What does the census tell us about cycling to work?

Mon 27 January, 2014

Who is cycling to work? Where do they live? Where do they work? How old are they? What work do they do? Do men commute by bicycle more than women? How far are cyclists commuting? What other modes are cyclists using?

The census provides some answer to these questions for the entire Australian working population, albeit for one winter’s day every five years.

This post builds on material I presented at the Bike Futures 2013 conference, using census data from across Australian with a little more detail on capital cities and my home city Melbourne.

It’s not a short post, so settle in for 13 charts and 17 maps of data analysis.

How has cycling mode share changed over time?

The first chart shows the proportion of journeys to work by bicycle (only) in Australia’s capital cities.

Cyclcing only mode share for cities time series

Darwin appears to the capital of cycling to work, although it is quickly losing ground to Canberra (unfortunately I don’t have figures for Darwin pre-1996).  The census is conducted in Darwin’s dry season, but other data suggests there is little difference in bicycle activity between the wet and dry seasons.

Melbourne has shown very strong growth since 2001 and Sydney showed strong growth between 2006 and 2011. Cycling mode share has grown in all cities since 1996.

Mode shares collapsed in Adelaide, Sydney, Brisbane, and Melbourne between 1991 and 1996, which many people have attributed to the introduction of mandatory helmet laws (Alan Davies has a good discussion about this issue on his blog).

But as I pointed out at the start, census data is only good for one winter’s day every five years. Does the weather on these days impact the results?

Here is a chart roughly summarising the weather in (most of) the capital cities for 2001, 2006 and 2011 in terms of minimum temperature, maximum temperature and rainfall. It doesn’t cover wind, nor what time of day it rained (although perhaps some fair-weather cyclists might avoid riding on any forecast rain). It also fails to show the sub-zero minimums in Canberra (involves asking too much from Excel).

Census day weather

You can see that 2011 was wetter in Adelaide and Hobart than previous years, and this coincides with lower cycling mode shares in these cities in 2011. So census data is quite problematic from a weather point of view. That said, most cities had very little or no rain on the last three census days.

Where were the commuter cyclists living and working?

Other posts on this blog have also covered some of these maps, but not for all cities.

Some of the following maps are animated to show both 2006 and 2011 results, and note that the colour scales are not the same for all maps. I’ve sometimes zoomed into inner city areas when these are the only places with significant cycling mode share. White sections on maps represent areas with low density, or where the number of overall commuters was very small (sorry I haven’t gone to the effort of making every map 100% consistent, but rest assured the areas in white are less interesting). Click on the maps to see more detail.


Firstly home locations:

ACT 2011 bicycle

The cycling commuters mostly appear to be coming from the inner northern suburbs. I don’t know Canberra intimately, but Google maps doesn’t show a higher concentration of cycling infrastructure in this area compared to the rest of Canberra.

Secondly, bicycle mode share by work destination (at the larger SA2 geography):

Canberra 2011 SA2 dest bicycle any

The highest mode share was 12% in the SA2 of Acton, which is dominated by the Australian National University. Perhaps a lot of the university staff live in the inner northern suburbs of Canberra?


By home location:

Melb bicycle any zoom

Cycling mode share is highest for origins in the inner northern suburbs and has grown strongly since 2006. There’s also been some growth in the Maribyrnong  and Port Phillip council areas off a lower base.

By work location (note: this data is at the smaller destination zone geography):

bicycle mode share DZ Melbourne inner

Cycling to work boomed in inner Melbourne between 2006 and 2011, particularly to workplaces in the inner north. Princess Hill had the highest bike share of 14% in 2011 (possibly dominated by Princess Hill Secondary College employees), followed by a pocket of south-west Carlton that jumped from around 5% to 13%. Apart from the inner north, there were notable increases in Richmond, Balaclava, Yarraville and Southbank. Cycling rates within the CBD are relatively low, perhaps reflecting limited cycling infrastructure on CBD most streets in 2006 and 2011.


Firstly, by home:

Adl bicycle any zoom

Adelaide appears to lack any major concentrations of cycling, although slightly higher levels are found just outside the parkland surrounding the CBD.

Secondly, bicycle mode share by work destination at the (larger) SA2 geography:

Adl 2011 SA2 dest bicycle

The numbers are all small, with 3% in the (large) Adelaide CBD. I imagine a map based on destination zones might show some pockets with higher mode share, but that data isn’t freely available unfortunately.


By home location:

Perth cycling inner

The inner northern and western suburbs, and south of Fremantle seem to be the main areas of cycling growth.

For workplaces at the larger SA2 geography:

Perth 2011 dest SA2 bicycle

The highest mode share was in ‘Swanbourne – Mount Claremont’, only slightly ahead of ‘Nedlands – Dalkeith – Crawley’ – which contains the University of Western Australia. The Fremantle SA2 (with 3% bicycle mode share by destination) includes of Rottnest Island where around 20% of the 73 resident commuters cycled to work, but the result will be easily dominated by the mainland Fremantle section.

Again, I suspect some smaller pockets would have had higher mode shares if I had access to destination zone data.


