Warning: This post contains lots of statistics and graphs. If this is the sort of thing you are into, then may I recommend the blog Charting Transport.

The NSW Bureau of Transport Statistics does 30 year forecasts of transport within the Sydney Metropolitan area every 5 years. The most recent are for 2006-36, based on the 2006 census results (the transport results of the 2011 census have not yet been released), and give an insight into how we are likely to get around. I’ll be looking more specifically at the Sydney statistical division figures, which exclude Newcastle but include the Illawarra.

This post looks only at all day transport, not peak hour. Ferries do not appear to be included.

The assumptions on which it is based have already changed slightly, with a Second Harbour Crossing now expected to be built instead of the Parramatta to Epping Rail Link, so these figures probably underestimate rail’s proportion of trips to be undertaken. But otherwise the assumptions seem fairly sound.

Number of trips

In 2006 there were 16,175,000 trips on an average weekday. Just over 8 million of these were trips made by the driver of a car (50.1% of all trips). Most other trips were either car passengers (20.7%) or made on foot (19.1%), each accounting for just over 3 million trips. The remaining 1.6 million trips were split fairly evenly between rail (4.5%) and bus (4.1%). Taxis, bikes and light rail made up a tiny 203,000 trips (1.2%).

All are expected to grow over the subsequent 30 years, and by 2036 there are projected to be 22,160,000 trips per day, an increase of 6 million or 37% on 2006. The proportions are expected to remain roughly the same as in 2006, so the increases are also roughly in line with their share of trips in 2006. Looking just at the increase in trips, there will be an additional 3.3 million by car drivers (56.4% of the increase in trips), 1.0 million by car passengers (16.8%), 0.9 million walking (15.6%), 349,000 on trains (5.9%), 234,000 on buses (4.0%) and 79,000 on taxis/bike/light rail (1.4%). The disproportionate increases are in car drivers, rail and light rail.

Note: The first 3 modes of transport (car driver, car passenger and walking) are so dominant, accounting for 90% of all trips, that a second graph is included below showing just the other modes of transport so that they can more easily be read.

As mentioned previously, when looking at proportional increases, car driver, rail and light rail modes are projected to see the biggest increases. Light rail sees such a large proportionate increase (521%) that it’s included in a separate graph. This is due to the relatively small size of the current light rail network, which here is assumed to grow to include the Dulwich Hill (by 2016) and CBD (by 2021) extensions. It does not appear to factor in its inclusion in the myZone system, nor possible extensions to the Universities of Sydney and NSW. So it is quite possible that growth could be even higher. However, it should be stressed again that this increase is from a very low base.

Other modes of transport are expected to mostly see a steady increase in number of trips, with the exception of rail and bus. Rail growth picks up steam over time, with the strongest growth occurring in the 2020s once the Northwest Rail Link (NWRL) and Parramatta to Epping Rail Link (PERL) are completed. Although the PERL looks unlikely to be built to that timetable, the additional capacity from a Second Harbour Crossing is likely to have a similar if not larger effect on rail patronage during that period. Ultimately, rail trips are projected to grow by 48%.

This, together with expansions to the light rail network in the late 2010s means that growth of trips by bus grows rapidly at first while light rail and heavy rail infrastructure is being constructed, then slows once it comes online, growing by 35% over the 30 year period. This will be most obvious on the M2, where the government is expected to remove many bus services once the NWRL is completed, and the CBD, where bus lines are likely to be rerouted to become feeders for light rail rather than travel through the CBD itself.

The other large increase is car driver trips, which grow by41%. All other modes are projected to increase by between 28% and 37%.

Distance of trips

Just looking at the number of trips can be misleading. For example, although rail and bus have a fairly even share of trips, rail trips tend to be much longer than bus trips. Similarly, walking tends to be for fairly short trips.

In 2006, the longest average trip was a rail trip of 24.4km, expected to rise 14% to 27.6km in 2036.

The average length trip on cars, buses and taxis tend to be in the middle of the pack. Car drivers travelled 9.7km and car passengers travelled 7.6km in 2006, with both projected to drop 7% to 9.0km and 7.0km by 2036. Trips on buses, 8.5km in 2006, are projected to increase by 7% to 9.1km by 2036. Meanwhile, taxi trips averaged 6.3km in 2006 and are projected to fall slightly to 6.0km by 2036.

