Moving footy crowds

AFL opener at the MCG had a big crowd: 88,084 people.

Here’s a quick timeline of the immediate period after the game, and the trains to the northeast.

21:54. Game finishes as scheduled

21:54. Scheduled regular service from Jolimont to Hurstbridge line (Heidelberg)

Given the match was a draw, there’s a good chance that very few people left early, so probably nobody from the game caught that train.

Equally, with nobody having the warm afterglow of a win, perhaps the immediate surge to the station was quicker and bigger than usual?

From the closest MCG exits, it’s about 4-5 minutes walk to Jolimont station. From other exits it’s closer to 10 minutes.

But the first train wasn’t scheduled until 20 minutes after the game finished.

  • 22:14 to Mernda
  • 22:18 to Heidelberg*
  • 22:22 to Mernda*
  • 22:26 to Heidelberg
  • 22:32 to Mernda*
  • 22:40 to Heidelberg*
  • 22:44 to Mernda
  • 22:48 to Heidelberg*
  • 22:52 to Mernda*
  • 22:56 to Heidelberg
  • 23:12 to Mernda

*Extra football services. The others are regularly scheduled trains.

So it was mostly high frequency services scheduled between 22:14 and 22:56.

There’s some flexibility here. They can hold trains at the platform if they’re still filling up.

So did it all go to plan? Apparently not. This photo is from 22:21:

Crowds at Jolimont station, 16/3/2023 after the football
Pic by Matt (Len_Jet on Twitter)

The outbound platform is packed, and so are the ramps approaching the station. Even the overpass in the distance looks busy.

Assuming they departed as scheduled, it looks like the first few footy specials were overwhelmed.

To my mind, those extra services started too late. They should have begun around 22:00 or 22:05, not a full 20 minutes after the game ended.

You just don’t get a waiting crowd that big if trains are coming through the platform at high frequency as people arrive.

Even with the special footy services, there were some gaps of 6-8 minutes. If needed they can run more trains. This line has a service every 3-4 minutes every peak hour – though dwell times due to the crowds might mean the mostly 4 minute frequency was as much as is practical.

But given the crowd had apparently cleared by 22:45, I suspect mostly it was about the timing.

Jolimont has the benefit of the “spare” direct track from Flinders Street, not normally used (apart from during Night Network hours), so extra trains can be parked there out of the way until needed.

How was it going on the other side of the stadium, at Richmond?

This sort of event should be what mass transit does best. In fact mass transit is the only efficient way to move a crowd this big.

And the MCG is well placed, with two railway stations nearby, with a total of 12 platforms (6 outbound, 6 citybound).

But it only works properly if services are provisioned well.

The base half-hourly frequency on most lines certainly doesn’t help.

Can the infrastructure be improved? Of course. But the only conclusion from a photo showing hundreds of people and no trains (not even any approaching), and with a special timetable that is less frequent than a regular peak hour, is that the immediate problem was the lack of trains, not the infrastructure.

The fact that Jolimont station got so crowded indicates some more thought is needed into how they run this.

…And how they handle these types of crowds in general. The photo is excellent at showing what was going on, but this type of scenario isn’t unique.

Postscript: The Hurstbridge line was terminating at Heidelberg due to planned works. To add insult to injury, the replacement buses weren’t running well either.

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.

8 replies on “Moving footy crowds”

Why isn’t the 70 tram listed as an option in PTV’s tweet? The platform for the Tennis Centre via the Gate 1 footbridge is closer to the MCG than either Jolimont or Richmond, let alone the 48 and 75 trams.

Can confirm Platforms 4/5 at Flinders St wasn’t much better.
Seemed liked most walked to Flinders St for the Upfield line after the game (some to Parliment) and we were greeted with the next Upfield train being 22 mins away…

Daniel, I missed that it was Metro’s tweet but what I saw was it listed the PTV web address and the map showed tram routes as well as trains.

Par for the course for public transport in Melbourne. If the footy ever finished slightly after midnight like the tennis routinely does the next train would probably be at 5AM and the trams an hour after that.

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