Travel Patterns of Urban Linear Ferry Passengers: Analysis of Smart Card Fare Data for Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - australasia, mode - ferry, mode - bus, mode - rail, infrastructure - interchange/transfer, ridership - commuting, ridership - behaviour, technology - ticketing systems, technology - passenger information, operations - coordination, planning - integration


Urban linear ferry, smart card, infrequent riders, leisure travel, commuting


Urban linear ferry systems are an emerging form of public transport in cities worldwide. The travel behavior of passengers who used CityCat ferries in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia, was investigated with data from 1,675,821 smart card fare transactions for ferry trips made over a 6-month period. Although services used small vessels and had only one main route, about 2.3% of all paid public transport journeys in Brisbane were made on CityCat and the related cross-river ferries. The ferries were used more for commuting and university trips on weekdays with significant patronage in the morning and afternoon peak periods. Use was consistent on weekend days. Although use was strong, most users were infrequent patrons; this use suggested that leisure travel was a significant component of the system. Key terminals with high use rates included those where transfer to cross-river ferry services was possible. The system offered single-stop cross-river travel at many points. However, only 15.8% of paid trips in March 2013 were made this way; 84.2% of trips continued farther up- or downriver. Integration with other buses and trains was significant; about 15% of all ferry journeys were linked to another mode of public transport. Additional investigation into how users access terminals and interact with other public transport modes is suggested. With expansion planned, the CityCat system could increase its contribution to public transport in Brisbane. Increasing the use frequency of the large pool of infrequent riders could increase patronage of the system.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them.