Planning public transport for Australia's growing population: An overview
Stella Logan | May 2017
By 2075, Australia’s population is estimated to double to 46 million people. This has significant economic, environmental, social and health ramifications for Australia and its people.
Shortcomings in the national transport infrastructure are becoming apparent, with transport networks at capacity and increased traffic congestion in major cities, impacting productivity, living standards and Australia’s national reputation. Unless significant changes are made to the way Australians travel, congestion will continue to worsen. Forecasts to 2020 show congestion will cost the economy $20 billion in lost revenue.
Australian cities rank among the most car-dependent and polluting cities in the world. Transport is the third-highest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Australia at 15 per cent. Projections to 2030 show that emissions will increase faster than the majority of other developed nations if no policy action is taken.
Australia’s public transport system plays a vital role in combating these issues. A typical bus, for instance, is capable to removing 50 to 100 cars from the road, while a train can remove up to 1,000 cars. By removing cars, public transport dramatically reduces congestion as well as air pollution. A shift from cars to public transport can reduce emissions by 65 per cent during peak periods, and 95 per cent during off-peak times, as well as reduce the number of injuries and fatalities caused by car accidents. On average, four people are killed and 90 are seriously injured every day on Australia’s roads.
Public transport users are more physically active than those who commute by car or taxi. A US study showed that patrons of public transport walked 30 per cent more per day than car users, whilst a study in Perth found that public transport users accumulate, on average, seven times more incidental exercise than private motorists. Boosting public transport use can potentially increase physical activity levels significantly and contribute to the daily recommended physical activity level required to minimise the risk of obesity. Furthermore, adequate and efficient public transport can influence access to health services as well as employment and education.
As Australia becomes more urbanised, the management of increasingly isolated rural areas is as important as managing congested urban areas. Many families and businesses in regional and remote areas have no alternative to the use of private vehicles to meet their everyday needs. All levels of government need to recognise the vulnerability of those in such areas and identify ways in which they can benefit from public transport.
Public transport provides many economic, safety and mobility benefits to people and businesses, as well as offering significant health and environmental advantages. Upgrades and expansions to public transport on a national level will contribute to a better quality of life for all Australians.