Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

economics - economies of scale, economics - fare revenue, economics - finance, economics - operating costs, economics - pricing, economics - revenue, economics - willingness to pay, mode - mass transit, mode - rail, operations - capacity, operations - crowding, operations - performance, planning - network design, planning - service quality, ridership - commuting, ridership - demand, ridership - growth


rail demand management, demand management, mass transit, passenger rail economics, rail benchmarking, peak period


The paper discusses the emerging discipline of rail demand management or “demand smoothing”. Many passenger rail systems have lacked active management of passenger demand levels for an extended period now. This has perhaps often resulted in excessively peak-loaded rail systems that struggle to deal with overcrowding during morning and afternoon commutes, while carrying unviable levels of patronage outside of commute markets and periods. Rail demand management is re-emerging as an important discipline in which passenger demand levels are actively managed, in order to deliver “smoother” patronage levels across the day and week. Potential areas of strategy and action include: better tracking and management of passenger flows; efficient pricing structures including peak surcharges; other encouragements to offpeak travel including customer outreach; and “responsive and responsible” network planning, service and infrastructure measures on the supply-side. In the European approach, mass transit passenger demand is generally quite actively managed. By contrast, a less interventionist and active approach seems to prevail in some New World systems (in the USA or Australia for example). Contrasting approaches are explored in the paper. Findings from UQ‟s recent extended research efforts in rail demand management are summarized, then broadened into recommendations for rail operators and transit agencies seeking to develop a more up-to-date, effective approach to passenger demand levels. Practical measures and approaches for delivering “smoother” demand levels are identified.