Riding a mile in their shoes: Understanding Australian metropolitan rail passenger perceptions and experiences of crowdedness using mixed-methods research

Kirrilly Thompson, Lily Hirsch, Simone Mueller Loose, Vinathe Sharma-Brymer, Sophia Rainbird, Kirsteen Titchener, Matthew Thomas, Drew Dawson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Metrics such as passengers per square metre have been developed to define optimum or crowded rail passenger density. Whilst such metrics are important to operational procedures, service evaluation and reporting, they fail to fully capture and convey the ways in which passengers experience crowded situations. This paper reports findings from a two year study of rail passenger crowding in five Australian capital cities which involved a novel mixed-methodology including ethnography, focus groups and an online stated preference choice experiment. The resulting data address the following four fundamental research questions: 1) to what extent are Australian rail passengers concerned by crowding, 2) what conditions exacerbate feelings of crowdedness, 3) what conditions mitigate feelings of crowdedness, and 4) how can we usefully understand passengers' experiences of crowdedness? It concludes with some observations on the significance and implications of these findings for customer service provision. The findings outlined in this paper demonstrate that the experience of crowdedness (including its tolerance) cannot be understood in isolation from other customer services issues such as interior design, quality of environment, safety and public health concerns. It is hypothesised that tolerance of crowding will increase alongside improvements to overall customer service. This was the first comprehensive study of crowding in the Australian rail industry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)46-59
Number of pages14
JournalRoad and Transport Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 1 Jun 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering

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