Exploring systemic bias in Australasian urban road/rail investment

Scott Elaurant, Baojin Wang, Professor Graham Currie

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference PaperOther


Since 2007 more than half the world’s population has lived in cities, with urban populations forecast by the UN to double by 2030. Australia and New Zealand are both among the most urbanised countries in the world. All Australian and New Zealand cities face issues with growing population and traffic congestion. There is strong evidence that solutions to urban congestion lie in space efficient modes such as heavy rail, light rail and busway (hereafter rail), and that increasing road capacity may be self - defeating. Despite this, the majority of funds for urban transport capital investment in Australia and New Zealand have historically been spent on road projects. This continues to be the case, despite a shift away from this approach in most OECD countries. This paper explores the balance between road and rail projects in Australia and New Zealand and places this in an OECD context where data permits. Evidence for the effectiveness of road and rail investment to alleviate congestion is investigated. Assessment methodologies for road and rail projects in Australia and New Zealand are compared to international practice. It is concluded that there is no systemic bias in assessment methodology, but there is in capital funding allocation. There has been a long history of urban road programs with priority over rail investment. For the period from the 1950s to the 1990s this was based on demand pressures. Those pressures have changed significantly in recent years, but the balance of investment has not changed as quickly. The current investment balance is contrary to international practice, and the road capital investment is unlikely to achieve its stated objectives in the long term.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationATRF 2017 - Australasian Transport Research Forum 2017, Proceedings
PublisherAustralasian Transport Research Forum
Publication statusPublished - 2017
EventAustralasian Transport Research Forum 2017 - University of Auckland, Auckland, New Zealand
Duration: 27 Nov 201729 Nov 2017
Conference number: 39th
https://www.australasiantransportresearchforum.org.au/papers/2017 (Proceedings)


ConferenceAustralasian Transport Research Forum 2017
Abbreviated titleATRF 2017
CountryNew Zealand
Internet address

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