By home location:

Bris cycling

There was significant growth in cycling from the West End, and around the University of Queensland/St Lucia – which may be related to the opening of the Eleanor Schonell Bridge (after the 2006 census) which only carries pedestrians, cyclists and buses.

By work location (at larger SA2 geography):

Bris 2011 dest bicycle

The highest share was in St Lucia – which is probably dominated by the University of Queensland. Neighbouring Fairfield – Dutton Park came in second. These two areas are directly joined by the Eleanor Schonell Bridge which provides cycling a major advantage over private transport. It seems to have been quite successful at promoting cycling in these areas.


First by home location:

Sydney cycling zoom

There were quite noticeable shifts to cycling in the inner south and around Manly.

By work location (by smaller destination zone geography):

Syd dest bicycle

There was strong growth, again in the inner southern suburbs. In 2011 bicycle mode share was highest in Everleigh (11.5%) following by the University of NSW (Paddington) at 7.9% (excluding travel zones with less than 200 employees who travelled).

Rural Australia

Here’s a map showing bicycle share by SA2 workplace location for all of Australia, which gives a sense of bicycle mode shares in rural areas.

Australia 2011 dest bicycle mode share

Higher regional/rural bicycle mode shares are evident in southern Northern Territory (Petermann – Simpson), Katherine (NT), the Exmouth region, the Otway SA2 on the Great Ocean Road in western Victoria, and Longford – Loch Sport in eastern Victoria. I’ll let other people explain those.

The SA2s in Australia with the highest cycling mode shares in 2011 (by home location) were:

  • Lord Howe Island, NSW: 21%
  • Acton, ACT (covering Australian National University): 12%
  • Port Douglas, Queensland: 10%
  • Parkville, Victoria (covering the University of Melbourne main campus): 8%
  • East Side, Northern Territory (Alice Springs): 8%
  • St Lucia, Queensland (covering the University of Queensland): 8%

How far did people cycle to work? (in Melbourne)

It is difficult to get precise distances for journeys to work, but approximations are possible. I’ve calculated the approximate distance for each journey to work by measuring the straight line distance between the centroid of the home and work SA2s and then rounded to the nearest whole km. To give a feel for how this looks, here is a map showing inner Melbourne SA2s and the approximate distances between selected SA2s:

SA2 distances sample map

This distance measure generally works well in inner city areas. However in the outer suburbs SA2s are often much larger in size, and sometimes only partially urbanised. However as we’ve seen above the volumes of cycling journeys to work are very low in these places, so that hopefully won’t skew the results signficantly.

2011 Melb JTW cycling distances

Two-thirds of cycling journeys to work in Melbourne were approximately 5km or less, with 80% less than 7 km, and 30% were 2 km or less.

The longest commute recorded within Greater Melbourne was approximately 44km.

Was cycling combined with other modes?

The following chart shows that bicycles were seldom combined with other modes:

cycling - presence of other modes 2006 2011

Around 16-17% of cycling commuters in the four largest cities in 2011 involved another mode. Use of other modes with cycling grew in all cities between 2006 and 2011

The next chart shows what these other modes were:

Other modes with cycling 2011

Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth had high rates of bicycle use with trains, while combining car and bicycle was more common in the smaller cities.

The next chart shows the number of trips involving bicycle and trains in 2006 and 2011:

JTW bicycle + train raw numbers

The chart shows the relative success of Melbourne Parkiteer program of introducing high quality bicycle cages at train stations, which has helped boost the number of people access the train network by bicycle by around 600 between 2006 and 2011. I understand a similar project has been undertaken in Perth which saw growth of around 250.

In Melbourne, the home locations for people using bicycle and train are extremely scattered – the following map shows a seemingly random smattering:

Melb bicycle + train

How does commuter cycling vary by age and sex?

bicycle mode share by age sex

This chart shows remarkably clear patterns. Males were much more likely to cycle to work. Teenage boys (particularly those under driving age) had the highest cycling mode shares (with teenage girls much less likely to cycle). The next peak for men was around the mid thirties, and women’s mode share peaked around ages 28-32.

Where are women more likely to cycle to work?

Women are sometimes talked about as the “indicator species” for cycling – ie if you have large numbers of women cycling compared to men then maybe you have good cycling infrastructure that attracts a broader range of people.

The census data can shed some light on this. For each SA2 in Melbourne, I have calculated the male and female cycling mode shares both as a home origin, and as a work destination (this analysis looks at people who only used bicycle (and walking) in their journey to work). I’ve then calculated the ratio of male mode share to female mode for each area (SA2).

I’ve used the ratio of mode shares in preference to the straight gender split of cycling commuters – as female workforce participation is generally lower and there can be spatial variations in the gender split of the workforce. 46% of all journeys within Greater Melbourne in the 2011 census were by females, but only 28% of cycling journeys to work were by females.

The following map shows the ratio of male to female cycling mode shares by home location for SA2s (with more than 50 commuter cyclists, and where the bicycle mode share is above 1%):

Melb 2011 cycling gender ratio home

Areas attracting comparable female and male bicycle shares include the inner northern suburbs and – curiously – Toorak (probably many using the off-road Gardiners Creek and Yarra Trails to access the city centre).

