How radial is general travel in Melbourne? (part 2)

Wed 11 September, 2019

In part 1 of this series, I looked at the radialness of general travel around Melbourne based on the VISTA household travel survey. This part 2 digs deeper into radialness by time of the day and week, and maps radialness and mode share for general travel around Melbourne.

A brief recap on measuring radialness: I’ve been measuring the difference in angle between the bearing of a trip, and a straight line to the CBD from the trip endpoint that is furthest from the CBD (origin or destination). An angle of 0° means the trip is perfectly radial (directly towards or away from the CBD) while 90° means the trip is entirely orbital relative to the CBD. An average angle in the low 40s means that there isn’t really any bias towards radial travel. I’ve been calling this two-way off-radial angle. Refer to part 1 if you need more of a refresher.

How does trip radialness vary by time of week?

The first chart shows the average two-way off-radial angle for trips within Greater Melbourne by time and type of day, for private transport, public transport, and walking.

Technical notes: I’ve had to aggregate weekend data into two hour blocks to avoid issues with small sample sizes. I’m only showing data where there are at least 100 trips for a mode and time (that’s still not a huge sample size so there is some “noise”). Trips times are assigned by the clock hour of the middle of the trip duration. For example, a trip starting at 7:50 am and finishing at 9:30 am has a mid-trip time of 8:40 am and therefore is counted in 8 – 9 am for one hour intervals, and 8 – 10 am for two hour intervals.

You can see:

  • Public transport trips are much more radial at all times of the week, but most particularly in the early AM peak and in the PM commuter peak. They are least radial in the period 3-4 pm on weekdays (PM school peak), which no doubt reflects school student travel, which is generally less radial.
  • Private transport trips are more radial before 8 am on weekdays, and in the early morning and late evening on weekends. Curiously private transport trips in the PM peak don’t show up as particularly radial, possibly because there is more of a mix of commuter and other trips at that time.
  • Walking trips show very little radial bias, except perhaps in the commuter peak times on weekdays.

When I drill down into specific modes, the sample sizes get smaller, so I have used 2 hour intervals on weekdays, and 3 hour intervals on weekends. Also to note is that VISTA assigns a “link mode” to each trip, being the most important mode used in the journey (generally train is highest, followed by tram, bus, vehicle driver, vehicle passenger, bicycle, walking only). I am using this “link mode” in the following charts.

Some observations:

  • Train trips are the most radial, followed by tram trips (no surprise as these networks are highly radial).
  • Bicycle trips are generally the third most radial mode, except at school times.
  • Public bus trips are more radial in the commuter peak periods, and much less radial in the middle of the day on weekdays. The greater radialness in commuter peaks will likely reflect people using buses in non-rail corridors to travel to the city centre (particularly along the Eastern Freeway corridor). Most of Melbourne’s bus routes run across suburbs, rather than towards the city centre, which will likely explain bus-only trips being less radial than train and tram, particularly off-peak.

How does radialness vary by trip purpose and time of week?

The following chart shows the average two-way off-radial angle of trips by trip purpose (at destination) and time of day:

Some observations:

  • Work related trips are generally the most radial, particularly in the AM peak (as you might expect), but less so on weekdays afternoons.
  • Weekday education trips are the next most radial (excluding trips to go home in the afternoon and evening), except at school times (school travel being less radially biased than tertiary education travel).
  • Social trips become much more radial late at night on weekends, probably reflecting inner city destinations.
  • Recreational trips are the least radial on weekends.
  • Otherwise most other trip purposes average around 35-40° – which is only slightly weighted towards radial travel.

What is the distribution of off-radial angles by time of day?

So far my analysis has been looking at radialness, without regard to whether trips are towards or away from the CBD. I’ve also used average off-radial angles which hides the underlying distribution of trip radialness.

I’m curious as to whether modes are dominated by inbound or outbound trips at any times of the week (particularly private transport), and the distribution of trips across various off-radial angles.

So to add the inbound/outbound component of radialness, I am going to use a slightly different measure, which I call the “one-way off-radial angle”. For this I am using a scale of 0° to 180°, with 0° being directly towards the CBD, and 180° being directly away from the CBD, and 90° being a perfectly orbital trip with regard to the CBD. For inbound trips, the one-way off-radial angle will be the same as the two-way off-radial angle, but outbound trips will instead fall in the 90° to 180° range.

One-way off-radial angles are still calculated relative to the trip end point (origin or destination) that is furthest from the CBD. I explained this in part 1.

Here is the distribution of one-way off-radial angles by time of day for trips where train was the main mode:

A reminder: only time intervals with a sample of at least 100 trips are shown.

In the morning, trips are very much inbound radial, with around three-quarters being angles of 0°-10°. Likewise in the PM peak, almost three-quarters of train trips are very outbound radial with angles 170°-180°.

As per the second chart in this post, train trips remain very radial throughout the day. But there is slightly more diversity in off-radial angles 3-4 pm on weekdays, when many school students use trains for journeys home from school that are less radially biased. Less radial trips could be a result of using two train lines, using bus in combination with train, or using a short section of the train network that isn’t as radial (eg Eltham to Greensborough, Williamstown to Newport, or a section of the Alamein line).

On weekends it’s interesting to see that there are many more inbound than outbound journeys between 12 pm and 2 pm on weekends. The “flip time” when outbound journeys outnumber inbound journeys is probably around 2 pm. This is consistent with CBD pedestrian counters that show peak activity in the early afternoon.

One problem with the chart above is that volumes of train travel vary considerably across the day. So here’s the same data, but as (estimated) average daily trips:

You can see the intense peak periods on weekdays, and a gradual switch from inbound trips to outbound trips around 1 pm on weekdays. There’s also a mini-peak in the “contra-peak” directions (outbound trips in the AM peak and inbound trips in the PM peak).

The weekend volumes are for two hour intervals so not directly comparable to weekdays (which are calculated for one hour intervals), but you can see higher volumes of inbound trips until around 2 pm, and then outbound trip volumes are higher.

Those results for trains were probably not surprising, but what about private vehicle driver trips?

There is much more diversity in off-radial angles at all times of the day, and a less severe change between inbound and outbound trips across the day.

On both weekday and weekend mornings there is a definite bias towards inbound travel. Afternoons and evenings are biased towards outbound travel, but not nearly as much (it’s much stronger late at night). This is consistent with the higher average two-way off-radial angle seen for private transport in the PM peak compared to the AM peak.

Here is the same data again but in volumes:

This shows the weekday AM peak spread concentrated between 8 and 9 am, while the PM peak is more spread over three hours (beginning with the end of school).

Here are the same two charts for tram trips (the survey sample is smaller, so we can only see results for weekdays):

Again there is a strong bias to inbound trips in the morning and outbound in the afternoon, with slightly more diversity in the PM school peak, and early evening.

Next up public bus (a separate category to school buses, however many school students do travel on public buses):

There is a lot more diversity in off-radial angles (particularly 2-4 pm covering the end of school), but also the same trend of more inbound trips in the morning and outbound trips in the afternoon.

Next up, bicycle:

There’s a fair amount of diversity, across the day, with inbound trips dominating the AM peak and outbound trips in the PM commuter peak (but not as strongly in the PM school peak). Weekend late afternoon trips show a little more diversity than morning and early afternoon trips, but the volumes are relatively small.

Next is walking trips:

There is considerable diversity in off-radial angles across most of the week, although outbound trips have a larger share in the late evening.

Walking volumes on weekdays peak at school times. On weekends walking seems to peak between 10 am and 12 pm and again 4 pm to 6 pm, but not considerably compared to the rest of the day time.

Mapping mode shares and radialness

So far I’ve been looking at radialness for modes by time of day. This section next section looks at radialness and mode shares by origins and destinations within Melbourne.

In recent posts I’ve had fun mapping journeys to work from census data (see: Mapping Melbourne’s journeys to work), so I’ve been keep to explore what’s possible for general travel.

VISTA is only a survey of travel (rather than a census), so if you want to map mode shares of trips around the city, you unfortunately need to lose a lot of geographic resolution to get reasonable sample sizes.

The following map shows private transport mode shares for journeys between SA3s (which are roughly the size of municipalities), where there were at least 80 surveyed trips (yes, that is a small sample size so confidence intervals are wider, but I’m also showing mode shares in 10% ranges). Dots indicate trips within an SA3, and lines indicate trips between SA3s. I’ve animated the map to make try to make it slightly easier to call out the high and low private mode shares.

You can see lower private transport mode shares for radial travel involving the central city (Melbourne City SA3), particularly from inner and middle suburbs (less so from outer suburbs). Radial travel that doesn’t go to the city centre generally has high private transport mode shares.

I also have origin and destination SA1s for surveyed trips. Here is a map showing all SA1-SA1 survey trip combinations by main mode, animated to show intervals of two-way off-radial angles:

It’s certainly not a perfect representation because of the all the overlapping lines (I have used a high degree of transparency). You can generally see more blue lines (public transport) in the highly radial angles, and almost entirely red (private transport) and short green lines (active transport) for larger angle ranges. This is consistent with charts in my last post (see: How radial is general travel in Melbourne? (Part 1)).

You can also see that few trips fall into the 80-90° interval, which is because I’m measuring radialness relative to the trip endpoint furthest from the CBD. An angle of 80-90° requires the origin and destination to be about the same distance from the CBD and for the trip to be relatively short.

So there you go, almost certainly more than you ever wanted or needed to know about the radialness of travel in Melbourne. I suspect many of the patterns would also be found in other cities, although some aspects – such the as the geography of Port Phillip Bay – will be unique to Melbourne.

Again, I want to the thank the Department of Transport for sharing the full VISTA data set with me to enable this analysis.


How radial is general travel in Melbourne? (Part 1)

Mon 22 July, 2019

In a recent post I found that journeys to work are generally quite radial relative to city CBDs. But what about travel for other purposes, travel on different days of the week, and travel to different types of places?

