Thinking outside the box

While academic publications and reports are a very important outlet for high quality research including debates on themes with a rich policy and strategic value beyond theory, methods and evidence, there is room for a series of short poignant commentaries on themes that are of broad community interest. These short pieces focus on topics of currency that are likely to be challenging and controversial – hence the titling of the series Thinking outside the box. It has all the elements of critical thinking and the challenge of change.

Professor David Hensher, Director, ITLS


  • The benefits and beneficiaries of urban tollroad expansion 03 Mar 2017

    Christopher Standen

    After a nine-month investigation into the WestConnex tollroad, the Auditor-General has found the Commonwealth Government committed billions of taxpayers’ money to the scheme without appropriate advice. He also indicated that the funding did not provide value for money for taxpayers, and did not protect the government’s financial interests. These findings raise the question: if the scheme is a bad deal for taxpayers, then exactly whom does it benefit? Read more

  • I can't wait to get my Ls! A Perspective on High School Travel 09 Feb 2017

    Stephen Greaves

    Last week marked the end of the school holidays in Sydney and a resumption for many of frustrating levels of congestion as the 'school-run' resumed. Well over half of school children were driven, which is roughly double the levels when many of their parents would have been attending school, 25-30 years ago. How have we arrived at this situation and what can we do? Read more

  • Autonomous Vehicles and Implications for Future Transport Systems 02 Feb 2017

    David Hensher, Chinh Ho and Richard Ellison

    The rapid development of autonomous vehicles (AV) has prompted considerable speculation on how these vehicles will ‘revolutionise’ the future of cities’ transport systems. It has been suggested that a large-scale adoption of AV would lead to safer roads, congestion-free cities and more public spaces as vehicles can be shared, and hence fewer parking spaces are needed. However, it is far from clear if these visions are likely to be realised and what this might imply for the future transport networks and policy agendas. Read more

  • Feasibility of increasing volumetric load of freight heavy vehicles 09 Dec 2016

    Mary Chiang

    The National Transport Commission (NTC) recently published an issues paper on increasing heavy vehicle (HV) volumetric load capacity without increasing mass limits in an effort to increase the productivity of road freight.  The NTC paper identified a number of key issues that require further consideration and resolution prior to developing a national policy for introducing higher productivity vehicles (HPVs) onto Australian roads. Read more

  • The crisis in the container shipping industry and its resolution 01 Nov 2016

    Michael Bell

    The recent bankruptcy of the world’s seventh largest container carrier, Hanjin Shipping, has sent shock waves through global supply chains. Read more

  • Self-drive motor vehicles lack sex appeal and a great deal more 01 Oct 2016

    Matthew Beck

    The self-driving car is often presented as the transportation technology of the future. But there remain many physical barriers to these vehicles and, for the average driver, a lot of psychological ones too. If these barriers are not overcome, the self-drive vehicle is destined for the same fate as electric car which has less than 2% of the market to show for 30 years of expensive research. Read more

  • Density matters 01 Sep 2016

    Geoffrey Clifton

    Transport planning and urban planning are two sides of the same coin: A successful public transport service needs residents, businesses and activities to generate passengers and a successful urban development needs good transport links to attract customers. However, too often urban planning and transport planning (and research and teaching) exists in silos with neither side talking to the other. Read more

  • The Impact of Slugs and Rabbits on the Throughput of Escalators 02 Aug 2016

    Michiel Bliemer

    There is empirical evidence from the UK that letting everyone stand on escalators yields a higher throughput than letting some people walk. This is counter-intuitive, so in this article we analyse this further. Read more

  • Smart Cities, Smart Thinking about Innovative Financing? 26 May 2016

    Martin Locke

    The Smart Cities Plan talks about the establishment of an Infrastructure Financing Unit to explore innovative financing, including private partnerships, balance sheet leveraging and value capture for major projects. My suggestion is that one of the first tasks of this new unit is to explore the application of the NAIF principles. Read more

  • When it is not optimal to look for an "Optimal Policy"? - The case of airport slot allocation 02 May 2016

    Xiaowen Fu

    Economists and operational researchers are trained to look for “optimal” solutions, especially when policy changes are considered. A failed policy will not only lead to substantial economic loss, but will also risk the decision-maker’s credentials. Although the aspiration for better policy should be encouraged, there is always uncertainty associated with any business and economic decisions. Read more

  • ‘Uberisation’ of Public Transport in the Digital Age - what is in store in the next 10 to 20 years? 19 Apr 2016

    David A. Hensher

    The opportunities for public transport to match customer expectation under a mobility service model are exciting but also disruptive in terms of current practices centred around mode-specific contracts, protected service areas and under-utilised capacity. Has the time arrived for the digital age to provide the much needed technological spur for the take off into the new mobility services era? Read more

