Why is a tram like a banana?

Why is a tram like a banana? Because they come in a bunch! ba dum tsh

Z3.208 northbound at Swanston and Bourke Streets

So why do trams supposedly timetabled an even distance apart end up running up against each other?

E class trams southbound on route 11 crawls along in traffic on Brunswick Street

The usual cause is the tram in front getting a bad run, which results in it getting progressively more delayed as passengers try to cram on board, while the tram behind makes up time because nobody is waiting for it.

D2.5007 leads a trio of northbound route 19 trams stuck in traffic on Sydney Road, Coburg

Melbourne’s route 58 commonly suffers from trams getting bunched up, which was flagged a few years ago as a reason behind the route being one of the most overcrowded in Melbourne.

However, tram load breaches are caused more by tram reliability than tram capacity, according to Tony Morton, the Public Transport Users Association president.

“Route 55 trams are meant to be running about every four minutes in morning peak and there are on a regular basis delays of up to 10 minutes between trams,” Dr Morton said.

“So the tram that comes after 10 minutes has more than twice as many people on it as there would be if the tram route was able to operate according to a schedule.”

Seeing a pair of route 58 trams following themselves down William Street is a common sight in morning peak.

Pair of route 55 trams chase each other south along William Street: Z3.151 behind Z3.207

But sometimes you’ll have a 15 minute gap.

Tram bunching on route 58 following a disruption

As the crowds of waiting passengers grow.

Crowd of waiting southbound route 58 passengers at William and Bourke Street

Time continues ticking.

Next southbound route 58 trams: 4, 5 and 6 minutes away

Until three of them appear at once.

Why are trams like a banana? Because they come in bunches!

Great.

Footnote

This animation from the New York MTA shows how a single delayed train can cause delays throughout an entire subway line.

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4 Responses to “Why is a tram like a banana?”

  1. Andrew says:

    At times it can be down to a slow or inexperienced tram driver, or one who thinks they should wait for someone running for the tram when it is a four minute service, but mostly it is caused by traffic and inconsistent tram traffic light bias.

  2. Michael says:

    A friend of mine worked for transfer for a bit driving buses and he said if he got behind on the timetable, maybe 15 mins then he could express which meant not picking up passengers and only dropping ones that were safest on the bus, out maybe till at least he caught back up to his schedule. Is that something Yarra trams do?

  3. Tony Smith says:

    Original tag line was “Because they are yellow and green and come in bunches”, but those colours are long gone.

  4. Michael Angelico says:

    The way to fix bunching problems is to have shorter routes… Through routing 55 to 8 was a false economy.

    On a serious note though, it can be fixed by adding time checkpoints and loosening the timetable a bit – but that annoys passengers who have to sit on a stationary tram, and needs careful planning to make sure nothing else gets disrupted.

    Moral of the story: public transport in traffic sucks.

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