This post explores the radialness of general travel around Melbourne using data from Melbourne’s household travel survey (VISTA – the Victorian Integrated Survey of Travel and Activity), which captures all types of personal travel by residents.

In this post (part 1), I will look at measuring radialness, radialness of weekday and weekend trips, radialness of total distance travelled, and how radialness varies by mode, distance from the CBD, different places, ages and sex.

Part 2 of this analysis will look at radialness at different times of day and also visualising radialness on maps.

Measuring radialness for general travel

Unlike the census of population and housing that only captures journeys from home to work, VISTA measures trips in all directions, including to and from survey home locations, so I need a slightly different measure to my previous post (see: How radial are journeys to work in Australian cities?).

When considering the radialness of a trip, I want to compare the difference between the trip’s alignment and a trip that would head directly towards (or away from) the CBD. I am calling the difference between these alignments the off-radial angle.

So, in the following simple example, the off-radial angle is the difference between the bearing from the origin to destination and the bearing from the origin to the CBD.

The trip is quite radial and the off-radial angle is small. A perfectly radial trip would have an off-radial angle of 0°, while a perfectly orbital trips would have an off-radial angle of 90°.

Unfortunately it’s not always that simple. Let’s consider an trip that is the exact opposite of the example above. If I don’t care about whether the trip is towards or away from the CBD, then I want to get the same radialness measure as the first example because it is equally as radial.

To get the same measure as the first example, I need to measure the off-radial angle with respect to the destination rather the origin. If I measure the off-radial angle for the second trip with respect to its origin then I’d get an angle of around 100°, suggesting a very non-radial trip, which isn’t really the case.

So for this post I am always going to measure the off-radial with respect to the trip end that is furthest from the CBD, whether than be the origin or destination. When I don’t care whether the trip is inbound or outbound, the off-radial angle will always be in the range 0° to 90°.

Just in case you need more convincing, consider the following trip:

The origin is so close to the CBD that this is a very radial trip so I want a small angle, but the off-radial angle with respect to the origin is almost 90°.

If you think about a trip originating in the CBD, the off-radial angle with respect to the origin has everything to do with the location within the CBD compared to the GPO (the actual point I am measuring against), when really a trip from anywhere in the CBD to the suburbs is very radial.

This approach does introduce a slight bias towards smaller off-radial angles. Using the trip end that is furthest from the CBD means that even if you had a completely random distribution of trip origins and destinations, there would be more trips with smaller off-radial angles and fewer trips with angles near 90°. In fact, to get close to a 90° angle, the origin and destination would have to be almost exactly the same distance from the CBD, and the trip be not be very long – an unlikely scenario. So for a truly random distribution of trip directions the off-radial angles will be slightly biased towards smaller angles and the average would be less than 45°. I don’t expect this bias would be large, and we will get a feel for this bias shortly.

Another slight complication is that a short trip within the CBD will have a fairly arbitrary off-radial angle which isn’t very meaningful or relevant. So I am not going to bother considering trips that start and finish within (an arbitrary) 1.5 km of the GPO.

I should point out that a “trip” in VISTA is considered a journey between two places of activity for a person. It may have multiple stops along the way for the purposes of changing mode (e.g. bus to train), but for this post I’m looking at the geometry of the end-to-end trip.

Finally, to differentiate this radialness measure from a slightly different radialness measure I will introduce in part 2 of my analysis, I’m calling it the “two-way off-radial angle” (two-way because I don’t care whether the trip is inbound or outbound with respect to the CBD).

How radial is travel on weekdays and weekends?

This first chart looks at the distribution of trips by mode and two-way off-radial angle interval, with a histogram for each day type:

Technical note: As per usual, I’ve classified any journey involving public transport as “Public”, any journey not involving motorised transport as “Active”, and any journey involving a motorised road-based vehicle as “Private”. With VISTA a quite small number of trips are classified as “other”, which I have excluded.

You can see that on all day types, the most common two-way off-radial angle group is 0°-10° – which are very radial trips. The most radial day type is a school holiday weekday, where there are still many work trips to the central, but a lot fewer non-radial trips to schools.

You can also see that active transport trips are fairly well distributed across the angle intervals (with only a slightly bias towards radial trips), while public transport trips are highly radial on all day types.

Public transport mode share is only really significant for highly radial trips. This probably reflects most (but not all) high quality public transport lines being highly radial and running to the central city where car parking costs are generally much higher.

What surprised me a little is that weekend trips are only slightly less radial than weekdays, even for private transport trips (good quality roads exist in multiple travel directions in most of Melbourne).

What is different between weekday and weekend travel?

Here is a VISTA destination density map of travel around Melbourne by private transport (excluding trips to places of accommodation – such as homes) animated to alternate between school weekdays and weekends. The red areas have the highest concentration of trip destinations.

The central city area dominates weekday destination density, but major suburban shopping centres are also significant destinations on weekends (as you might expect).

Here is a chart showing the distribution of destinations by distance from the CBD by day type:

You can see that trips on non-school weekdays are more likely to be to destinations closer to the CBD (indeed around 19% were to destinations within 2 km of the GPO). This reduces for school weekdays, and further for Saturdays and Sundays.

But as we saw in the first chart, there are still a large number of very radial trips on weekends, so where are these trips going? Are they still mostly going to the CBD, even though fewer people are travelling to the CBD when compared to weekdays?

The following chart is similar to the last, but is filtered for very radial trips – being those with off-radial angles 0° to 10°:

Destinations within 0-2 km of the CBD are the largest category for very radial trips, but actually a minority of (non-home) destinations, even on weekdays. On weekends around two-thirds of very radial trips have a (non-home) destination more than 2 km from the CBD. There are lots of very radial trips on weekdays and weekends, but most of them are to destinations more than 2 km from the CBD.

So are these very radial trips shorter on weekends? Here’s a chart showing the median and average distance of trips by two-way off-radial angle:

Technical note regarding weighted v unweighted: VISTA trips are weighted so that they can be summed to represent travel by the total residential population – with survey home types that are under-represented given a larger weighting. In all my averages I’ve used this weighting, but unfortunately at the time of writing Tableau cannot calculate weighted medians (or percentiles), so I’ve had to calculate unweighted medians instead (I’ve manually checked the weighted medians for 0-10° and they calculate as 9.98 km on weekdays and 7.99 km on weekends – fairly close to the unweighted medians).

For very radial trips (0°-10°), weekend trips are shorter by both measures, but for the next interval (10°-20°) weekend trips are curiously longer. There’s not a huge difference with subsequent angle intervals and I don’t think we should get too excited about them because there will be some noise in the sample.

How radial are trips by distance from the city centre?

If we want to measure radialness against multiple variables, then more histogram charts aren’t going to be practical. So instead I’m going to calculate a single summary statistic: the average two-way off-radial angle.

If the average is small, then trips are very radial, whereas an average near 40-45° would suggest no radial bias.

Here’s a look at radialness by origin distances from the CBD, main mode, and weekdays v weekends:

(in case you are wondering, this chart looks very similar if the X-axis is destination distance from the CBD)

Trips starting closer to the CBD are much more radial for all modes (although much less so for walking), suggesting the CBD is dominant for travel from the inner city.

Public transport trips are the most radial compared to other modes (as we also saw earlier). They are followed by bicycle trips, which probably reflects relatively better cycling infrastructure in the central city, and the fact bicycles can be ridden and parked in the central city for free (unlike public and private transport).

Walking trips are the least radial on average, with almost no radial-bias showing at all. Earlier in this post I pointed out that two-way off-radial angles measured will be slightly biased towards smaller angles, even if trips were truly randomly orientated. I think there’s a good chance that walking trips in the middle and outer suburbs have no radial bias, and the fact they mostly have an average angle of between 40° and 45° suggests the inherent measurement bias to smaller angles is not particularly strong.

In the chart you can also see that within each main mode there is little difference between weekday and weekend trips (for walking trips the smaller weekend sample size is likely introducing some noise).

Furthermore, average two-way off-radial angles are mostly flat for each mode between beyond 10 km from the CBD, with two exceptions:

  • The weekend public transport average two-way off-radial angle for 40-45 km from the CBD was 23°, influenced by many local non-work trips (and there is insufficient sample size for public transport trips commencing further out).
  • Trips in outer Melbourne (55+ km) are actually slightly biased towards non-radial travel – i.e. average two-way off-radial angle higher than 45°. It turns out most of them are on the Mornington Peninsula where trip bearings are heavily influenced by the shape of the peninsula.

To visualise this, here is a map showing the average two-way off-radial angle for trip origin SA2s across Greater Melbourne:

Technical note: the map is drawn using SA1 areas, and only SA1s with a trip origin are included, which explains the many small gaps.

Point Nepean (at the bottom of the map) has an average off-radial angle of 52°, which reflects the thin non-radial geography of the end of the peninsula.

Some relative outliers of interest include:

  • Melbourne Airport has a relatively low average angle of 23°, probably reflecting higher travel volumes to the CBD and wealthy inner city and south-east suburbs where regular air travellers might be more likely to live. However this would be offset by airport workers who tend to live nearby, although those in Sunbury are actually making fairly radial trips. Note that non-resident airport users are not included in VISTA, and I’ve filtered out flights (because almost all of them don’t stay within Greater Melbourne).
  • Wandin – Seville in the outer east has an average off-radial angle of 18°, probably reflecting that many of the urban settlements in this area are along the east-west (radial) Warburton Highway.
  • Melton and Melton South have a high average angle of 42° – probably reflecting many local trips within the township that would have no radial bias.
  • Mount Dandenong – Olinda has a higher average angle of 42° also – probably reflecting some north-south geographic barriers in the area (ie steeper mountain slopes on the western edge).
  • Several bay-side SA2s have higher radialness, probably reflecting the coast line being fairly radially aligned with the CBD, and the coast being a natural barrier to non-radial travel.

