns evolve in the post-COVID world.

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.

One reply on “Tumbling patronage”

There was a recent article in the The Age talking about people abandoning the city again and the move to a more village setup with people working and living locally. I think that we may have discovered that our local coffee shop is actually ok, and there are places to eat lunch out locally as there are in the city.

The biggest thing I think affecting patronage to the city and on PT is people being required to attend work and students school (Uni and secondary).

Whilst we may have had some reprieve since Nov 2020, these latest 2 weeks show just how easily our situation can change. Sydney has not had to endure Melbourne’s lockdowns. I also don’t think the message from the the NSW State around PT has been as cautious as it has been in Melbourne.

Even to the extent of using masks on PT, Sydney delayed implementing this step even at the height of its lockdown period.

I think all of this plays on people’s mind and guides their behaviour and travel patterns. I think our record requires us to be over protective but it will result in PT suffering for longer.

Our vaccination record so far however has been on par with Sydney so hopefully this can continue and result in greater confidence in our use of PT.

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