Travel to work in Australian cities: 1976–2011

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

ridership - commuting, place - australasia, mode - bus, mode - ferry, mode - tram/light rail, mode - rail, policy - congestion


Australia, commuting, public transport, transport policy


This paper seeks to contribute to a reconsideration of Australian urban transport policy by presenting and analysing data on travel patterns in Australia's seven capital cities (Canberra, plus the six state capitals) over the last 35 years. It uses data from the Australian census, which includes a question on the mode of transport used to travel to work since 1976. Travel modes are presented by city, including car drivers, train, tram, bus and ferry, and walking and cycling. A key finding was that after two decades of rapid decline, public transport usage rates commenced a revival in 1996. The revival began slowly, but the five years to 2011 saw the biggest increase in public transport mode share seen since 1976. Sydney and Perth were comparatively impressive in terms of public transport use, with Adelaide, Hobart and Canberra as the worst performers. In the past, policymakers who favoured roads could claim to be following public preferences expressed in mode share trends, but now public transport is gaining ground at the expense of the car. The paper argues for a reorientation of transport policy in Australian cities towards public transport.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Taylor&Francis, copyright remains with them.