How does radialness vary by trip purpose?

Firstly, here’s a chart showing average two-way off-radial angles by (destination) trip purpose for weekdays and weekends:

  • Work related trips are generally the most radial, followed by social and then education trips (except weekend education trips, of which there are few).
  • The least radial trip type is recreational trips on weekends.
  • Curiously, weekend trips to accompany, pick up or drop off someone were more radial than weekdays, perhaps because more people are not working and able to do this for others, and/or weekend public transport service levels are lower.

VISTA designates a “link mode” to each trip – being generally the highest ranked mode in the journey (trains being highest ranked, followed by trams, buses, vehicle driver, vehicle passenger, bicycle, walking). Actual trips may involve multiple modes, and the off-radial angle is measured for the end-to-end trip, not the part of the trip that used the “link mode”.

The following table shows average two-way off-radial angles for combinations of link mode and trip purpose:

Technical note: gaps in the table are where there were insufficient trips sampled of that trip purpose and mode combination (less than 100).

The table shows that:

  • Train trips are the most radial, followed by trams, taxis, motorcycles, buses, bicycles, private vehicle travel and finally walking.
  • Education trips by train and tram are less radial than other trip purposes on trains and trams, I suspect because many will be to schools and universities not in the central city.

How does radialness vary by different destination types?

Here is a chart of average two-way off-radial angles for trips to most VISTA destination place types (those with a sample of at least 100 trips):

Some observations:

  • Trips to tourist places were the most radial, with most of those destinations in the central city.
  • Markets attract quite radial trips, probably because many popular markets are in the inner city (eg Queen Victoria, South Melbourne, Prahran, Footscray).
  • Trips to the bay or beach are the least radial – which makes sense given much of the coastlines are radial in orientation.
  • Within education places, primary schools have the least radialness, and tertiary institutions the most, with secondary schools in between.

I’ll let you make your own further observations.

How does radialness vary by age and sex?

I expect the patterns are related to the most common occupations and trip purposes for males and females at different ages. For example, 20-24 year-olds might be more likely to be studying at university or working (both resulting in more radial trips), while children are more likely to travel to school which is not generally particularly radial. Females over 30 are less likely to be in the workforce so more likely to make local trips that are not radially biased.

How radial is total distance travelled?

Not all trips are the same length or duration. Longer trips will have more impact on the transport network. So what does radialness look like in terms of total distance travelled?

Here’s a similar chart to the first chart, but the Y-axis is the proportion of distance travelled on that day type, rather than proportion of trips:

A much larger proportion of distance travelled is accounted for by very radial trips (angles 0°-10°) compared to the proportion of trips. In fact it is around 42% on school weekdays, 35% on Saturdays and 37% on Sundays. On this measure weekend travel is again less radial than weekdays, but still heavily biased towards radial travel.

Why is travel so radial in Melbourne?

This analysis has found that travel in Melbourne is biased towards radial trips, even on weekends. I think a few things can explain the more radial nature of general travel, including:

  • The central and inner city is a major destination for many trips, including those to work, universities, entertainment, and medical facilities. Also, many specialised activities and services are only available in the central and inner city. Trips to these destinations will inherently be more radial.
  • Other large population-serving destinations such as hospitals, large shopping centres, and universities are more likely to be located in the inner and middle suburbs, resulting in fairly radial travel to them from the outer suburbs.
  • Melbourne’s urban form (like many cities) has several outer radial corridors, often orientated around train lines. Local travel within these corridors is going to be more radial on average because there are fewer non-radial trip destinations with the urbanised area.
  • The coastlines of Port Phillip Bay are largely radial in orientation relative to the CBD. In areas near the coastline, it is possible to make radial trips but non-radial trips are restricted by the coastline (as we saw above).

Part 2 of this analysis will focus on radialness of trips at different times of day for different travel purposes and modes, as well as visualising radialness on maps.

Finally, I want to thank the Victorian Department of Transport for sharing the VISTA data set with me and allowing me to publish this analysis.


Mapping Melbourne’s journeys to work

Mon 24 June, 2019

The unwritten rules of mapping data include avoiding too much data and clutter, and not using too much colour. This blog often violates those rules, and when it comes to visualising journeys to work, I think we can learn a lot about cities with somewhat cluttered colourful animated maps.

This post maps journeys to work in Melbourne, using data from the 2016 census. I will look at which types of home-work pairs have different public, private and active transport mode shares and volumes.

Although this post will focus on Melbourne, I will include a brief comparison to Sydney at the end.

Where are public transport journeys to work in Melbourne?

First I need to explain the maps you are about to see.

So that I can show mode shares, I’ve grouped journeys between SA2s (which are roughly the size of a suburb). Lines are drawn from the population centroid of the home SA2 (thin end) to the employment centroid of the work SA2 (thicker end). Centroids are calculated as the weighted average location residents/jobs in each SA2 (using mesh block / destination zone data). This generally works okay for urban areas, but be aware that actual trips will be distributed across SA2s, and some SA2s on the urban fringe are quite large.

The thickness of each line at the work end is roughly proportional to the number of journeys by the mode of interest between the home-work pair (refer legends), but it’s difficult to use a scale that is meaningful for smaller volumes. Unfortunately there’s only so much you can do on a 2-D chart.

I’ve not drawn lines where there are fewer than 50 journeys in total (all modes), or where there were no journeys of the mode that is the subject of the map. This threshold of 50 isn’t perfect either as SA2s are not consistently sized within and between cities, so larger SA2s are more likely to generate lines on the map.

To try to help deal with the clutter, I’ve made the lines somewhat transparent, and also animated the map to highlight trips with different mode share intervals. For frames showing all lines, the lines with highest mode share are drawn on top.

So here is an animated map showing public transport journeys to work in Melbourne, by different mode share ranges and overall:

Technical note: I have included journeys to work that are internal to an SA2. Usually these appear as simple circles, but sometimes they appear as small teardrops where the population and employment centroids are sufficiently far apart.

You can see that the highest PT shares and largest PT volumes are for journeys to the central city, and generally from SA2s connected to Melbourne CBD by train (including many outer suburbs).

As the animation moves to highlight lower PT mode share ranges, the lines become a little less radial, a little shorter on average, and the lowest (non-zero) PT mode shares are mostly for suburban trips.

A notable exception is journeys to Port Melbourne Industrial SA2 (also known as Fishermans Bend), which is located at the junction of two major motorways and is remote from rapid public transport (it does however have a couple of high frequency bus lines from the CBD).

The lowest PT mode shares are seen for trips around the outer suburbs. The maps above unfortunately aren’t very good at differentiating small volumes. The following animated map shows public transport journeys with a filter progressively applied to remove lines with small numbers of public transport journeys (refer blue text in title):

You can see that most of the outer suburban lines quickly disappear as they have very small volumes. Inter-suburban lines with more than 50 public transport journeys go to centres including Dandenong, Clayton, Box Hill, and Heidelberg.

Here’s another animation that builds up the map starting with low public transport mode share lines, and then progressively adds lines with higher public transport mode shares:

As an aside, here is a chart showing journeys to work by straight line distance (between SA2 centroids), public transport mode share, work distance from the CBD and home-work volume:

The black dots represent journeys to the inner 5km of the city, and you can see public transport has a high mode share of longer trips. Public transport mode share falls away for shorter journeys to the inner city as people are more likely to use active transport. A dot on the top left of the curve is 8,874 journeys from Docklands to Melbourne – which benefits from the free tram zone and the distances can be 1-2 km. Most of the longer journeys with low public transport mode share are to workplaces remote from the CBD (coloured dots).

Another way to deal with the clutter of overlapping lines around the CBD is to progressively remove lines to workplaces in and around the CBD. Here is another animated map that does exactly so that you can better see journeys in the nearby inner and middle suburbs.

As you strip away the CBD and inner suburbs, you lose most lines with high public transport mode shares and volumes. However some high public transport mode share lines remain, including the following outbound journeys:

  • Melbourne (CBD) to Melbourne Airport: 72% of 64 journeys
  • Melbourne (CBD) to Box Hill: 66% of 76 journeys
  • Melbourne (CBD) to Clayton: 57% of 82 journeys
  • South Yarra – East to Clayton: 57% of 173 journeys

Just keep in mind that these are all very small volumes compared to total journeys in Melbourne.

You might have noticed on the western edge of the map some yellow and orange lines from the Wyndham area (south-west Melbourne) that go off the map towards the south west. These journeys go to Geelong.

Here’s a map showing journeys around Geelong and between Geelong and Greater Melbourne (journeys entirely within Greater Melbourne excluded):

You can see very high public transport mode shares for journeys from the Geelong and Bellarine region to the Melbourne CBD and Docklands (and fairly large volumes), but no lines to Southbank, East Melbourne, Parkville or Carlton – all more remote from Southern Cross Station, the city terminus for regional trains.

(The other purple lines to the CBD are from Ballarat, Bacchus Marsh, Daylesford, Woodend, Kyneton, Castlemaine, Kilmore-Broadford and Warragul, with at least 60 journeys each.)

You can also see those orange and yellow lines from the Wyndham area to central Geelong, being mode shares of 20-40%. The Geelong train line provides frequent services between Tarneit, Wyndham Vale, and Geelong, and has proved reasonably popular with commuters to Geelong (frequency was significantly upgraded in June 2015 with the opening of the Regional Rail Link, just 14 months before the census of August 2016).

However, public transport mode shares for travel within Greater Geelong are very small – even for SA2 that are connected by trains. This might reflect Geelong train station being on the edge of its CBD, relatively cheap parking in central Geelong, limited stopping frequency at some stations (many at 40 minute base pattern), and/or limited walk-up population catchments at several of Geelong’s suburban train stations.

Does public transport have significant mode share for cross-suburban journeys to work?

