Happy new year!
By request, here’s a follow-up of last year’s post comparing public transport patronage in Australia’s biggest capital cities: now ranked by boardings (trips) per capita.
See the previous post for notes on the data, including a mode breakdown. (Hopefully I’ve correctly matched population to the relevant service areas. Some of the data is a bit vague.)
Digging a bit deeper, here’s the different modes by city per capita:
|Boardings per capita 2022-23
As noted previously, Sydney does particularly well with its train network, in part due to better frequencies, and in part thanks to the train network serving the busiest centres – which seems to be down to good long term urban planning.
Brisbane and Adelaide misfire on their suburban rail networks, probably due to mostly poor frequencies compared to the other cities. Even Perth does better than Brisbane at this.
Canberra’s tram line seems to be performing well, though I’m hesitant to draw too many comparisons because in Sydney, Gold Coast and Adelaide, trams only serve a tiny area of those cities.
I’ve lumped in V/Line with Sydney Metro purely for convenience. You could arguably add them both to the suburban rail column.
How many Australians catch buses?
I was particularly curious to see how often people use buses in the different cities. I’ll show this as a chart:
Sydney again does very well, with almost as many people using buses as trains. In part it’s perhaps thanks to their bus network having replaced heavily used trams – and unlike in other cities they’ve been serious about this, rather than water down service levels over time.
Leaving Sydney aside, what’s striking is how all the other cities (including those with trams) have around 30 boardings per capita for buses… except Melbourne, which sits at 19.8.
Obviously Melbourne kept its trams, which remain the dominant form of street-based public transport – both in ridership and in provision of frequent service – and those factors influence each other.
But trams only serve a portion of the metropolitan area.
We shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that Australians as a nation won’t use buses. It’s a Melbourne issue.
In fact the recent Infrastructure Victoria report on this highlighted that a third of Melburnians have never caught a bus.
As past experience repeatedly shows (for example Smartbus routes, and the 401 and 601 university shuttles), when buses are good enough, Melburnians will use them.
We have some catching up to do.
- Revised Sydney buses number down – original number seems to have included some regional NSW trips, though the revised number now is probably too low, as it excludes non-Opal trips.
- Also revised Brisbane – the patronage numbers include not just Gold Coast, but also Sunshine Coast