Here’s a similar map, but by workplace areas:

Melb 2011 cycling share gender ratio WP

The patterns are much more pronounced. Six SA2s had higher female mode shares than male: Yarraville, Fitzroy North, Brunswick East, Ascot Vale, Carlton North – Princes Hill, and Elsternwick.

The areas with near-1 ratios of male to female mode shares were similar to the areas with higher total cycling mode shares. The following chart confirms this relationship (note areas with cycling mode shares below 1% not shown):

gender ratio and overal mode share

What this also shows is that home-area mode shares reach much higher values than workplace-area mode shares. Perhaps the secret is in the home-area cycling infrastructure? Or perhaps it’s more to do with the residential demographics?

See the Bicycle Network Victoria website for more data about female cycling rates in Melbourne.

Do women cycle the same distances as men?

Again using the approximate straight line commuting distances (as explained above) the following chart shows that women’s cycling commutes are a little shorter than men’s, but not by much:

commute distance and gender

The median female cycling commute was approximately 1.8 km shorter than for males.

What types of workers are more likely to cycle to work?

Firstly, I’ve looked at the differences between public and private sector employees.

Before I dive into the data, it’s important to recognise that different types of workers are not evenly spread across Australia. Some types of jobs concentrate in city centres while others might be more likely to be found in the suburbs or the country. Therefore many of the following charts show results for Australia as a whole, but also for people working in central Melbourne (the SA2s of Melbourne, Carlton, Docklands, East Melbourne, North Melbourne and Southbank), which has a relatively high rate of cycling to work.

The data suggests public servants were much more likely to cycle to work:

cycling by employer type

The local government result has prompted me to calculate the cycling mode shares for local government workers across Australia (assuming workers work within the council for which they work). Here are bicycle mode shares for the top 20 councils for employee cycling mode share in the census:

Council State Bicycle mode share
Tumby Bay (DC) SA 23.5%
Kent (S) WA 18.8%
Carnamah (S) WA 16.0%
Central Highlands (M) Qld 14.3%
Uralla (A) NSW 13.8%
Wakefield (DC) SA 13.5%
Nannup (S) WA 12.5%
Broome (S) WA 12.1%
Alice Springs (T) NT 11.8%
Narembeen (S) WA 11.5%
Blackall Tambo (R) Qld 11.3%
Kowanyama (S) Qld 11.2%
Exmouth (S) WA 11.1%
Yarra (C) Vic 10.4%
Glamorgan/Spring Bay (M) Tas 8.7%
Torres (S) Tas 8.6%
Yarriambiack (S) Qld 8.3%
Mallala (DC) Vic 8.0%
Richmond Valley (A) NSW 7.2%
McKinlay (S) Qld 6.7%

Most of the top 20 are non-metropolitan councils. Melbourne’s City of Yarra is the top metropolitan city council (within Greater Melbourne the next highest councils are Moreland 6.1%, Port Phillip 5.6%, Melbourne 5.6% and then Stonnington 4.9%).

National government employees had the highest bicycle mode share of all of Australia. I suspect this relates to university staff, as many of the earlier maps showed university campuses often had relatively high rates of employees cycling (85% of “higher education” employees count as “national government” employees).

The census data can also be disaggregated by income:

cycling mode share by income

Cycling mode shares were highest for people on high incomes. Initially I thought this might reflect the fact that high income jobs are often in city centres were cycling is relatively competitive with private and public transport. However, even within central Melbourne workers, cycling rates are higher for those on high incomes (curiously with a second peak for those on incomes between $300 and $399 per week).

Does cycling to work make you healthier and therefore more likely to get promoted and earn a higher income? Or are employers offering workplace cycling facilities to attract highly paid staff? I haven’t got data that answer those questions.

Consistent with higher rates of cycling for higher income earners, those in more highly skilled occupations were more likely to cycle to work:

cycling mode share by profession

I suspect this might reflect the presence/absence of workplace cycling facilities (perhaps office workplaces are more likely to provide cycling facilities than retailers for example) and/or the ability to afford to live close to work (which makes cycling easier).

Are recent immigrants more likely to ride to work?

This one really surprised me and I only investigated it because it was possible to do. The census asks what year people migrated to Australia (if not born here), and it turns out that recent immigrants were much more likely to cycle to work:

cycling mode share by migration year

This might be explained by the demographics of recent immigrants (eg car ownership, home location, income levels, occupation and age).

I’d welcome comments on any other trends people might spot in the data.

What other modes did train commuters use in their journey to work?

Sun 23 June, 2013

Following on from my last post about public transport multi-modality in the journey to work, this post takes a more detailed look at what modes were used in conjunction with trains in journeys to work.