To search for cross-suburban journeys with relatively high public transport mode shares, here is a map that only shows lines with public transport mode shares above 20% between homes and workplaces both more than 5 km from the CBD (yes, those are arbitrary thresholds):

Of these journeys, the highest mode shares are for journeys from the inner northern suburbs to St Kilda and Hawthorn. There’s also a 49% mode share from Footscray to Maribyrnong (connected by frequent trams and buses).

The tear drop to the north of the city is 114 people who used PT from Coburg to Brunswick (connected by two tram routes and one train route).

Most of the other links on this map are fairly well aligned with train, tram, or SmartBus routes, suggesting high quality services are required to attract significant mode shares.

But these trips are a tiny fraction of journeys to work around Melbourne. In fact 3.0% of journeys to work in Melbourne were by public transport to workplaces more than 5 km from the CBD. The same statistic for Sydney is more than double this, at 7.3%.

What about private transport journeys?

Firstly, here’s a map showing private transport mode shares and volumes, building up the map starting with low private mode share lines.

The links with lowest private transport mode shares are very radial as you might expect (pretty much the inverse of the public transport maps). Progressively less radial lines get added to the map before there is a big bang when the final private transport mode share band of 95-100% gets added, with large volumes of outer suburban trips.

For completeness, here’s an animation that highlights each mode share range individually.

There are some other interesting stories in this data. The following map shows private transport mode share of journeys to work, excluding workplaces up to 10 km from the CBD to remove some clutter.

If you look carefully you’ll see that there is a much lower density of trips that cross the Yarra River (which runs just south of Heidelberg and Eltham). There are limited bridge crossings, and this is probably inhibiting people considering such journeys.

The construction of the North East Link motorway will add considerable cross-Yarra road capacity, and I suspect it may induce more private transport journeys to work across the Yarra River (although tolls will be a disincentive).

What about active transport journeys?

Next is a map for active transport journeys, but this time I’ve progressively added a filter for the number of active transport journeys, as most of the lines on the full chart are for very small volumes.

As soon as the filter reaches a minimum of 50 active journeys most of the lines between SA2s in the middle and outer suburbs disappear. Note that journeys between SA2s are not necessarily long, they might just be a short trip over the boundary.

Then at minimum 200 journeys you can only see central city journeys plus intra-SA2 journeys in relatively dense centres such as Hawthorn, Heidelberg, Box Hill, Clayton, Frankston, Mornington, Footscray, and St Kilda. The large volume in the south of the map that hangs around is Hastings – Somers, where 882 used active transport (probably mostly walking to work on the HMAS Cerebus navy base).

Active transport journeys are mostly much shorter than private and public transport journeys – as you might expect as most people will only walk or ride a bicycle so far. But there are people who said they made very long active transport journeys to work – the map shows some journeys from Point Nepean, Torquay, Ballarat, Daylesford, and Castlemaine to Melbourne. That’s some keen cyclists, incredible runners, people who changed jobs in the week of the census (the census asks for work location the prior week, and modes used on census day), and/or people who didn’t fill in their census forms accurately. The volumes of these trips are very small (mostly less than 5).

That map is very congested around the central city, so here is a map zoomed into the inner suburbs and this time animated by building up the map starting with high active transport mode share lines.

The highest active transport mode shares are for travel within Southbank and from Carlton to Parkville, followed by journeys to places like the CBD, Docklands, South Yarra, South Melbourne, Carlton, Fitzroy, Parkville, and Carlton.

Then you see a lot of trips added from the inner northern suburbs, which are connected to the central city by dare-I-say “above average” cycling infrastructure across some relatively flat terrain. In particular, a thick red line on the map is for 471 active transport journeys from Brunswick to Melbourne (CBD) with a mode share of 17%. A second thick red line is Richmond to Melbourne (CBD) being 589 journeys with 16% active mode share.

Another way of summarising mode shares by work and home distance from the CBD

I’ve experimented with another visualisation approach to overcome the clutter issues. The next charts have home distances from the CBD on the Y axis, work distances from the CBD on the X axis, bubble size representing number of journeys, and colour showing mode shares. I’m drawing smaller journey volumes on top, and I’ve used some transparency to help a little with the clutter.

Firstly here is public transport (animated to show each mode share range individually):

The chart is roughly a V-shape with many trips on the left edge and along a diagonal (mostly representing intra-SA2 journeys), then with several vertical stripes being major suburban employment destinations (including Dandenong at 31 km, Clayton at 19 km, and Frankston at 40 km). Trips above the diagonal are roughly inbound, while trips below the diagonal are roughly outbound.

Some observations:

  • The diagonal line (mostly local journeys) has very low public transport mode shares (sometimes zero).
  • Higher PT mode shares are only seen on the far left and bottom left hand corner of the chart. Some outliers include Richmond to Box Hill (32%), Clayton to Malvern East (32%), and South Yarra – East to Clayton (57%).
  • PT mode shares of 80+% are only seen for journeys to the CBD from home SA2s at least 11 km out (with one exception of Melbourne CBD to St Kilda with 80% PT share).
  • Home-work pairs with zero public transport journeys are scattered around the middle and outer suburbs, most being longer distance journeys (home and work at different distances from the CBD).

Here’s the same chart for private transport:

The lowest private transport shares are seen for journeys to the CBD. The diagonal has many mode shares in the 80-90% range.

And here is active transport:

The highest active transport mode shares are seen in the central city area, followed by the diagonal mostly representing local journeys (with generally higher shares closer to the CBD). Some notable outliers include local trips within Clayton (1,298 active trips / 46% active mode share), Box Hill (914 / 40%), Hastings – Somers (1,762 / 27%), Flinders (240 / 24%), Glen Waverley – West (308 / 21%), and Mentone (226 / 23%).

How does Sydney compare to Melbourne?

Here is a chart with private transport mode share maps for both Melbourne and Sydney, animated in tandem to progressively add higher mode share journeys.

You can see that Sydney has a lot more trips at lower private transport mode shares, and that workplaces outside the city centre start to show up earlier in the animation in Sydney – being the dense transit-orientated suburban employment clusters that are largely unique to Sydney (see: Suburban employment clusters and the journey to work in Australian cities).

If time permits, I may do similar analysis for Sydney and other cities in future posts.


How radial are journeys to work in Australian cities?

Fri 14 June, 2019

In almost every city, hordes of people commute towards the city centre in the morning and back away from the city in the evening. This largely radial travel causes plenty of congestion on road and public transport networks.

But only a fraction of commuters in each city actually work in the CBD. So just how radial are journeys to work? How does it vary between cities? And how does it vary by mode of transport?

This post takes a detailed look at journey to work data from the ABS 2016 Census for Melbourne, Sydney, and to a less extent Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Canberra. I’ve included some visualisations for Melbourne and Sydney that I hope you will find interesting.

How to measure radialness?

I’m measuring radialness by the difference in degrees between the bearing of the journey to work, and a direct line from the home to the CBD of the city. I’m calling this the “off-radial angle”.

So an off-radial angle of 0° means the journey to work headed directly towards the CBD. However that doesn’t mean the workplace was the CBD, it might be have been short of the CBD or even on the opposite side of the CBD.

Similarly, an off-radial angle of 180° means the journey to work headed directly away from the CBD. And a value of 90° means that the trip was “orbital” relative to the CBD (a Melbourne example would be a journey from Box Hill that headed either north or south). And then there are all the angles in between.

To deal with data on literally millions of journeys to work, I’ve grouped journeys by home and work SA2 (SA2s are roughly the size of a suburb), and my bearing calculations are based on the residential centroid of the home SA2 and the employment centroid of the work SA2.

So it is certainly not precise analysis, but I’ve also grouped off-radial angles into 10 degree intervals, and I’m mostly looking for general trends and patterns.

So how radial are trips in Melbourne and Sydney?

Here’s a chart showing the proportion of 2016 journeys to work at different off-radial angle intervals:

Technical note: As per all my posts, I’ve designated a main mode for journeys to work: any journey involving public transport is classed as “Public”, any journey not involving motorised transport is classed as “Active”, and any other journey is classed as “Private”.

In both cities over 30% of journeys to work were what you might call “very radial” – within 10 degrees of perfectly radial. It was slightly higher in Melbourne.

You can also see that public transport trips are even more radial, particularly in Melbourne. In fact, around two-thirds of public transport journeys to work in 2016 had a destination within 2 km of the CBD.

Melbourne’s “mass transit” system (mostly trains and trams) is very radial, so you might be wondering why public transport accounts for less than half of those very radial journeys (41% in fact).

Here are Melbourne’s “very radial” journeys broken down by workplace distance from the Melbourne CBD:

very-radial-trips-by-mode-distance-from-cbd

Public transport dominates very radial journeys to workplaces within 2 km of the centre of the CBD, but is a minority mode for workplaces at all other distances. Many of these highly radial journeys might not line up with a transit line towards the city, and/or there could well be free parking at those suburban workplaces that make driving all too easy. I will explore this more shortly.

Sydney however had higher public transport mode shares for less radial journeys to work. I think this can be explained by Sydney’s large and dense suburban employment clusters that achieve relatively high public transport mode shares (see: Suburban employment clusters and the journey to work in Australian cities), the less radial nature of Sydney’s train network, and generally higher levels of public transport service provision, particularly in inner and middle suburbs.

Visualising radialness on maps

To visualise journeys to work it is necessary to simplify things a little so maps don’t get completely cluttered. On the following maps I show journey to work volumes between SA2s where there are at least 50 journeys for which the mode is known. The lines between home and work SA2s get thicker at the work end, and the thickness is proportional to the volume (although it’s hard to get a scale that works for all scenarios).

First up is an animated map that shows journeys to work coloured by private transport mode share, with each frame showing a different interval of off-radial angle (plus one very cluttered view with all trips):

(click/tap to enlarge maps)

I’ve had to use a lot of transparency so you have a chance at making out overlapping lines, but unfortunately that makes individual lines a little harder to see, particularly for the larger off-radial angles.