  • Our PM is a transport agnostic – Hallelujah! 14 Mar 2016

    David Brown

    Transport planning has been unduly affected by a range of thinking that is not independent analysis, but rather a fundamentalism whose passion for a particular mode of transport has verged on religiosity. It is good to promote transport based on meeting people's needs not on the passionate feelings for one mode of travel. Read more

  • Infrastructure Banks: The solution to Australia’s infrastructure problems. 08 Mar 2016

    Alastair Stone

    Australia’s infrastructure financing, policies and investment planning institutions at Federal, State and Local levels are a dog’s breakfast of institutional arrangements. This article addresses the problems in the institutional arrangements that an “Infrastructure Bank” model could solve. Read more

  • Market Rules: Rebalancing power to restore fairness 03 Mar 2016

    Alastair Stone

    We all share the goal of a growing economy with wealth for all not just the few.  The Federal Government’s response to the Harper Report on Competition Policy Review is a recent example of activity on the economic policy front in pursuit of that goal.  Inherent in that report and other reviews such as into tax arrangements, is how the term “market” is used.  This discussion is about how the current use of this term has hidden many changes in the economic framework and what we need to do to restore fairness. Read more

  • Logistics information quality and availability in e-retail: The end consumer deserves better value 15 Feb 2016

    Jyotirmoyee Bhattacharjya and Andrew Collins

    A lot then is potentially riding on the quality of logistics information in B2C contexts. Are e-retailers and logistics service providers presently doing an adequate job in this respect? Read more

  • New South Wales Cycling Laws: One pedal forward, two pedals back 15 Jan 2016

    Stephen Greaves

    As most New South Wales residents were finalising their Christmas holiday plans, the NSW state government unveiled a package of regulations designed to 'help drivers, bicycle riders and pedestrians Go Together safely'. Read more

  • The role of human behaviour in supply chain decision-making 14 Dec 2015

    Behnam Fahimnia

    The basic assumptions in supply chain decision tools and models are that the objectives and criteria are known in full, that they are quantifiable and prioritisable, and that a decision maker is perfectly rational and consistent. In practice, these are unrealistic assumptions. Read more

  • We need a longer term view on infrastructure investment and good ideas – Australia needs to be less myopic 20 Nov 2015

    David A. Hensher

    A major constraint on fully realising opportunities in appropriate infrastructure investment in Australia is the rather short term or myopic view of commitments to infrastructure. Read more

  • We need value-for-money no matter what the funding level 14 Oct 2015

    David Brown

    We must build the best transport options which will include many public transport projects and 'best' must include value-for-money. Read more

  • Another way of thinking about Public Transport Delivery 26 Sep 2015

    David Emerson

    There are a limited number of ways currently used to organise the business of public transport, and it must be asked; are there other innovative ways of providing for the involvement of private enterprise in the provision of this essential urban service? Read more

  • A new metaphor might help bring about change 22 Sep 2015

    David Brown

    A common image we use to symbolise the function of our cities, misrepresents what’s really happening. It is now buried in popular use but if we challenge it, we might broaden the solutions we consider for the range of real transport problems. Read more

  • Are public transport fares more expensive in Australia than anywhere else? 13 Aug 2015

    Corinne Mulley and Geoffrey Clifton

    A recent Deutsche Bank study led the Sydney Morning Herald to claim that 'getting from A to B on public transport costs more in Australia than anywhere else'. Read more

  • Aiming for Zero Growth in Vehicle Kilometres of Car Travel 06 Jul 2015

    John Stanley

    Our cities, which are vital for national productivity and liveability, will be the subject of a significant part of any infrastructure expansion. It is crucial, then, that we understand very clearly the kinds of cities we want and the best way to use infrastructure to help deliver those cities, particularly important city-shaping transport infrastructure. Read more

  • To tender or not: how transparent is the process? 05 Jun 2015

    Professor David Hensher

    There is a general sense in many government circles that society is better off if service contracts are put out to competitive tender, for this ensures value for money which comes out of the taxpayers’ purse. But is this always the case? What if the incumbent is doing a great job? Why should we disrupt (or risk) the continuity of good service provision because of some possibly strong simplistic view that the market (and it assumption of full knowledge surrounding all bidders) will always deliver the best outcome? Read more

  • Infrastructure Financing: Following the Money 22 May 2015

    Alastair Stone

    It is generally agreed we need more public infrastructure.  So what if infrastructure financing was linked to investment by superannuation funds as a mandatory part of their portfolio in return for continuing the current generous superannuation tax concessions?  To do so would be a logical extension of current trends in institutional arrangements and simply following the money.  Let us explore why. Read more

  • Asset recycling – a case study in communication? 20 Apr 2015

    Matthew Beck

    Asset (or capital) recycling was a contentious issue in the  recent New South Wales state election. It is controversial because while the  language refers to leases, it is effectively part-privatisation; no physical  asset that the government leases can be expected to still be in existence in  2115. Read more