Trains provide a backbone for public transport systems in Australia’s five largest cities, but only a minority of the population within each city is within walking distance of a train station. So what other modes were used in combination with trains for journeys to work in 2011? (according to the ABS census)

2011 train other modes

This chart shows that ‘walking only’ (ie no modes other than ‘train’ specified) was the most common response for people who used trains in four of the five cities, with Perth the notable exception. Perth’s rail network includes two heavily patronised lines that are largely within freeway corridors, with longer than traditional station spacing and much smaller walking catchments for each station. Perth train commuters were therefore much more likely to involve other modes of transport in their journey to work.

Private (motorised) vehicle transport was more common than other modes of public transport in Brisbane, but the other cities were fairly evenly balanced between private vehicle transport and other public transport modes.

Perth had the highest share of train commuters reporting also using buses (almost a third), suggesting the train feeder bus networks are working quite well.

Sydney had a similar rate of other public transport mode use to other cities, despite limited multi-modal fare integration, although Sydney did have the highest reported rate of ‘walking only’ for train commuters.

Melbourne had the second highest rate of other public transport modes being involved, with roughly equal amounts of bus and tram.

What modes are used to access train stations?

The census doesn’t tell us the order of modes used in the journey to work, but I can get a picture of this from Melbourne’s household travel survey, VISTA:

VISTA JTW pretrain mode

(note that train does not appear as this analysis looks at the mode preceding the first use of train).

Some recently published PTV data on use of train stations also allows analysis of estimated access mode splits for 7am-7pm weekday train station entries based on origin-destination surveys of journeys of any purpose.

The following chart shows access modes to non-CBD stations (i.e. excluding Flinders Street, Southern Cross, Flagstaff, Melbourne Central, and Parliament):

Access modes to Melbourne non CBD train stations

The data sets aren’t in strong agreement about ‘walking only’ and private vehicle use, although they all have different measurement frames.

The disparity may support the suggestion that there is under-reporting of rail-feeder modes other than walking in the census – particularly vehicle driver/passenger (see also an earlier post that found people living beyond reasonable walking distance of train stations reporting train and walking only to get to work). On the other hand, it may also be that train-based journeys to work have lower rates of private vehicle use than for other journey purposes.

All the figures also suggest that trams are much more likely to be used after trains in the journey to work in Melbourne, which makes sense, as there are only a few tram lines in suburban Melbourne that feed the rail network, and trams provide comprehensive street-based transport within the inner city area helping to distribute people who arrive by train.

In fact, here is a chart showing the reported access modes for Melbourne’s CBD train stations, showing a much higher tram share of access modes:

Access modes to Melbourne CBD train stations

The data shows walking as the dominant access mode, but also a quite large number of train-train transfers at CBD stations.

Changes over time

So how have these trends changed over time? (at least, as far as people fill out their census forms)

Unfortunately sufficiently detailed data isn’t available for 2001, but here is a comparison of 2006 and 2011 census journey to work data for the five cities:

2006 and 2011 train other modes

You can see for Perth that the ‘walking only’ share dropped in favour of most other modes (following opening of the Mandurah rail line).

Brisbane also had a notable shift away from ‘walking only’, particularly to the use of other public transport modes, which might reflect continued changes in travel habits following full multi-modal fare integration in 2004-05. However Brisbane retained the rate of use of other public transport modes in journeys involving train of all cities.

Adelaide had a decline in buses being part of train-based journeys to work, but an increase in trams and private vehicle drivers.

Melbourne saw an increase in bus use with train journeys, with a decline in all other modes and ‘walking only’.

Sydney saw small increases in ‘walking only’ and bus use for people making journeys to work involving trains.

In terms of bicycles being part of train-based journeys, Melbourne had the biggest increase (from 1.0% to 1.2% of journeys involving trains), while Adelaide went backwards (1.6% to 1.0%, although I have no idea if this might have been weather related).

You might be wondering about trucks, taxis and motorbikes. Okay, well even if you aren’t, I should point out that I have made some assumptions in aggregating the census data:

  • Anyone reporting truck or motorcycle/scooter has been counted as private vehicle driver (although they may have been passengers on such vehicles, although I’m guessing this is less likely than them being drivers)
  • Anyone reporting taxi I have counted as private vehicle passenger.

For more information on other modes used with trains in Melbourne see pages 26-27 of the PTV Network Development Plan for Metropolitan Rail, and recently published PTV data for use of train stations, including access modes.

How multi-modal are public transport journeys to work in Australian cities?

Mon 17 June, 2013

It seems public transport intermodal integration is a frequent topic of conversation in Australia’s larger cities. So how multi-modal is public transport travel in our cities?

In this post I’ll look at journeys to work from the 2011 census for the five larger Australian cities with multi-modal public transport networks. The results might not be quite what you expect.