You can see a large number of near-radial journeys, and then a smattering of journeys at other off-radial angles, with some large volumes across the middle suburbs at particular angles.

The frame showing very radial trips was rather cluttered, so here is an map showing only those trips, animated to strip out workplaces in the CBD and surrounds so you can see the other journeys:

Private transport mode shares of very radial trips are only very low for trips to the central city. When the central city jobs are stripped out, you see mostly high private transport mode shares. Some relative exceptions to this include journeys to places like Box Hill, Hawthorn, and Footscray. More on that in a future post.

Here are the same maps for Sydney:

Across both of these maps you can find Sydney’s suburban employment clusters which have relatively low private transport mode shares. I explore this, and many other interesting ways to visualise journeys to work on maps in another post.

What about other Australian cities?

To compare several cities on one chart, I need some summary statistics. I’ve settled on two measures that are relatively easy to calculate – namely the average off-radial angle, and the percent of journeys that are very radial (up to 10°).

The ACT (Canberra) actually has the most radial journeys to work of these six cities, despite it being something of a polycentric city. Adelaide has the next most radial journeys to work, but there’s not a lot of difference in the largest four cities, despite Sydney being much more a polycentric city than the others. Note the two metrics do not correlate strongly – summary statistics are always problematic!

Here are those radialness measures again, but broken down by main mode:

Sydney now looks the least radial of the cities on most measures and modes, particularly by public transport.

The Australian Capital Territory (Canberra) has highly radial private and active journeys to work, but much less-radial public transport journeys than most other cities. This probably reflects Canberra’s relatively low cost parking (easy to drive to the inner city), but also that the public transport bus network is orientated around the suburban town centres that contain decent quantities of jobs.

Adelaide has the most radial journeys to work when it comes to active and public transport.

What about other types of travel?

In a future post, I’ll look at the radialness of general travel around Melbourne using household travel survey data (VISTA), and answer some questions I’ve been pondering for a while. Is general travel around cities significantly less radial than journeys to work? Is weekend travel less radial than weekday travel?

Follow the blog on twitter or become an email subscriber (see top-right of this page) to get alerted when that comes out.


Visualising the components of population change in Australia

Sat 27 April, 2019

Australian cities are growing in population as a result of international migration, internal migration, and births outnumbering deaths. But which of these factors are most at play in different parts of the country?

Thanks to ABS publishing data on the components of population growth with their Regional Population Growth product, we now have estimates of births, deaths, internal/international arrivals, and internal/international departures right down to SA2 geography for 2016-17 and 2017-18.

This post aims to summarise the main explanation for population change in different parts of the country.

This post isn’t much about transport, but I hope you also find the data interesting. That said, it’s possible that immigrants from transit-orientated countries might be more inclined to use public transport in Australia, and that might impact transport demand patterns. We know that recent immigrants are more likely to travel to work by public transport than longer term residents, but that probably also has a lot to do with where they are settling.

How is population changing in bigger and smaller cities?

First up, I’ve divided Australia into Capital Cities (Greater Capital City Statistical Areas), Large regional cities (Significant Urban Areas with population 100,000+, 2016 boundaries), small regional cities (Significant Urban Areas, with population 10,000 to 100,000, 2016 boundaries ) and “elsewhere”.

Here’s a chart showing the total of the six components of population change in each of those four place types. I’ve animated the chart (and most upcoming charts) to show changes in the years to June 2017 and June 2018, with a longer pause on 2018.

There were significant internal movements in all parts of Australia (shown in green) – even more so in 2018. These include people moving between any SA2s, whether they adjacent within a city or across the country.

International arrivals and departures were much larger in capital cities and there were more arrivals than departures in all four place types. International arrivals declined between 2017 and 2018, while international departures increased slightly between 2017 and 2018.

Births also outnumbered deaths in all place categories in both years.

Here’s a look at the larger capital cities individually:

The chart shows Sydney, Perth, and Adelaide had more internal departures than arrivals. These cities only grew in total population because of natural increase and net international immigration. Melbourne and Brisbane had a net increase from internal movements in both 2017 and 2018, while Canberra has been a lot more even.

International arrivals outnumbered international departures and births significantly outnumbered deaths in all cities. Melbourne and Canberra were the only cities to see a significant increase in international arrivals between 2017 and 2018.

Here is the same chart but for medium sized cities:

Again, there were much larger volumes of internal migration in 2017-18 compared to 2016-17.

The Gold Coast is the only medium-sized city to have significant volumes of international movements. The fast population growth of the Gold and Sunshine Coasts is mostly coming from internal arrivals.

What is the dominant explanation for population change in different parts of Australia?

As mentioned the ABS data goes down to SA2 statistical geography which allows particularly fine grain analysis, with six measures available for each SA2. However it is difficult to show those six components spatially. They can be consolidated into three categories: net natural increase, net internal arrivals/departures, and net international arrivals/departures, but that is still three different metrics for all SA2s.

One way to look at this is simply the component with the largest contribution to population growth (or decline). Here is a map showing that for each SA2 in Melbourne:

You can see that international arrivals dominated population growth in most inner and middle suburbs, while internal arrivals dominated population growth in most outer suburbs. There are also some SA2s where births dominated (often low growth outer suburbs).

This representation is quite simplified, and doesn’t show what else might be happening. For example, here is a summary of the population changes in Sunshine for the year to June 2018:

Population change in Sunshine, year to June 2018

Overseas arrivals dominated population growth (net +313), but the otherwise hidden story here is that they were largely offset by net internal departures of 279.

So to add more detail to the analysis, I’ve created a slightly more detailed classification system that looks at the largest component and often a secondary component, as per the following table.

Explanation summaryLargest componentOther components
Growth – mostly births replacing localsNatural increaseNet internal departures more than 50 and net internal departures more than net overseas departures
Growth – mostly birthsNatural increaseNet internal and overseas departures of no more than 50
Growth – mostly immigrants replacing localsNet overseas arrivalsNet internal departures of at least 50 and/or natural decrease of at least 50.
Growth – mostly immigrationNet overseas arrivalsNet internal departures less than 50 (or net arrivals).
Growth – mostly internal arrivals replacing deathsNet internal arrivalsNet natural decrease of 50 or more, and bigger than net overseas departures
Growth – mostly internal arrivalsNet internal arrivalsNet internal arrivals greater than net overseas arrivals and natural increase

Decline – mostly internal departures

Net internal departures

Natural increase and net overseas arrivals both less than 50
Decline – mostly internal departures partly offset by births Net internal departuresNatural increase of at least 50, and natural increase larger than net overseas arrivals.
Decline – mostly internal departures partly offset by immigrantsNet internal departures Net overseas arrivals of at least 50, and net overseas arrivals larger than natural increase.
Decline – mostly deathsNatural decrease

There are no SA2s where net international departures was the major explanation for population change.

Here’s what these summary explanations look like in Melbourne (again, animated to show years to June 2017 and June 2018):

Technical notes: On these maps I’ve omitted SA2s where there was population change of less than 50 people, or where no components of population change were more than 1% of the population. Not all classifications are present on all maps.

You can now see that in most middle suburbs there has been a net exodus of locals, more than offset by net international arrivals (light purple). Also, many of the outer suburbs with low growth actually involve births offsetting internal departures (light blue).

Turning near-continuous data into discrete classifications is still slightly problematic. For example the summary explanations don’t tell you by how much one component was larger than the others. For example if there were 561 net international arrivals and 560 net internal arrivals, it would be classified as “Growth – mostly immigration”. Also, SA2s are not consistently sized across Australia (see: How is density changing in Australian cities?), so my threshold of 50 is not perfect. At the end of the post I provide a link to Tableau where you can inspect the data more closely for any part of Australia.

The inner city area of Melbourne was a little congested with data marks on the above map, so here is a map zoomed into inner and middle Melbourne:

You can see significant population growth in the Melbourne CBD and surrounding SA2s, particularly in 2017. The main explanation for inner city growth is international immigration, although internal arrivals came out on top in Southbank in 2018. Curiously, net internal arrivals were larger the international migration in Brunswick East in both years. And natural increase was dominant in Newport in the inner-west.

Zooming out to include the bigger regional centres of Victoria (note: many regional SA2s don’t show up because of very little population change):

In most regional Victorian cities, internal arrivals account for most of the population growth, although the net growth in “Shepparton – North” of +222 in 2017 and +152 in 2018 was mostly made up of international arrivals.
The only other SA2s to show international arrivals as the main explanation were in inner Geelong.

(I haven’t shown all of Victoria because few SA2s outside the above map had significant population change).

Heading up to Sydney, the picture is fairly similar to Melbourne:

Like Melbourne, internal arrivals accounted for most of the population growth in outer growth areas.

International immigration dominated the inner and middle suburbs in 2017, but in 2018 immigration eased off, and births became the main explanation for population growth in more SA2s.

The middle SA2s of Homebush Bay – Silverwater and Botany are noticeable exceptions to the pattern, dominated by internal arrivals.

Zooming out to New South Wales:

Central Newcastle, central Wollongong, Armidale and Griffith saw mostly international immigration led population growth. Most larger regional towns saw growth from internal arrivals, but further inland there was population decline – mostly from internal departures.

Next up, Brisbane:

Population growth in Brisbane’s inner suburbs is much more of a mix of internal and overseas arrivals. There are also more SA2s where births dominate population growth. There were also some SA2s with slight population decline for various reasons.

Zooming out to South East Queensland:

International arrivals dominated areas on the Gold Coast closer to the coastline, but much less so on the Sunshine Coast and in Toowoomba.

Looking at other parts of Queensland:

There was population decline in several areas, including Mackay and Mount Isa. Rockhampton and Cairns saw population growth mostly through internal arrivals. Townsville was dominated by internal arrivals in 2017, and births in 2018.

