The value of a seat

As trains become more over crowded and standing the entire way to Melbourne increasingly the norm, seats on a Vline train are becoming a commodity.

But what value of a seat?

The major appealing factor of my regular train for myself, and presumably hundreds of others, is its speed.

It is the fastest of morning peak, reducing (scheduled) travel time by up to 15 Minutes for someone from Geelong Station, compared to the slowest option of the morning.

For people already faced with a long commute, a fast trip is a good trip. That extra 15 minutes isn’t trivial – it’s the difference between under an hour and over an hour.

But for those of us who now rarely find a seat on the express trains, how appealing is a journey sitting on a stopping-all-stations train?

What is the cost benefit of a seat?


If it were simply a matter of time we could consider the saying “time is money.”

The commute, as an extension of the working day (as you would not be doing it otherwise), could be given a token value:

Assuming you are paid $N per hour, a commute of my duration, including travel to the station and Metro connections, could be expressed as 3N per day, 15N per week or 720N per year (assuming four weeks leave and no sick days.)

No doubt people have calculated this when they have decided to give up the Melbourne job for one closer to home.

But how to express that for a seat?

If you open your laptop and use the train as a mobile office you can use the calculation above, as standing takes away that working time.

But when standing means a less comfortable journey, a more tiring journey and a more stressful journey – how do you put a value on that?

If you find reading a book harder when standing compared to sitting, what value can you place on your literary enjoyment?

How much is your morning nap worth?

Once you can decide this you can compare it with the extra time it takes on a stopping-all-stations:

Is two book chapters worth 0.5N?


The timetable also needs to be taken into account.

The stopping-all-stations trains may not get you to work for your rostered 9-5 shift – a problem if you do not have have option of flexitime.

Even if you do have the option of flexitime, it can be great in theory but when you work 8-4 and your colleagues work 9-5 it can be very difficult to stick to a 4 o’clock knock off.

There’s a big difference in seat availability on the two equal fastest trains of the morning (although this is changing) showing that it’s not so simple to just take a different train.

Then there are miscellaneous things to consider:

What about the buffer you allow for delays?

Connecting Metro services?

The arrival 15 minutes earlier than your boss that makes you look good?

Or the relaxed stroll to the office via a cafe that would have to become a brisk walk directly to the office if you opted for a later and/or slower train?

A leisurely walk sounds meaningless until you lose that “me time” in the morning and substitute it with more rat race.

Yes, us standers could just take a different train. But there’s a lot to weigh up before we make the decision.

The fastest timetabled travel time from Geelong station is 56 minutes on the 0650 and the 0712.

The slowest timetabled travel time from Geelong station is 71 minutes on the 0613.


One thought on “The value of a seat

  1. I’ve found I’ve had to put my health over getting an express train. The day in day out of sitting on the floor/standing really stuffed up my back and so now if there isn’t a seat available I have to wait for the next service, or always aim to catch a service I know there will be a seat on.

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