Before looking at the data, I think it is important to think about the factors that might influence the degree of multi-modal public transport commuter trip-making, particularly with regard to radial trips towards city centres:

  • Commuters from the middle and outer suburbs are more likely to require a rapid transit component to their commute to ensure an attractive travel time.
    • Cities with CBD-orientated busways (primarily Brisbane, Adelaide and to a lesser extent Perth) are perhaps less likely to see multi-modal journeys as buses provide both the local pick up and the rapid transit component of the journey.
    • Cities with more extensive train networks are also perhaps less likely to see multi-modal journeys because a greater share of the population will be within walking distance of a train station and not require a feeder mode (eg bus).
  • In cities where transfers are a fundamental part of the network design, there might be higher transfer rates. For example, very few middle and outer suburban bus routes in the larger cities service the CBD, rather they run to train stations where passengers generally transfer to trains to access inner city areas. This is particularly the case in Melbourne and Perth.
  • The same issue applies for people arriving in city centres. For example, Sydney ferry commuters travelling to areas of the CBD not within easy walking distance of a ferry terminal would need to transfers to buses or trains. Adelaide only has one train station which is on the edge of the CBD, effectively forcing transfers onto buses or the tram for most CBD destinations. Perth has two main CBD train stations, although the core employment areas are within reasonable walking distance of these stations. That said, one might argue that an ideal integrated public transport network would encourage people to use local modes (bus or tram) to travel between destinations and major transport nodes within city centres (in all cities except Sydney, such transfers are almost always free). All cities do offer street-based public transport to help circulate commuters within city centres. I also wonder whether these short trips within city centres might be under-reported in census data (perhaps something to explore another time).

Journeys to work in city centres

So, what percentage of all journeys to work in city centres involve multiple public transport modes? (see note at the end of this post about estimation for 2001 figures)

multimodal PT share to city centres

Note the definitions of city centres aren’t perfectly comparable (see earlier post for maps):

  • Melbourne is primarily the CBD (excluding Southbank and Docklands)
  • Perth includes all of the City of Perth
  • Adelaide includes North Adelaide (entire of City of Adelaide)
  • Brisbane is the “Brisbane City” SA2

The first thing to note is that the share of commuters who use multiple public transport modes is very low (considering public transport mode share to city centres is generally very high).

The following chart shows the proportion of public transport journeys to work in city centres that involved multiple modes of public transport:

proportion of PT trips multimodal to city centres

The vast majority of people who use public transport to access jobs in city centres only use one mode. Given that most city centre workers don’t actually live all that far from the CBD, it’s not too surprising as an overall pattern.

Perth is the stand-out for highest multi-modal public transport travel, and largest increase in this type of journey between 2006 and 2011. A few things might explain this:

  • Perth’s rapid transit network is relatively sparse (five train lines and one busway), meaning fewer people can walk to a rapid transit station.
  • Indeed, most train stations on the northern and southern lines have very limited walking catchments, but relatively strong bus feeder services and excellent interchange layouts that make transferring easy.
  • The increase between 2006 and 2011 is no doubt related to the Mandurah line where many previously bus-only journeys have been replaced by bus-train journeys, but it might also relate to improved feeder bus services on other lines.
  • Perth’s high multi-modal share may also reflect a strong focus on timetable coordination. My understanding is that Transperth don’t try to “optimise” train-bus connection times, they force bus timetables to have ideal bus-train connection times, with high vehicle utilisation a secondary priority.

Melbourne comes in second (if Southbank and Docklands were included, the 2011 figure would be 10.3%). Interestingly, there were more train+bus journeys to the city centre, than train+tram journeys.

Sydney is third, despite having four modes of public transport. This perhaps reflects the lack of a fully integrated fare system (ie multi-modal tickets are usually more expensive that single-mode tickets) and the fact many bus routes run parallel to train lines (and it is usually cheaper to stay on the bus rather than transfer onto the train). It’s not clear to me why Sydney would have had a reduction in multi-modality between 2001 and 2006.

Brisbane had a much lower multi-modal share, probably related to a high bus mode share, the presence of busways providing efficient single-mode (often single-seat) travel for a large number of commuters to the central city, many bus routes running parallel to train lines, and the only relatively recent introduction of full multi-modal fare integration in 2004-05.

Adelaide also rates lowly and has been in decline, perhaps relating to the low-frequency train system (that is now receiving an upgrade including electrification). The extension of the Adelaide tram route from Victoria Square to the Entertainment Centre may have reduced the need for existing tram passengers to transfer, but on the other hand may be helping to circulate people arriving in the city on buses and trains.

Outside city centres

The following chart shows how multi-modality compares for public transport journeys to work in city centres and elsewhere: proportion of PT trips multimodal by work loc

Public transport journeys to work in locations outside city centres were much more likely to involve multiple modes, which makes sense as direct rapid services are probably less likely to be available to reach such workplaces. Keep in mind also that public transport mode share of journeys to workplaces outside the city centre are much lower.

Here are the trends over time for multi-modality of public transport journeys to workplaces outside city centres. It shows increases in Perth and Brisbane, declines in Adelaide and Sydney, and little recent change in Melbourne: proportion of PT trips multimodal outside city centres

Perhaps the increase in Brisbane might be attributed to full multi-modal fare integration introduced in 2004/05, providing free transfers between modes. The increase in Perth is no doubt related to the Mandurah rail line opening.

So is the city centre the main destination for multi-modal public transport journeys to work?

CBD share of multimodal PT JTW

In the larger cities the answer is no. In Adelaide and Perth – where over 60% of PT journeys to work are to the CBD – only around half of the multi-modal PT trips are to the city centre.

