Quick and Effective Solution to Rail Overcrowding


Graham Currie

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - capacity, mode - rail, place - australasia, economics - benefits, economics - fare revenue, economics - appraisal/evaluation


rail overcrowding, Melbourne, early bird ticket


Rail overcrowding has become endemic for many major cities. Solutions are problematic because they require substantial funding and years to implement. A new approach implemented in Melbourne, Australia, called the early bird ticket, offers passengers free rail travel if trips are completed before 7:00 a.m. The program costs 6 million Australian dollars (US5.64 million; AU1 = US.94, 2010) per annum in lost fare revenues. Approximately 8,000 to 9,000 passengers use the ticket each weekday. Some 23% of these passengers have shifted the time of travel (2,000-2,600 passengers) by an average of 42 min. This shift has reduced demand during peak time between 1.2% and 1.5% from previous levels and is the equivalent of a maximum of five average train loads (or 3% of total peak trains). Demand growth during this period has far outweighed this effect; overloading increased after the early bird program was introduced. Its effect was to reduce the scale of increased overloading. Overall, it is unclear to what degree the early bird ticket program has acted to reduce overloading. Peak travel during the less critical 7:00 to 8:00 a.m. peak time has been reduced; however, its effect during the critical 8:00 to 9:00 a.m. peak time is low. Regardless, the program pays for itself by providing relief equivalent to 2.5 to five peak train loads. Economic benefits are likely to be higher. When considering the alternatives, there is no equivalent measure that could be implemented at such cost so quickly.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by TRB, copyright remains with them.