I’ve been looking at the patronage figures and network size for the Melbourne train and tram systems. Metropolitan rail in Melbourne covers 372km carries 178.6 million passengers per year (slightly higher than the 170 million I previously believed it to be). Trams in Melbourne cover 245km and carry just over 150 million passengers per year. Of course, it would be somewhat unfair to directly compare them, because they are imperfect substitutes (trains are faster, trains are bigger, trams have more stops per km etc.) – but I’m going to do it anyway.
So let’s look at passengers per kilometre – it’s 480 107.5 for Melbourne’s trains, and 612 244.9 for Melbourne’s trams. The trams come out in front by quite a way, but there’s lots of variables that make it difficult to draw anything from this. I would note though, that trams in Melbourne run much more frequently than Melbourne trains.
Interestingly though, the Berlin S-Bahn is about the same size as Melbourne’s rail system – it is 331km long, has slightly fewer stations (165) and serves a city of broadly similar size. Yet it manages to attract 375.8 million passengers per year, or 1 135 347.4 passengers per kilometre per year (lots more than the 480 107.5 figure for Melbourne). Granted, the rail fleet is much bigger, but it does show what can be done in cities of similar size with similar style systems that run a more frequent service.
As a side note, the Berlin Straßenbahn is 187.7km long and carries 171.3 million passengers That’s 912 626.5 passengers per kilometre per year – there’s not a monstrous gap between that and the 612 244.9 figure for Melbourne’s trams.