Short trips tended to be on foot (0.9km) or bicycle (3.1km), and their average distance is not expected to change much between 2006 and 2036.

Note on light rail: The data says that the average trip for light rail was 18.2km in 2006, rising to 22.6km in 2036, which seems unusual given that the current line is only 7km long, and even when the extension is completed will still be only roughly twice that distance. It might have something to do with the statistical methodology, which looks at distance by “main mode”. 

Putting the average trip distance together with the number of trips gives us the total number of passenger kilometres travelled on the average workday.

In 2006, residents of Sydney travelled a total of 131 million km on an average workday. Here again we see cars travel dominating travel, car drivers travelled 78 million km (59.5% of all passenger km) while car passengers travelled 25 million km (19.3%). Next biggest is rail, with just under 18 million km (13.6%), then bus travel with 5.6 million km (4.3%), and walking with 2.7 million km (2.1%). The remaining 1.0 million km (0.7%) were shared by light rail/taxis/bikes.

By 2036 it is projected that Sydney residents will travel 177 million km, an increase of 46 million km or 35% on 2006. This increase is driven mostly by car drivers, with an additional 24 million km (53.0% of the increase), followed by rail with 12 million km (26.9%), car passengers with 5.2 million km (11.3%), and buses with 2.5 million trips (5.5%). The remaining 1.5 million km (3.3%) were shared by light rail/taxis/bikes/walking.

Note: Similarly to before, as the car driver category is so dominant, accounting for 60% of all trips, a second graph is included below showing just the other modes of transport so that they can more easily be read.

When measuring the proportional increase in total passenger km, it is the public transport modes that have the biggest increases: light rail, rail and buses. As was the case previously, light rail’s increase is off such a low base that it is on a completely different scale to the increase in all other modes of transport, and so is included in a separate graph. Light rail km are projected to increase 670% between 2006 and 2036.

The dramatic increase in rail usage is clearly seen here. Other than light rail, it is projected to see the biggest proportionate increase in both number of trips (by 48%) and average distance of each trip (by 14%), resulting in a huge 69% increase in total passenger km. Total bus passenger km also see a modest increase, rising 45% between 2006 and 2036.

Other modes of transport are projected to see an increase in passenger km of between 20% and 31%.


If the end goal is to increase public transport (buses, trains, light rail) and active transport (walking, bicycles), then these projections show how much of a challenge that is. The proportion of trips on public and active transport are projected to fall from 28.3% to 27.8%, though this appears to be due to an increase in short distance car trips. However, even when looking at total passenger km, that proportion still only increases from 20.2% to 24.1%.

Meanwhile, total car km are projected to increase by 31%, meaning that an additional 31% of roadspace will be needed to keep up. Alternatively, existing roadspace could be used more efficiently via decentralisation and/or congestion tolling to encourage a more even distribution of traffic, both over time and over space.

Ideally an increase in public transport and active transport use would allow a static car km statistic, meaning less stress on our road system. And lets not forget that this is all a bit of a chicken and egg exercise. Bureaucrats predict increasing car usage and call for more roads to handle the additional traffic. New roads result in an induced demand for people to drive rather than taking public transport. The forecasts become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and meanwhile the additional traffic mean a return to the congestion that the new roads were meant to eliminate.

  1. Reblogged this on Stop Selfish Parking and commented:
    For some great insights into how transport in Sydney is changing and may continue to change in the future, Transport Sydney has a great post from July this year. Particularly interesting is the proportion of travel made by car, “In 2006 there were 16,175,000 trips on an average weekday. Just over 8 million of these were trips made by the driver of a car (50.1% of all trips). Most other trips were either car passengers (20.7%) or made on foot (19.1%), each accounting for just over 3 million trips. The remaining 1.6 million trips were split fairly evenly between rail (4.5%) and bus (4.1%). Taxis, bikes and light rail made up a tiny 203,000 trips (1.2%).”

  2. […] public transport’s share of the increase jumps from 10% to one 32%. Not only that, but these assume that no Second Harbour Crossing will be built! Infrastructure NSW is therefore merely peddling a self fulfilling […]

  3. Those customers were genuinely rude and disrespectful, anyone would
    agree with you. Try breaking out of your comfort zone and join an activity( walking group,
    running, badminton, mountain biking,etc. Beginning your path to becoming positive can start with the simplest of things.

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