A quick cost-effective solution to rail overcrowding: the Melbourne free "Early Bird" ticket experience

Rail overcrowding has become endemic for many major cities. Solutions are problematic since they require substantial funding and years to implement. This paper reviews the performance of a new approach implemented in Melbourne, Australia. Called the "early bird ticket" the promotion offers passengers free rail travel if trips are completed before 7 am. The program costs $Aust 6M per annum in lost fare revenues and around 8-9,000 passengers use the ticket each weekday. Some 23 per cent of these have shifted the time of travel (around 2,000 to 2,600 passengers) by an average of 42 minutes. This has reduced demand in the peak by between 1.2 per cent and 1.5 per cent from previous levels and is the equivalent of a maximum of 5 average train loads (or 3 per cent of total peak trains). Demand growth during this period has far outweighed this effect so overloading rose after early bird was introduced. Its effect was to reduce the scale of increased overloading. Overall it is unclear to what degree it has acted to reduce overloading. Peak travel in the less critical 7-8 peak hour has been reduced however its impact in the critical 8-9 peak hour is low. However the program pays for itself by providing relief equivalent to 2.5 to 5 peak trains. Economic benefits are likely to be higher. When considering alternatives there is no equivalent measure which could be implemented at such a cost so quickly.


  • English

Media Info

  • Pagination: 13p
  • Monograph Title: Transportation Research Board 89th Annual Meeting compendium of papers DVD, January 10-14, 2010, Washington, DC

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 01382075
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Source Agency: ARRB
  • Report/Paper Numbers: 10-0254
  • Files: ATRI
  • Created Date: Aug 22 2012 1:00PM