News

Mind the gap in our public transport system


12 November 2012

Public transport access in Sydney - within 400 metres (left), and within 400 metres with at least 15 minute frequency (right). Map produced by Laurence Troy and Kurt Iveson for the Sydney Alliance.
Public transport access in Sydney - within 400 metres (left), and within 400 metres with at least 15 minute frequency (right). Map produced by Laurence Troy and Kurt Iveson for the Sydney Alliance.

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Maps comprehensively detailing Sydney's access to public transport show frequency of service is a major hurdle to Sydney having a viable and equitable transport system.

"Improving Sydney's transport system is not all about pouring money into projects with decade-long timeframes," said Dr Kurt Iveson, from the University of Sydney's School of Geosciences, who created the maps.

"We need long-term investment but there are significant steps we can take immediately to give Sydney a better transport system. This transport-mapping research illustrates the gaps in the existing network that need to be filled."

The maps were produced by Dr Iveson and his PhD student Laurence Troy in partnership with Sydney Alliance, using Geographic Information Software networking tools.

Using this software, they combined three key kinds of digital information: the road network; public transport service points (train stations, bus, ferry and light rail stops); and average frequencies of services at each point between 5am and midnight on a weekday.

While the first map shows that a good proportion of the city, but not all, has access to some form of public transport within a 400 metre walk, the second map shows there are large areas of Sydney where those services do not come at least every 15 minutes.

"Only about a quarter of Sydneysiders' trips are work-related with much of our travel taking place outside the weekday morning and afternoon peaks, all over greater Sydney," Dr Iveson said.

"That means a viable public transport system has to offer an integrated and flexible network of routes that enable us to access the entire city, not just the CBD, throughout the day.

"For this to happen, everyone must have access to some form of public transport within that 400 metre distance and arriving at least every 15 minutes - known as a 'forget the timetable' frequency."

The maps show that while all regions in Sydney have pockets of access to public transport of this standard, most regions outside of the inner city have significant gaps. For instance, around Fairfield and Liverpool in the city's south-west, some train stations and main roads offer frequent services, but suburbs in between these stations and roads are poorly serviced.

"Good public transport contributes to social inclusion and a better environment. While major infrastructure projects are important, right now we can improve frequencies and better integrate existing services in the Sydney transport network to make a real difference to people's lives," Dr Iveson said.

"We hope that these maps provide Sydneysiders with the kind of geographical knowledge that can enable them play a stronger role in debates about public transport policy priorities."


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Media enquiries: Verity Leatherdale, 02 9351 4312, 0403 067 342, verity.leatherdale@sydney.edu.au