Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Overcrowding isn't just on the trams - how about the platforms?

One of my new routines is catching the train to Flinders Street and then catching the number one tram to South Melbourne beach which goes down St Kilda Road.  The tram stop is between Flinders Street Station and Federation Square and must be one of the busiest spots in Melbourne.

The staff at that stop do an incredible job announcing trams and helping commuters find their way to where they are going.  I wrote this post last week about the fabulous announcements made by one of the staff at this stop.

At 8:30 this morning it was so busy there was a queue to get onto the platform.  People were standing in the middle of the road between the tram tracks and the cars stranded because the platform was completely full.

As the lights changed, more and more people crossed the road to stand in a precarious line.  I wasn't able to take a photo this morning, but I did take a photo of the crowd on the platform last week.  Double or triple the number of people and you start to get the idea.

Dangerously crowded tram platform in Melbourne CBD
©divacultura 2013
From memory there are about nine or ten different tram routes that all feed through this stop.  There is bound to be a lot of people wanting to access the stop.  It was recently upgraded (in the last couple of years?) but I think it is now unsafe.  The trams had to negotiate their way out of the stop very slowly to avoid collecting a waiting commuter on the way!

I've been wondering what the answer is. Holding bays on the footpaths, so that only the people boarding trams that have arrived - or about to arrive - are allowed to wait on the platform?  Remodelling the stop to make it longer, so that it can hold more people?  Perhaps a combination of these approaches so that both the long and short term are addressed.

The other problem is about being able to move along the platform to get to the tram you want to catch when it does arrive.  This morning I waited in the queue to get onto the platform.  As a wave of pedestrians crossed the road, they didn't join the end of the queue, they just blended in with the clump of people.  No one was moving forwards.  As a tram arrived people did move forward, but then there was the problem of the people exiting the tram who were added into the crush already on the platform.  Many disembarking from the front door solved this by stepping directly onto the tracks and walking off that way.

The number 1 tram I wanted to catch this morning (I missed one while I was stuck waiting in the queue off the platform) was third in a line of trams, so I had to make my way to the opposite end of the platform.  I quickly fell in behind two men who were doing the same thing.  Half way through my trek, someone started to push me from behind.  I turned around and asked them to please not push me.  They pointed at the tram and said they wanted to catch that tram.  I pointed out that that was what we were all trying to do and we just had to make our way patiently.

It's not just the traffic, the likelihood of being run over by a tram, but the likelihood of frayed tempers and surging crowds that also worries me.  Thankfully Melbournians are generally well trained and well behaved in crowds.  In their desperation to get to their destination, someone might do something silly

The day after I took the photo above, I noticed a man taking the same photo.  I remarked on this to him.

"Yeah, well I'm from Tasmania and I've never seen so many people!" was his response.

I know that I might sound like a shock jock, but what's it going to take to fix public transport infrastructure like this?  A death?


  1. The stop hasn't changed substantially in about 10 years. It's clearly not coping with the passenger loads.

    Part of the solution would be better traffic light priority along St Kilda Road, so trams can move through and clear passengers more quickly.

    But (and I wrote a blog post on this topic with regard to William Street today), given the numbers involved, surely it's time more space was given to people on foot (passengers) and less to motorists (who have two traffic lanes, yet are a tiny minority of users in this area).

    1. A yes - I agree with getting cars off the road at every opportunity, although this area does seem to be a general bottleneck. Without knowing how it would work I can imagine a pedestrian mall from the arts centre to Flinders Lane on St Kilda Road/Swanston Street.
      Given the volume of people, I think even if the space for commuters was made bigger, the platform would still be overcrowded and require some kind of people management.
      I've written to Yarra Trams and the Lord Mayor - I will post an update when I get their response.
      Thanks for reading.

  2. Given the traffic there hardly moves anyway, taking away a lane from each direction would hardly make it much worse for the single occupant vehicles. Conversely, the space could be well utilised for additional platform space - or even a "Spanish solution" ( setup to keep the trams moving.

    1. Hi Dave,
      Thanks for introducing me to the Spanish solution - it makes so much sense! Why, why, why are these things not being looked at I wonder?
      Thanks for reading - I'll post updates about any response I do or don't get from Yarra Trams, Melbourne City Council etc.