While a large proportion of multi-modal public transport journeys to work are not to the city centre, I would expect most would still be radial in nature (as jobs are on average closer to the city centre than homes). This is perhaps something to explore in a future post (my guess would be concentrations of multi-modal public transport travel to workplaces surrounding the city centre).

Finally, I’ve had a look at the home origins for multi-modal public transport journeys to work for Melbourne and Perth in 2011. Click to enlarge maps, and note the colour scale is for mode shares 1 to 10%.

Melb 2011 multi PT

In Melbourne the highest concentrations are north of Footscray, where several frequent tram and bus routes feed Footscray station. There are also concentrations in the middle-eastern and middle-northern suburbs, particularly around SmartBus routes.

Perth 2011 multi

In Perth the highest concentrations are in the northern and southern suburbs, where frequent bus routes connect people’s homes to high-speed train services in peak periods.

My next post will continue the multi-modal theme and look at what modes were used in conjunction with trains in the journey to work.

Footnote regarding 2001 estimates

Available data for 2001 only shows mode share in an aggregated summary, including figures for “train and two other modes” and “bus and two other modes”. Not all of these journeys involved multiple public transport modes, and I don’t know exactly how many did.

To estimate 2001 figures of total multi-modal PT journeys, for each city I have calculated the proportion of 2006 journeys that would come under these headings that actually involved multiple PT modes (as detailed data is available for 2006), and then applied these percentages to the 2001 figures for “train and two other modes” and “bus and two other modes” figures.

The result is that around 20% of the total 2001 multi-modal PT journeys are estimated.

I also checked these percentages in the 2011 data, and they were very similar to 2006. For example, 89% of journeys that could be described as “train and two other modes” in 2006 for Melbourne involved multiple PT modes, and in 2011 that figure was 88%. The similarities were weaker for “bus and two other modes”, but the numbers for this category were very small (less than 65 journeys in all cities except Sydney at 145).

How commuters got to workplaces in Melbourne, 2006 and 2011

Sun 3 March, 2013

[Updated in July 2013 with higher resolution maps using Destination Zone data]

My earlier post about Melbourne journey to work 2011 focussed on where people live. This post focuses on where people work and what modes of transport they used to get there in 2006 and 2011. It also covers employment density and the home locations and associated mode shares for people travelling to the central city.

As per other posts, you will need to click on maps to see the detail/animation.

In this post you will see some maps at the SA2 level (approximately suburb size) and some at the destination zone level (the smallest resolution available):

  • For SA2 maps, I have mapped 2006 destination zones to (2011) SA2 areas based on the centroid of each 2006 destination zone (so not a perfect mapping – see here for a comparison map).
  • For destination zone maps, the boundaries of destination zones changed between 2006 and 2011, most commonly involving smaller destination zones in 2011, although the boundaries don’t always align. For both 2006 and 2011, I have only shown mode shares for destination zones where more than 100 people travelled with known mode(s) of transport. I don’t have destination zone level data for individual public transport (PT) modes for 2011.

See also an earliersimilar postcovering 2006 journey to work data for Melbourne, and a similar post covering journeys to workplaces in Brisbane.

Employment density

Firstly, what does the employment density of Melbourne look like?

Click on the following map to see an animation flipping between 2006 and 2011:

DZ employment density

While it looks like a lot of jobs have disappeared from Melbourne between 2006 and 2011, the difference in amount of shaded area is because 2011 has smaller destination zones than 2006. The destination zones from 2006 have been split into smaller zones, and often only one of those zones has significant employment.

You can see Melbourne’s second biggest jobs cluster – the Monash precinct – in the south-eastern suburbs near Clayton.

Here’s another look at the employment distribution (for people with a known travel destination) as well as people in the labour force:

jobs and labour force by distance from GPO

Note that this is a measure of employment in rings around Melbourne, and the outer rings have significantly more land area than the inner rings.

Between 2006 and 2011, significant employment growth occurred in the inner city, and at around 18 km from the CBD. That 18 km ring happens to include the significant employment precincts at Southland/Cheltenham, Monash, Nunawading, Burwood East, Greensborough, and Campbellfield.

While around 30% of the labour force did not travel to a known work location on census day, there’s still an imbalance between jobs and workers by distance from the city (many distance rings have twice as many people in the labour force and jobs), which of course leads to a lot of generally radial commuter travel.

Mode share by workplace location

So what are mode share like for different places of employment across Melbourne?

Public transport

Firstly a map showing mode share for destination zones (click to zoom in and animate):

PT mode share Melbourne

Please try not to be too distracted by the changing red and white areas on the fringe of Melbourne. The white areas are destination zones with less than 100 employees who travelled on census day. Because the destination zones were re-cut between 2006 and 2011, the location of zones with less than 100 employees changed significantly.

The inner city area shows a lot of change, so here is a zoomed-in animated map at destination zone level, with public transport mode share numbers overlaid (sorry the CBD is a bit hard to read as the destination zones were almost all halved in size in 2011).