Airlie – Whitsundays stands out as having population growth mostly from international arrivals in both years.

Next up, Perth:

Like other cities, population growth in the outer suburbs was dominated by internal arrivals. There were a lot more SA2s showing population decline, and this was largely due to internal departures, partly offset by natural increases or net overseas arrivals.

Zooming out to Western Australia:

Population growth on the south-west coast was mostly dominated by internal arrivals, while in many other centres around the state there was population decline, mostly due to internal departures, however in many areas this was offset partly by births.

Next up, Adelaide:

Firstly, keep in mind that there has been relatively slow population growth in Adelaide (the scale is adjusted). The inner and middle suburbs mostly show population growth from international arrivals (often offsetting net internal departures), and the outer growth areas were again mostly about internal arrivals.

Zooming out to South Australia:

In 2017 there was considerable population decline in Whyalla and Port Augusta. Murray Bridge is another rare regional centre where population growth was largely driven by almost 400 overseas arrivals each year.

Next is Tasmania:

Note the circle size scale is even smaller. Overseas arrivals dominated population growth in central Hobart and Newman – Mayfield in Launceston (possibly related to university campuses), while internal migration dominated most other areas.

Here is Canberra:

International immigrants dominated population growth around Civic and the inner north. Internal arrivals dominated Kingston and Griffith and most outer growth areas. The outer suburbs saw a mixture of births and internal arrivals as the dominant explanation.

And finally, Darwin, which actually saw net population decline in the year to June 2018:

Palmerston South saw the largest population growth – mostly from internal arrivals. International arrivals were significant around Darwin city in 2017, but were much less significant in 2018. Most of the northern suburbs saw population decline in the year to June 2018.

Didn’t see your area, or want to explore further? You can view this data interactively in Tableau (you might want to filter by state as that will change the scale of circle sizes).

Where were international arrivals most significant?

I’ve calculated the ratio of international arrivals to population for each SA2. The SA2s where international arrivals in the year to June 2018 make up a significant portion of the 2018 population are all near universities and/or CBDs. Namely:

  • Melbourne CBD and neighbouring Carlton at 20% (Melbourne Uni, RMIT, and others)
  • Brisbane CBD at 18% and neighbouring Spring Hill at 20% (QUT and others)
  • Clayton in Melbourne at 18% (Monash Uni)
  • Sydney – Haymarket – The Rocks at 15% and neighbouring Pyrmont – Ultimo at 17% (near to UTS, Sydney Uni, and various others)
  • Acton (ACT) at 17% (ANU)
  • Kingsford (in Sydney) at 16% (UNSW)
  • St Lucia (Brisbane) at 15% (UQ)

I hope you’ve found this interesting. In a future post I might look at internal migration origin-destination flows, including how people are moving within and between cities.


How is density changing in Australian cities? (2nd edition)

Sun 21 April, 2019

While Australian cities are growing outwards, densities are also increasing in established areas, and newer outer growth areas are some times at higher than traditional suburban densities.

So what’s the net effect – are Australian cities getting more or less dense? How has this changed over time? Has density bottomed out? And how many people have been living at different densities?

This post maps and measures population density over time in Australian cities.

I’ve taken the calculations back as far as I can with available data (1981), used the highest resolution population data available. I’ll discuss some of the challenges of measuring density using different statistical geographies along the way, but I don’t expect everyone will want to read through to the end of this post!

[This is a fully rewritten and updated version of a post first published November 2013]

Measuring density

Under traditional measures of density, you’d simply divide the population of a city by the area of the metropolitan region.

At the time of writing Wikipedia said Greater Sydney’s density was just 4.23 people per hectare (based on its Greater Capital City Statistical Area). To help visualise that, a soccer pitch is about 0.7 hectares. So Wikipedia is saying the average density of Sydney is roughly about 3 people per soccer field. You don’t need to have visited Sydney to know that is complete nonsense (don’t get me wrong, I love Wikipedia, but it really need to use a better measure for city density!).

The major problem with metropolitan boundaries – in Australia we use now Greater Capital City Statistical Areas – is that they include vast amounts of rural land and national parks. In fact, in 2016, at least 53% of Greater Sydney’s land area had zero population. That statistic is 24% in Melbourne and 14% in Adelaide – so there is also no consistency between cities.

Below is a map of Greater Sydney (sourced from ABS), with the blue boundary representing Greater Sydney:

One solution to this issue is to try to draw a tighter boundary around the urban area, and in this post I’ll also use Significant Urban Areas (SUAs) that do a slightly better job (they are made up of SA2s). The red boundaries on the above map show SUAs in the Sydney region.

However SUAs they still include large parks, reserves, industrial areas, airports, and large-area partially-populated SA2s on the urban fringe. Urban centres are slightly better (they are made of SA1s) but population data for these is only available in census years, the boundaries change with each census, the drawing of boundaries hasn’t been consistent over time, they include non-residential land, and they split off most satellite urban areas that are arguably still part of cities, even if not part of the main contiguous urban area.

Enter population-weighted density (PWD) which I’ve looked at previously (see Comparing the densities of Australian, European, Canadian, and New Zealand cities). Population-weighted density takes a weighted average of the density of all parcels of land that make up a city, with each parcel weighted by its population. One way to think about it is the average density of the population, rather than the average density of the land.

So parcels of land with no population don’t count at all, and large rural parcels of land that might be inside the “metropolitan area” count very little in the weighted average because of their relatively small population.

This means population-weighted density goes a long way to overcoming having to worry about the boundaries of the “urban area” of a city. Indeed, previously I have found that removing low density parcels of land had very little impact on calculations of PWD for Australian cities (see: Comparing the residential densities of Australian cities (2011)). More on this towards the end of this post.

Calculations of population-weighted density can also answer the question about whether the “average density” of a city has been increasing or decreasing.

But… measurement geography matters

One of the pitfalls of measuring population weighted density is that it very much depends on the statistical geography you are using.

If you use larger geographic zones you’ll get a lower value as most zones will include both populated and unpopulated areas.

If you use very small statistical geography (eg mesh blocks) you’ll end up with a lot fewer zones that are partially populated – most will be well populated or completely unpopulated, and that means your populated weighted density value will be much higher, and your measure is more looking at the density of housing areas.

To illustrate this, here’s an animated map of the Australian Capital Territory’s 2016 population density at all of the census geographies from mesh block (MB) to SA3:

Only at the mesh block and SA1 geographies can you clearly see that several newer outer suburbs of Canberra have much higher residential densities. The density calculation otherwise gets washed out quickly with lower resolution statistical geography, to the point where SA3 geography is pretty much useless as so much non-urban land is included (also, there are only 7 SA3s in total). I’ll come back to this issue at the end of the post.

Even if you have a preferred statistical geography for calculations, making international comparisons is very difficult because few countries will following the same guidelines for creating statistical geography. Near enough is not good enough. Worse still, statistical geography guidelines do not always result in consistently sized areas within a country (more on that later).

We need an unbiased universal statistical geography

Thankfully Europe and Australia have adopted a square kilometre grid geography for population estimates, which makes international PWD comparisons readily possible. Indeed I did one a few years ago looking at ~2011 data (see Comparing the densities of Australian, European, Canadian, and New Zealand cities).

This ABS is now providing population estimates on a square km grid for every year from 2006.

Here is what Melbourne’s estimated population density looks like on a km square grid, animated from 2006 to 2017:

The changes over time are relatively subtle, but if you watch the animation several times you’ll see growth – including relatively high density areas emerging on the urban fringe.

It’s a bit chunky, and it’s a bit of a matter of luck as to whether dense urban pockets fall entirely within a single grid square or on a boundary, but there is no intrinsic bias.

There’s also an issue that many grid squares will contain a mix of populated and non-populated land, particularly on the urban fringe (and a similar issue on coastlines). In a large city these will be in the minority, but in smaller cities these squares could make up a larger share of the total, so I think we need to be careful about this measure in smaller cities. I’m going to arbitrarily draw the line at 200,000 residents.

How are Australian cities trending for density using square km grid data 2006 to 2018?

So now that we have an unbiased geography, we can measure PWD for cities over time.

The following chart is based on 2016 Significant Urban Area boundaries (slightly smaller than Greater Capital City Statistical Areas but also they go across state borders as appropriate for Canberra – Queanbeyan and Gold Coast – Tweed).

Technical notes: You cannot perfectly map km squares to Significant Urban Areas. I’ve included all kilometre grid squares which have a centroid within the 2016 Significant Urban Area boundaries (with a 0.01 degree tolerance added – which is roughly 1 km). Hobart appears only in 2018 because the Hobart SUA crosses the 200,000 population threshold in 2018.

The above trend chart was a little congested for the smaller cities, so here is a zoomed in version without Sydney and Melbourne:

You can see most cities getting denser at various speeds, although Perth, Geelong, and Newcastle have each flat-lined for a few years.

Perth’s population growth slowed at the end of the mining boom around 2013, and infill development all but dried up, so the overall PWD increased only 0.2 persons/ha between 2013 and 2018.

Canberra has seen a surge in recent years, probably due to high density greenfield developments we saw above.

How is the mix of density changing? (2006 to 2018)

Here’s a look at the changing proportion of the population living at different densities for 2006-2018 for the five largest Australian cities, using square km grid geography:

It looks very much like the Melbourne breakdown bleeds into the Sydney breakdown. This roughly implies that Melbourne’s density distribution is on trend to look like Sydney’s 2006 distribution in around 2022 (accounting the for white space). That is, Melbourne’s density distribution is around 16 years behind Sydney’s on recent trends. Similarly, Brisbane looks a bit more than 15 years behind Melbourne on higher densities.

In Perth up until 2013 there was a big jump in the proportion of the population living at 35 persons / ha or higher, but then things peaked and the population living at higher densities declined, particularly as there was a net migration away from the inner and middle suburbs towards the outer suburbs.

