Cities were ranked from 1 to 27, with 27 being the best and 1 being the worst, in 6 different categories. Sydney rates particularly badly when it comes to cost (1), taxis (4), and coverage (7). It gets a more average rating on major construction activity (10), and something called “public transport systems” (17), while doing best on housing (27).
The problem with this report is that the definition of urban areas varies from country to country. In Australia, an urban area includes both the CBD/inner city as well as the suburban sprawl, while in most other countries the urban area includes only the CBD/inner city areas. For example, Greater Sydney has a population of around 4.6 million people in an area of 2,250 square km (Source: Wikipedia), while the San Francisco Bay Area has a population 7.2 million people in an area of 18,000 square km (Source: Wikipedia). But when you look at just the core areas of the cities of San Francisco and Sydney, they have a much smaller population (800,000 and 170,000 respectively) and much smaller area (120 and 25 square km respectively). What the report does it to compare Greater Sydney to the central core of the other global cities.
The problem with including Sydney’s outer suburbs in this calculation is that it distorts the results of the study. The cost was calculated based on “the longest mass transit rail trip within a city’s boundaries” (Cities of Opportunity, PwC, page 57), but without adjusting the cost for the distance. Coverage was calculated based on “the kilometers of mass transit track for every 100 square kilometers of developed and developable land area” (Cities of Opportunity, PwC, page 57), which is going to be much worse when you include all the low density suburban areas which cannot sustain the concentration of public transport which a dense core can. These would be fine if it was comparing like with like, but in the case of Sydney, it is not.
Also perplexing was the decision to measure public transport systems, where the report says cities are “further differentiated by the extent of multi-modal transport systems, including subway, bus/bus rapid transit, taxi, light rail, tram/trolley/streetcar, commuter rail, and bike share systems” (Cities of Opportunity, PwC, page 95). Here the report confuses having multiple transport modes as an ends, rather than a means. The point of having multiple modes of transport (e.g. catching a bus from a low density suburban area to a nearby train station, then changing onto a train into the CBD) is to improve mobility across a city. But the goal is the improved mobility, not the multiple modes of transport. The multi-modal transport system is the means to and end, which in this case is mobility. While it can often be used as a proxy for improved mobility, it could also indicate a poor transport system that duplicates or competes with itself.
Ultimately, most people in Sydney who read the results of this report are likely to agree with it. This is largely due to public transport’s poor image in the public eye, and it’s reports like this which unfortunately add to the poor image problem of Sydney’s transport system, which while in need of improvement, is not as bad as it is often made out to be.
UPDATE (27 October): Just realised that references to PwC were accidentally written out as PcW due to my fat fingers. These errors have now been corrected.