Something I’d heard a while back was that some of Melbourne’s busiest tram stops rivalled railway stations for patronage. But I’d never seen any solid data… until now.
Over on the Data Vic page for Department Of Transport, they’ve released not just railway station patronage data (for Metro and also for V/Line), but also tram stop patronage data, and it appears they use a comparable methodology.
The catch? The Yarra Trams stats seem to show patronage by direction, and using ID numbers that can’t be matched up via the public web sites, though you can use the map coordinates. I’ve added those numbers together, so the boardings for tram stops include both directions and are comparable to the station data.
The busiest stops and stations
So then, here are the busiest 25 railway stations and tram stops, using 2018-19 (pre-COVID) data:
|6||Tram||8-Melbourne Central Station||9,027,550||2|
|9||Tram||10-Bourke Street Mall||5,687,550||2|
|13||Tram||6-Melbourne Town Hall||4,504,700||2|
|21||Tram||1-Flinders Street Railway Station (Robert Risson terminus)||2,525,750||2|
*For some stations I’ve shown only the Metro platforms, as V/Line has their own dedicated platforms. I’ve tweaked some of the stop descriptions for clarity.
So, the fifth busiest “station” is actually the Federation Square tram stops, followed by the stops outside Melbourne Central/State Library.
It’s also interesting to see V/Line in the top ten, a complete change from ten years ago thanks to Regional Rail Link feeding suburban commuters onto their trains.
V/Line’s second-busiest station is Tarneit, very well patronised, though a long way from being in the top 20, with “only” 1.35 million boardings per year.
What about buses? Similar data has been released in the past but does not appear to be currently available. It appears the busiest interchanges such as Monash University’s bus loop got about 6000 boardings per day, but far fewer on weekends, which would put them outside the top 25.
What about DDA compliance? The busiest railway stations that have not been upgraded for compliance are South Yarra (4.4m passengers per year), Richmond (4.2m) and Caulfield (4.2m). For trams, the busiest non-DDA stop is well outside the top 25, but most of the busiest stops have non-accessible high floor trams using them.
What conclusions can we draw from all this?
One is that while Melbourne’s tram system may be “iconic” it’s also a top performer in moving people. Four of the top ten “rail” stops in Melbourne are tram stops with just two platforms each.
I find this slightly mind-boggling, and it underscores why mere tram stops need space to cope with crowds (for instance the Federation Square upgrade in mid-2021), and why the trend recently has been towards bigger trams.
More optimisation of the Swanston Street and St Kilda Road would be possible, for instance better tuning of the traffic lights to give trams priority. Tram patronage will change when the metro tunnel opens in 2025, but it’s still worth doing – it will still be an important corridor.
Indeed there’s opportunity right across the tram network for improvements to traffic priority, accessibility access, and minor extensions to improve suburban connections to better balance demand and patronage, to help make it the choice travel mode for around inner Melbourne.