Here’s the same for the next seven largest cities:

Of the smaller cities, densities higher than 35 persons/ha are only seen in Gold Coast, Newcastle, Wollongong and more recently in Canberra.

The large number of people living at low densities in the Sunshine Coast might reflect suburbs that contain a large number of holiday homes with no usual residents (I suspect the dwelling density would be relatively higher). This might also apply in the Gold Coast, Central Coast, Geelong (which actually includes much of the Bellarine Peninsula) and possibly other cities.

Also, the Central Coast and Sunshine Coast urban patterns are highly fragmented which means lots of part-urban grid squares, which will dilute the PWD of these “cities”.

Because I am sure many of you will be interested, here are animated maps for these cities:

Sydney

Brisbane

Perth

Adelaide

Canberra – Queanbeyan

Sunshine Coast

Gold Coast

Newcastle – Maitland and Central Coast

Wollongong

Geelong

What are the density trends further back in time using census data?

The census provides the highest resolution and therefore the closest measure of “residential” population weighted density. However, we’ve got some challenges around the statistical geography.

Prior to 2006, the smallest geography at which census population data is available is the collector district (CD), which average around 500 to 600 residents. A smaller geography – the mesh block (MB) – was introduced in 2006 and averages around 90 residents.

Unfortunately, both collector districts and mesh blocks are not consistently sized across cities or years (note: y axis on these charts does not start at zero):

Technical note: I have mapped all CDs and MBs to Greater Capital City Statistical Area (GCCSA) boundaries, based on the entire CD fitting within the GCCSA boundaries (which have not yet changed since they were created in 2011).

There is certainly some variance between cities and years, so we need to proceed with caution, particularly in comparing cities. Hobart and Adelaide have the smallest CDs and MBs on average, while Sydney generally has larger CDs and MBs. This might be a product of whether mesh blocks were made too small or large, or it might be that density is just higher and it is more difficult to draw smaller mesh blocks. The difference in median population may or may not be explained by the creation of part-residential mesh blocks.

Also, we don’t have a long time series of data at the one geography level. Rather than provide two charts which break at 2006, I’ve calculated PWD for both CD and mesh block geography for 2006, and then estimated equivalent mesh block level PWD for earlier years by scaling them up by the ratio of 2006 PWD calculations.

In Adelaide, the mesh block PWD for 2006 is 50% larger than the CD PWD, while in the Australian Capital Territory it is 110% larger, with other cities falling somewhere in between.

Would these ratios hold for previous years? We cannot be sure. Collector Districts were effectively replaced with SA1s (with an average population of 500, only slightly smaller) and we can calculate the ratio of mesh block PWD to SA1 PWD for 2011 and 2016. For most cities the ratio in 2016 is within 10% of the ratio in 2011. So hopefully the ratio of CD PWD to mesh block PWD would remain fairly similar over time.

So, with those assumptions, here’s what the time series then looks like for PWD at mesh block geography:

As per the square km grid values, Sydney and Melbourne are well clear of the pack.

Most cities had a PWD low point in 1996. That is, until around 1996 they were sprawling at low densities more than they were densifying in established areas, and then the balance changed post 1996. Exceptions are Darwin which bottomed out in 2001 and Hobart which bottomed in 2006.

The data shows rapid densification in Melbourne and Sydney between 2011 and 2016, much more so than the square km grid data time series. But we also saw a significant jump in the median size of mesh blocks in those cities between 2011 and 2016 (and if you dig deeper, the distribution of mesh block population sizes also shifted significantly), so the inflection in the curves in 2011 are at least partly a product of how new mesh block boundaries were cut in 2016, compared to 2011. Clearly statistical geography isn’t always good for time series and inter-city analysis!

How has the distribution of densities changed in cities since 1986?

The next chart shows the distribution of population density for Greater Capital City Statistical Areas based on collector districts for the 1986 to 2006 censuses:

You can more clearly see the decline in population density in most cities from 1986 to 1996, and it wasn’t just because most of the population growth was a lower densities. In Hobart, Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne, the total number of people living at densities of 30 or higher actually reduced between 1986 and 1996.

Here is the equivalent chart for change in density distribution by mesh block geography for the capital cities for 2006, 2011, and 2016:

I’ve used the same colour scale, but note that the much smaller geography size means you see a lot more of the population at the higher density ranges.

The patterns are very similar to the distribution for square km grid data. You can see the how Brisbane seems to bleed into Melbourne and then into Sydney, suggesting a roughly 15 year lag in density distributions. This chart also more clearly shows the recent rapid rise of high density living in the smaller cities of Canberra and Darwin.

The next chart shows the 2016 distribution of population by mesh block density using Statistical Urban Area 2016 boundaries, including the smaller cities:

Gold Coast and Wollongong stand out as smaller cities with a significant portion of their population at relatively high densities, but a fair way off Sydney and Melbourne.

(Sorry I don’t have a mesh block times series of density distribution for the smaller cities – it would take a lot of GIS processing to map 2006 and 2011 mesh blocks to 2016 SUAs, and the trends would probably be similar to the km grid results).

Can we measure density changes further back in history and for smaller cities?

Yes, but we need to use different statistical geography. Annual population estimates are available at SA2 geography back to 1991, and at SA3 geography back to 1981.

However, there are again problems with consistency in statistical geography between cities and over time.

Previously on this blog I had assumed that guidelines for creation of statistical geography boundaries have been consistently applied by the ABS across Australia, resulting in reasonably consistent population sizes, and allowing comparisons of population-weighted density between cities using particular levels of statistical geography.

Unfortunately that wasn’t a good assumption.

Here are the median population sizes of all populated zones for the different statistical geographies in the 2016 census:

Note: I’ve used a log scale on the Y-axis.

While there isn’t a huge amount of variation between medians at mesh block and SA1 geographies, there are massive variations at SA2 and larger geographies.

SA2s are intended to have 3,000 to 25,000 residents (a fairly large range), with an average population of 10,000 (although often smaller in rural areas). You can see from the chart above that there are large variances between medians of the cities, with the median size in Canberra and Darwin below the bottom of the desired range.

I have asked the ABS about this issue. They say it is related to the size of gazetted localities, state government involvement, some dense functional areas with no obvious internal divisions (such as the Melbourne CBD), and the importance of capturing indigenous regions in some places (eg the Northern Territory). SA2 geography will be up for review when they update statistical geography for 2021.

While smaller SA2s mean you get higher resolution inter-censal statistics (which is nice), it also means you cannot compare raw population weighted density calculations between cities at SA2 geography.

However, all is not lost. We’ve got calculations of PWD on the unbiased square kilometre grid geography, and we can compare these with calculations on SA2 geography. It turns out they are very strongly linearly correlated (r-squared of over 0.99 for all cities except Geelong).

So it is possible to estimate square km grid PWD prior to 2006 using a simple linear regression on the calculations for 2006 to 2018.

But there is another complication – ABS changed the SA2 boundaries in 2016 (as is appropriate as cities grow and change). Data is available at the new 2016 boundaries back to 2001, but for 1991 to 2000 data is only available on the older 2011 boundaries. For most cities this only creates a small perturbation in PWD calculations around 2001 (as you’ll see on the next chart), but it’s larger for Geelong, Gold Coast – Tweed Heads and Newcastle Maitland so I’m not willing to provide pre-2001 estimates for those cities.

The bottom of this chart is quite congested so here’s an enlargement:

Even if the scaling isn’t perfect for all history, the chart still shows the shape of the curve of the values.

Consistent with the CD data, several cities appear to have bottomed out in the mid 1990s. On SA2 data, that includes Adelaide in 1995, Perth and Brisbane in 1994, Canberra in 1998 and Wollongong in 2006.

Can we go back further?

If we want to go back another ten years, we need to use SA3 geography, which also means we need to switch to Greater Capital City Statistical Areas as SA3s don’t map perfectly to Significant Urban Areas (which are constructed of SA2s). Because they are quite large, I’m only going to estimate PWD for larger cities which have reasonable numbers of SA3s that would likely have been fully populated in 1981.

I’ve applied the same linear regression approach to calculate estimated square kilometre grid population weighted density based on PWD calculated at SA3 geography (the correlations are strong with r-squared above 0.98 for all cities).

The following chart shows the best available estimates for PWD back to 1981, using SA3 data for 1991 to 2000, SA2 data for 2001 to 2005, and square km grid data from 2006 onwards:

Technical notes: SA3 boundaries have yet to change within capital cities, so there isn’t the issue we had with SA2s. The estimates based on SA2 and SA3 data don’t quite line up between 1990 and 1991 which demonstrates the limitations of this approach.

The four large cities shown appear to have been getting less dense in the 1980s (Melbourne quite dramatically). These trends could be related to changes in housing/planning policy over time but they might also be artefacts of using such a coarse statistical geography. It tends to support the theory that PWD bottomed out in the mid 1990s in Australia’s largest cities.

Could we do better than this for long term history? Well, you could probably do a reasonable job of apportioning census collector district data from 1986 to 2001 censuses onto the km grid, but that would be a lot of work! It also wouldn’t be perfectly consistent because ABS use dwelling address data to apportion SA1 population estimates into kilometre grid cells. Besides we have reasonable estimates using collector district geography back to 1986 anyway.

Melbourne’s population-weighted density over time

So many calculations of PWD are possible – but do they have similar trends?

I’ve taken a more detailed look at my home city Melbourne, using all available ABS population figures for the geographic units ranging from mesh blocks to SA3s inside “Greater Melbourne” and/or the Melbourne Significant Urban Area (based on the 2016 boundary), to produce the following chart:

Most of the datasets show an acceleration in PWD post 2011, except the SA3 calculations which are perhaps a little more washed out. The kink in the mesh block PWD is much starker than the other measures.

