Overall, Yarra Trams said that dwell times at stops increased up to 38 percent in peak, making for a more crowded, slower ride for paying passengers.
The crowding forced authorities to direct extra tram services into the CBD, and cancel plans to redeploy some routes to improve network connectivity.
With no CBD tram fares collected, there is no monetary return for this. Each extra tram deployed to relieve crowding takes funding from the rest of the public transport network.
Why is this a problem? Because while well-to-do commuters in Melbourne’s CBD enjoy their free tram rides, outer suburban battlers get barely any public transport at all.
In most areas, the buses typically run only every 40 minutes. On weekends and evenings, an hourly service or no service at all is common.
An hourly bus is no real choice at all. For those on low incomes trying to get to work or education, the likelihood is that the bus doesn’t get them there at the right time, and if they need to connect to other public transport, it’s virtually impossible.
As petrol prices continue to squeeze household budgets, the risk is that those most in need of public transport are missing out on it.
Simply, the free tram zone diverts attention and funding away from where it is needed.
Everybody likes free things, but somebody has to pay for them. The free tram zone might be politically popular, but it represents a net negative for paying public transport users. It’s time for it to be canceled.