Exploring the sustainability of public transport in Australasia

Graham Currie, Chris de Gruyter

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaper


Public transport (PT) sustainability is important because all world cities need solutions to economic, congestion, environmental and social transport challenges and PT is widely seen as a sustainable way to address these. This paper empirically measures PT sustainability in five Australasian cities – Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth and Wellington – and compares their performance to PT in international cities. Despite a widespread view that public transport is good for sustainability compared to other modes, results show that public transport in the Australasian cities studied performs poorly relative to public transport in other world cities. Overall Australasia rates last with the Middle East out of eight world regions in terms of the sustainability performance of urban PT. Results suggest that PT in Australasia has better relative performance for Environmental and Social sustainability but poorer performance on Service Effectiveness and Economic indicators. Eastern Europe is the only world region with a relatively high level of performance for all categories. Of the Australasian cities studied, each have relatively good but also poor aspects of PT sustainability performance. Perth has the best average score but this is caused by a high rating for a single indicator (mass of pollutants emitted per hectare). For individual raw indicator scores, Perth has more ‘last placed’ values compared to other Australasian cities studied. Wellington, Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney have average standardised scores which are almost the same. But this hides a very wide range of performance variation between these cities. Melbourne though placed 3rd, actually has more ‘good’ individual raw indicator ratings than any other Australasian city. It is let down by long public transport trip distances, long trip times and a relatively small public transport fleet size. Sydney rates last in Australasia for overall PT sustainability but has many mid-range to good individual indicator scores. However, it can improve on its pollution performance. Wellington placed 2nd in Australasia but has many mid-range scores by individual indicators. It could do more to improve public transport affordability and mode split. Brisbane was another mid-range score city and ranked 4th out of the 5 cities. It can improve performance in energy use, affordability, operating costs and system effectiveness. Implications for policy and future areas for research are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
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
Country/TerritoryNew Zealand
Internet address

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