PT mode share Melbourne inner

To perhaps enable a fairer comparison, the following animated map shows public transport mode share at SA2 level (2006 being a mapping of destination zones to SA2s):

Melb dest public

Public transport mode share was highest in the CBD, then for areas around the CBD and stretching a little more to the inner east. Box Hill stands out as a suburban location with a relatively high mode share (13% in 2011).

Here is a map that shows the mode shift to public transport for each SA2 (bearing in mind that there isn’t a perfect mapping from 2006 destination zones to 2011 SA2s):

Melb dest PT mode shift 06 to 11

The biggest mode shifts towards public transport were:

Docklands 10.5%
South Yarra – East 6.5%
South Yarra – West 6.0%
Fitzroy 5.8%
Richmond 4.8%
Collingwood 4.7%
Albert Park 4.4%
Watsonia 4.4%
North Melbourne 4.3%
Caulfield – North 4.3%
Mount Evelyn 4.1%
Springvale South 4.1%
Parkville 3.8%
Camberwell 3.8%
Prahran – Windsor 3.8%
Hawthorn 3.6%
Kensington 3.6%
Abbotsford 3.6%
Carnegie 3.6%
South Melbourne 3.3%

Most of the above are in the inner city, but there are exceptions of Watsonia, Mount Evelyn and Springvale South (all off a very small base in 2006).

Some interesting rises in the suburbs include:

  • Doncaster 5.5% to 8.3%, probably related to the introduction of several SmartBus services
  • Frankston North 2.6% to 5.0%, again probably influenced by the introduction of SmartBus services
  • Forest Hill 5.2% to 7.8% (not sure why)
  • Mill Park North 1.7% to 4.2% (note the South Morang rail extension was not open in 2011, but SmartBus services had been introduced by the 2011 census)
  • Box Hill 10.2% to 12.7%, possibly related to upgraded SmartBus services
  • Noble Park 3.0% to 5.4% (not sure why)

Some interesting declines include:

  • Montrose – there are boundary differences between 2006 and 2011 with many more jobs counted in 2011. It would appear there might be an employer around the western end of York Road with higher PT mode share.
  • Cairnlea 6.6% to 2.4% (almost certainly because Victoria University St Albans Campus is mapped to this SA2 in 2006 but not in 2011)
  • Carlton North – Princes Hill 13.1% to 10.4% (which also had an increase in walking and cycling)
  • Port Melbourne 14.7% to 12.6% (not sure why, perhaps more people walked to work from the increasingly dense local residential area)

As an aside, here are 2011 public transport mode shares for journeys to work at major Australian airports (where there is an “Airport” named SA2):

  • Sydney 13.9%
  • Melbourne 3.8% (up from 2.5% in 2006)
  • Brisbane 3.1%
  • Adelaide 2.6%
  • Perth 1.7%
  • Darwin 1.7%


Melb dest train

Train mode share was highest in the CBD and surrounding inner city areas. Notably, mode shares were relatively higher in the inner east and south-east (particularly Caulfield, Camberwell and Hawthorn) compared to other inner areas.

Here is the mode shift to trains between 2006 and 2011:

Melb dest train shift

The biggest rises were in Docklands (up 9.2%), South Yarra (up 5.6%) and then a few other inner suburban destinations.

In 2011, 47% of journeys to work in Greater Melbourne involving train were to the Melbourne CBD. This rises to 59% when adding Southbank and Docklands.


Unfortunately I do not have 2006 data for “any journey involving tram” below the SLA level, so here is the 2011 picture at SA2 level, with the tram network shown as green lines:

Melb dest tram 2011

I must say I was surprised by the CBD figure of only 14.9% (and I did double-check the data).

Tram mode share was highest in the SA2s of Albert Park and South Yarra West (which straddle the St Kilda Road office precinct which has very high tram frequencies). Other work destinations with higher tram mode shares included Parkville, Carlton, Fitzroy and South Melbourne.

Perhaps there was some under-reporting of tram journeys as a “secondary” mode in people’s journey to work? In Parkville (which includes the main University of Melbourne campus, the hospitals precinct and Royal Park), there were more people reporting only train (934) than train+tram (772) and train+bus (275). I would expect most of those jobs to be remote from Royal Park station, and the southern section of the SA2 is at least a 1 km walk from Melbourne Central train station. Another example is South Melbourne – all of which is more than 1.2 km from a train station, yet 1240 people reported only train in their journey to work, while 894 reported train+tram. While of course some people will walk longer distances from train stations to work, the numbers seem a little high to me.

37% of journeys to work in Greater Melbourne involving tram were to a destination in the Melbourne CBD. If you add in Southbank, Docklands, Parkville and South Melbourne the share goes to 56%.


Again, I do not have comparable data for 2006, so here is a 2011 map:

Melb dest bus 2011

Bus mode share was highest in Malvern East (which includes Chadstone Shopping Centre), followed by Doncaster, Maribyrnong (which includes Highpoint Shopping Centre), Carlton and the Melbourne CBD. Mount Evelyn is curiously high at 5.8%, with 45 people travelling by bus to workplaces there.

