Maritime & Transport

Australian Transport Policy at the Crossroads

Traffic congestion in Australian capital cities is worsening steadily and is widely considered a major inhibitor for economic growth. A new report by Dr Paul Mees, Associate Professor at the RMIT in Melbourne has now again confirmed that the work trips undertaken by car have more than doubled in the last 35 years. According to Mees’ paper “Transport Policy at the Crossroads:  Travel to work in Australian capital cities 1976-2011”, only two thirds of the increased number of trips is due to a growing workforce. The remaining third indicated a shift from more sustainable forms of transportation such as catching public transport, walking or cycling to work.

Dr Mees’ report makes some interesting observations about typical travel behaviour and the attention different transport receive in policy consideration. For example, while walking makes a more significant contribution to commuting in Sydney, Canberra and Hobart, cycling currently receives greater attention in the policy space. Yet it is unclear if an increase in commuter cycling actually leads to fewer car trips given that an uptake in cycling usually leads to fewer trips made on foot.

Despite the vast amounts of media reports addressing the lack of infrastructure and insufficiency of public transport in Sydney, Mees came to the conclusion that the Harbour City is also Australia’ most sustainable Capital when it comes to transport mode share. The researcher, who has based the report on official census data, attests Perth the greatest achievement in turning around mode share. It is the only Australia city where mode share for public transport is higher than in 1981.

Canberra comes out last in the comparative study having an experienced increase in private car use for the daily commute that coincides with a decline in public transport use. Dr Paul Mees’ discussion paper can now be accessed here.


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