Free Tram Zone, Two Weeks In
It’s been two weeks since the Free Tram Zone has been introduced on Melbourne’s tram network, and some results are starting to become apparent. And they might not be what you expect.
The program of allowing tram commuters to travel for free within the relatively small bounds of the city has produced some unexpected findings. Most notable is the body-odour parts-per-million count (BO PPM) increase, and an increase in usage due to the no-pay model.
Of the findings, the most notable is the statistically significant increase in BO PPM. When introduced, it was expected the free travel would result in punters not physically exhausting themselves while getting from one side of the city to another on foot, and get some refuge in the air conditioned trams. This expected outcome was welcomed by the Melbourne Retailers Association, as it would mean an overall reduction in BO PPM in city shopping centres. But instead, the inverse has been observed.
Sadly, there are record numbers of homeless living on Melbourne streets, and the trams now also provide refuge from the heat for both the homeless and the elite. Equally, the free transportation provides increased opportunity for the true bogan, often with a ‘ciggi stubbed’ behind ones ear, to travel without concern.
And the sad truth about both stereotypes above, is they generally have an increased BO, resulting in an increase BO PPM in the Free Tram Zone.
In essence, the Free Tram Zone has become a ‘get what you pay for zone’, and now that it’s free, there’s much less control of what is going on.
Another outcome from the free zone is lack of authoritative presence, no due to the lack of revenue raising opportunities. With no fare evasion fines to be given, there – at least anecdotally – is no presence of Yarra Tram / MyKi security to keep the unruly contained. The ‘Ah who cares, it’s free’ mentality is resulting in an increase in discomfort from an audible standpoint, as well as increased boganisation of commuters.
Secondary to the BO PPM increase is an overall, and unplanned, increase in tram crowding while in the free zone. It’s “one of these things that the Coalition thought up and Labor backed, but the question is whether there has been any planning around it”, according to the PTUA’s Daniel Bowen. The lack of incentive to walk around the city has caused both an increase in patronage, and a median weight gain from city commuters. This two-pronged attack on space has resulted in a decrease of airflow in the tram. Subsequently, the air conditioning simply can’t hold up due to both the amount of heat emitted from the larger commuters, as well as the reduction of air in the tram itself. Air conditioners need airflow, and it’s simply not there. And again, this has a negative impact on the BO BBM.
So, all in all, this is a subject to watch. These results, while conclusive from the data sourced, are from a summer introduction of the program. Seasonality wise, this will no doubt change as winter comes, rain increases and temperature drops. And remember, don’t touch on.