Last year I spent several months living on one side of Melbourne and working on the other and travelling by train to work. Every day I had to catch two trains each way with an average wait of 5 to 10 minutes for each train to arrive giving a total of at least half an hour a day spent waiting for trains.
The obvious solution to this problem is to have trains not go back and forth on one line but instead go from one side of the city to the other. This map shows that there are 14 train lines out of the city with about 5 major lines. The smart thing to do would be to have every major line have one train every 5 minutes during peak hours and to have every train go back out on a different line. Then if you are on one of the major lines and want to travel out on one of the other major lines then every 20 minutes there would have a train that would take you straight there without changing trains!
Currently we don’t even have such frequent trains, during peak hour the trains on most lines run no more often than 5 per hour, the Sydenham line has trains 4 times per hour during peak hours and the trains are crammed full before they get half-way to the city.
If the trains ran more frequently and were routed through the city then commuters who travel through the city would save 20+ minutes per day without going to any effort and 30+ minutes a day if they chose to start their journey at a time to avoid changing trains. This would be a significant incentive for catching the train instead of driving!
For the commuters who travel to work via a single journey then having trains run every 5 minutes at peak times would mean that an average of 2.5 minutes was spent waiting for a train each way (an average of 5 minutes per day) instead of the current situation of 15 minutes per day or more. This would mean triple the number of trains on the Sydenham line which may sound excessive. However the trains are currently so crowded that there could be twice as many trains and all seats would still be full. If there were three times as many trains then I expect that more people would catch the train (surely some people would be convinced to drive to work by the idea of spending 20 minutes with barely room to stand), it’s not inconceivable that there could be three times as many trains and all seats could still be full!
The next issue I have been considering is the time taken for a tram ride to/from the central city areas in peak hours. Peak hour trams stop at every stop because there are always people getting on and off. If a tram could stop less frequently then it could make a slightly higher average speed. One way of achieving this would be for the peak hour trams to stop at every second stop outside the center of the city. On the way in half the trams would accept passengers at each stop (each tram would be designated as either odd or even and labelled as such – the tram stops are already numbered). But if you have twice as many trams then the average wait would be the same while the duration of the trip would be reduced. On the way out of the city the tram driver would announce that after stop 10 (to pick a random number that might work) the tram would only allow passengers to get on or off at even/odd stops. If you knew that your stop was on an even number and the tram was an odd-numbered tram then you would change trams to an even tram. The small delay in changing trams would be made up by a faster trip overall.
Politicians are always talking about ways to alleviate the water shortage caused by climate change and to improve the economy. Having people spend an extra 10 minutes a day working because of saved time on the trains would help the economy. Encouraging people to catch the trains via more frequent and efficient service as well as less overcrowding would help reduce climate change – which is the best way of improving our water supply and the only way of helping the farmers long-term!