The Melbourne SUA includes only 62% of the land of the Greater Melbourne GCCSA, yet there isn’t much difference in the PWD calculated at SA2 geography – which is the great thing about population-weighted density.

All of the time series data suggests 1994 was the year in which Melbourne’s population weighted density bottomed out.

Appendix 1: How much do PWD calculations vary by statistical geography?

Census data allows us to calculate PWD at all levels of statistical geography to see if and how it distorts with larger statistical geography. I’ve also added km grid PWD calculations, and here are all the calculations for 2016:

Technical note: square km grid population data is estimated for 30 June 2016 while the census data is for 9 August 2016. Probably not a significant issue!

You can see cities rank differently when km grid results are compared to other statistical geography – reflecting the biases in population sizes at SA2 and larger geographies. Wollongong and Geelong also show a lot of variation in rank between geographies – probably owing to their small size.

The cities with small pockets of high density – in particular Gold Coast – drop rank with large geography as these small dense areas quickly get washed out.

I’ve taken the statistical geography all the way to Significant Urban Area – a single zone for each city which is the same as unweighted population density. These are absurdly low figures and in no way representative of urban density. They also suggest Canberra is more dense than Melbourne.

Appendix 2: Issues with over-sized SA1s

As I’ve mentioned recently, there’s an issue that the ABS did not create enough reasonably sized SA1s in some city’s urban growth areas in 2011 and 2016. Thankfully, it looks like they did however create a sensible number of mesh blocks in these areas, as the following map (created with ABS Maps) of the Altona Meadows / Point Cook east area of Melbourne shows:

In the north parts of this map you can see there are roughly 4-8 mesh blocks per SA1, but there is an oversized SA1 in the south of the map with around 50 mesh blocks. This will impact PWD calculated at SA1 geography, although these anomalies are relatively small when you are looking at a city as large as Melbourne.


Are Australian cities growing around their rapid transit networks?

Sun 31 March, 2019

My last post showed half of Perth’s outer urban population growth between 2011 and 2016 happened in places more than 5 km from a train station (see: Are Australian cities sprawling with low-density car-dependent suburbs?). It’s very car-dependent sprawl, with high levels of motor vehicle ownership (96 per 100 persons aged 18-84) and high private transport mode share of journeys to work (88%).

But what about population growth overall in cities? Is most growth happening close to rapid transit stations? How are cities orientated to rapid transit overall? And how does rapid transit orientation relate to mode shares?

Let’s dive into the data to find out.

Why is proximity to rapid transit important?

Public transport journey to work mode shares are generally much higher close to stations:

And motor vehicle ownership rates are generally lower closer to stations:

However it is worth noting that the proximity impact wears off mostly after only a couple of kms. Being 2-5 kms from a station is only useful if you can readily access that station – for example by bus, bicycle, or if you are early enough to get a car park.

Also, proximity to a station does not guarantee lower car dependence – the rapid transit service has to be a competitive option for popular travel destinations. I’ve discussed the differences between cities in more detail
(see: What explains variations in journey to work mode shares between and within Australian cities?), and I’ll a little have more to say on this below.

But in general, if you want to reduce a city’s car dependence, you’ll probably want more people living closer useful rapid public transport.

Is population growth happening near train/busway stations?

The following chart (and most subsequent charts) are built using ABS square kilometre grid population data for the period 2006 to 2018 (see appendix for more details).

Melbourne has seen the most population growth overall, followed by Sydney and Brisbane. Population growth in Perth has slowed dramatically since 2014, and has been remained slow in Adelaide.

Population growth in areas remote from stations most cities has been relatively steady. By contrast, the amount of population growth nearer to stations fluctuates more between years – there was a noticeable dip in growth near stations around 2010 and 2011 in all cities.

You can also see that in recent years the majority of Perth’s population growth has been more than 5 km from a station.

To show that more clearly, here’s the same data, but as a proportion of total year population growth:

You can see that most of Perth’s population growth has been remote from stations. In the year to June 2016, 85% of Perth’s population growth was more than 5 km from a train station (the chart actually goes outside the 0-100% range in 2016 because there was a net decline in population for areas between 2 and 4 km from stations). That was an extreme year, but in 2018 the proportion of population growth beyond 5 km from a station had only come down to 57.5%. That is not a recipe for reducing car dependence.

At the other end of the spectrum, almost half of Sydney’s population growth has been within 1 km of a train or busway station. No wonder patronage on Sydney’s train network is growing fast.

Melbourne has had the smallest share of population growth being more than 5 km from a station over most years since 2006. The impact of the South Morang to Mernda train line extension, which opened in August 2018, won’t be evident until the year to June 2019 data is released (probably in March 2020). Melbourne’s planned outer growth corridors are now largely aligned with the rail network, so I would expect to see less purple in upcoming years.

Here’s the same data for the next largest cities that have rapid transit:

Gold Coast – Tweed Heads has seen the most population growth, followed by the Sunshine Coast and more recently Geelong population growth has accelerated.

The Sunshine Coast stands out as having the most population growth remote from rapid transit (a Maroochydore line has been proposed), while Wollongong had the highest share of population growth near stations.

What about total city population?

The above analysis showed distances from stations for population growth, here’s how it looks for the total population of the larger cities:

Sydney has the most rapid transit orientated population, with 67% of residents within 2 km of a rapid transit station. Sydney is followed by Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, and then Perth.

The most spectacular step change was in Perth in 2008, following the opening of the Mandurah rail line in the southern suburbs. This brought rail access significantly closer for around 18% of the city’s population. However, Perth has since been sprawling significantly in areas remote from rail while infill growth has all but dried up in recent years. 22% of the June 2018 population was more than 5 km from a train station, up from 19% in 2008. But it’s still much lower than 37% in 2007. Perth remains the least rapid transit orientated large city in Australia.

Brisbane has also seen some big step changes with new rail lines to Springfield (opening December 2013) and Redcliffe Peninsula (opening October 2016).

Several new station openings around Melbourne have kept the overall distance split fairly stable – that is to say the new stations have been just keeping up with population growth. The biggest noticeable step change was the opening of Tarneit and Wyndham Vale stations in 2015.

Adelaide’s noticeable step change followed the Seaford rail extension which opened in February 2014.

Sydney’s step change in 2007 was the opening of the North West T-Way (busway). The opening the Leppington rail extension in 2015 is also responsible for a tiny step (much of the area around Leppington is yet to be developed).

Here are the medium sized cities:

Woolongong is the most rapid transit orientated medium sized city, followed by Geelong and Newcastle.

In the charts you can see the impact of the Gold Coast train line extension to Varsity Lakes in 2009, the truncation of the Newcastle train line in 2014 and subsequent opening of “Newcastle Interchange” in 2017, and the opening of Waurn Ponds station in Geelong in 2015.

Average resident distance from a rapid transit station

Here’s a single metric that can be calculated for each city and year:

average distance to station

Many cities have barely changed on this metric (including Melbourne which has had a reduction of just 26 metres between 2006 and 2018). Brisbane, Perth and the Gold Coast are the only cities to have achieved significant reductions over the period.

It will be interesting to see how this changes with new rail extensions in future (eg MetroNet in Perth), and I’ll try to update this post each year.

How strong is the relationship with public transport mode shares at a city level?

Here is a comparison between average population distance from a train/busway station, and public transport mode share of journeys to work, using 2016 census data:

While there appears to be something of an inverse relationship (as you might expect), there are plenty of other factors at play (see: What explains variations in journey to work mode shares between and within Australian cities?).

In particular, Newcastle, Geelong, and Wollongong have relatively low public transport mode shares even though they have high average proximity to rapid transit stations.

Most journeys to work involving train from these smaller cities are not to local workplaces but to the nearby capital city, and those long distance commutes make up a relatively small proportion of journeys to work.

Here are some headline figures showing trains have minimal mode share for local journeys to work in the smaller cities:

CityTrain mode share
for intra-city
journeys to work
Train mode share
for all journeys
to work
Gold Coast0.6%2.2%
Sunshine Coast0.1%0.8%
Newcastle0.5%1.0%
Wollongong1.2%4.9%
Central Coast1.2%9.3%
Geelong0.5%4.5%

Appendix: About the data

I’ve used ABS’s relatively new kilometre grid annual population estimates available for each year from June 2006 onwards (to 2018 at the time of writing), which provides the highest resolution annual population data, without the measurement problems caused by sometimes irregularly shaped and inconsistently sized SA2s.

I’ve used train and busway station location data from various sources (mostly GTFS feeds – thanks for the open data) and used Wikipedia to source the opening dates of stations (that were not yet open in June 2006). I’ve mostly ignored the few station closures as they are often replaced by new stations nearby (eg Keswick replaced by Adelaide Showgrounds), with the exception of the stations in central Newcastle.

As with previous analysis, I’ve only included busways that are almost entirely segregated from other traffic.

I haven’t included Gold Coast light rail on account of its average speed being only 27 km/h (most Australian suburban railways average at least 32 km/h). I have to draw the line somewhere!

I also haven’t included Canberra as it lacks an internal rapid transit system (light rail is coming soon, although it will have an average speed of 30 km/h – is that “rapid transit”?).

Distances from stations are measured from the centroid of the grid squares to the station points (as supplied) – which I have segmented into 1 kilometre intervals. Obviously this isn’t perfect but I’m assuming the rounding issues don’t introduce overall bias.

Here’s what the Melbourne grid data looks like over time. If you watch carefully you can see how the colours change as new train stations open over time in the outer suburbs:

Melbourne grid distance from station 2

On this map, I’ve filtered for grid squares that have an estimated population of at least 100 (note: sometimes the imperfections of the ABS estimates mean grid squares get depopulated some years).

Finally, I’ve used Significant Urban Areas on 2016 boundaries to define my cities, except that I’ve bundled Yanchep into Perth, and Melton into Melbourne.