Overall, Yarra Trams said dwell times at stops increased by up to 38% during peak periods, resulting in a more congested and slower journey for paying passengers.
Overcrowding has forced authorities to direct additional light rail services to the CBD and cancel plans to redeploy some routes to improve network connectivity.
In the absence of collected CBD tram fares, there is no monetary return for this. Each additional tram deployed to relieve crowds is funded by the rest of the public transport network.
Why is it a problem? Because while affluent commuters in Melbourne’s CBD enjoy their free tram rides, fighters in the outer suburbs have virtually no public transport.
In most areas, buses usually only run every 40 minutes. On weekends and evenings, hourly service or no service at all is common.
A bus every hour is not really a choice. For low-income people trying to get to work or school, it’s likely that the bus won’t get them there at the right time, and if they need to connect to other public transport, that’s practically impossible.
As petrol prices continue to weigh on household budgets, the risk is that those who need public transport the most will be deprived of it.
Simply, the free tram zone diverts attention and funding to where they are needed.
Everyone likes free things, but someone has to pay for them. The free tram zone may be politically popular, but it is a net negative for paying public transport users. It’s time it was cancelled.