Only 21% (9905) of journeys to Greater Melbourne workplaces involving bus were to the CBD, with the next highest SA2 counts in Docklands (1175), Clayton (1160), Dandenong (1157), Southbank (1071) and Parkville (1046). This would suggest that growth in CBD employment is unlikely to be one of the major factors in bus patronage growth in Melbourne (unlike train and tram).


Due to the nature of the data I have for 2006, this analysis excludes journeys also involving public transport or trucks (yes, there were 39 people who said they travelled to work by truck and bicycle in Australia in 2011!). This is another animated map, so click to enlarge and see the changes.

Melb dest bicycle

Here’s an animated close up of the inner city area for destination zones (with a different scale):

bicycle mode share DZ Melbourne inner

Cycling to work boomed in inner Melbourne between 2006 and 2011, particularly to workplaces in the inner north. Princess Hill had the highest bike share of 14% in 2011 (possibly dominated by Princess Hill Secondary College employees), followed by a pocket of south-west Carlton that jumped from around 5% to 13%. Apart from the inner north, there were notable increases in Richmond, Balaclava, Yarraville and Southbank

Here’s a view of the mode shift to bicycle at SA2 level:

Melb dest bicycle shift

Relatively small mode shifts away from bicycle were observed in the outer eastern suburbs and around Aspendale to Carrum.

I should point out that the census is conducted in winter (August), and warmer weather bicycle mode shares of journeys to work are likely to be higher.

Variations in daily weather can also cause differences in behaviour between censuses, that don’t actually reflect longer term trends. On census day in 2006, Melbourne had a temperature range of 5.3 – 17.9 degrees and no reported rain. On census day in 2011 the temperature ranged from 7 to 12.6, and there was 0.2mm of rain reported. So 2011 weather was perhaps a little less favourable for cycling (and walking). I’m not sure what time of day that rain fell in 2011.

Other time series data on cycling in Melbourne is published by VicRoads.

Walking (only)

Here’s a look walk-only mode shares by destination zones:

Walk only mode share Melbourne

Click to see the animation, and again, please try not to be distracted by the changes in white areas.

Here’s walking mode share by SA2 2006 v 2011 (but with a different colour scale):

Melb dest walk only

Walking mode share is a mixed bag across the city. High walking mode shares are evident in Parkville, Carlton North/Princes Hill, around St Kilda, the Simpson Army Barracks (in Yallambie), but also some rural areas. In the Koo Wee Rup SA2, 8.7% of employees walked to work, 41% of whom were in the “Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing” industry.

The lowest walking-only mode shares were at the airports (Melbourne, Essendon and Moorabbin), some industrial areas and generally in the outer suburbs of Melbourne.

Here is mode shift to walking:

Melb dest walk only shift

Mode shift to walking was more common in the northern suburbs and some outer eastern suburbs, but not so much in the inner city. Mode shift away from walking only to work was observed in many outer eastern and north-eastern suburbs. Again, daily weather variations might explain some of the changes that are not really trends.

Note: the neighbouring SA2s of Wheelers Hill and Glen Waverley East each showed mode shifts in opposite directions. This is almost certainly to do with the Police Academy being mapped into a different SA2 in 2006 due to the imperfect mapping between 2006 destination zones and 2011 SA2s.

Sustainable transport

I’ve defined sustainable transport here as any journey involving public transport, plus any journey that only involved walking and/or cycling.

Melb dest sustainable

Sustainable transport mode share was highest in the CBD and immediate surrounding areas. Sustainable transport was relatively higher for workplaces in the inner north, east and south-east compared to the inner west.

Melb dest sustainable shift

Mode shift to sustainable transport was most prevalent in the inner north and inner south.

Some interesting suburban mode shifts to sustainable transport include:

  • Upwey – Tecoma (mainly walking)
  • Dandenong North (mostly a mix of walking and public transport)
  • Gladstone Park – Westmeadows 3.1% (most of which was public transport mode shift, possibly relating to the introduction of SmartBus services),
  • Altona Meadows (mostly public transport, probably relating to the City West waste purification plant being mapped into this SA2 only in 2006)
  • Watsonia (possibly a result of destination zone to SA2 mapping issues)

Commuting to the central city, 2011

The central city is an important destination as it has the highest employment density and is where public transport is best-placed to compete against the car. For analysis in this section I am using the combination of the Melbourne CBD, Southbank, Docklands, Carlton, North Melbourne and East Melbourne SA2s as my definition of the “central city” (which is different to other posts on this blog – I am deliberately choosing a larger area to get a better sense of origins and mode shares).

Here’s a map showing the proportion (%) of commuters who had a destination of central Melbourne in 2011 (by place of usual residence at SA1 geography):

Melb 2011 share to central city v2

The prevalence of the CBD as a work destination is almost directly proportional to the distance people live from the CBD, although rates are relatively higher around train lines.

Notable outliers include:

  • Point Cook, Tarneit, Caroline Springs in the western suburbs with a higher central city share, possibly reflecting a workers-to-jobs imbalance in the outer western suburbs, particularly for white-collar workers (I might explore that more in a future post)
  • East Doncaster, which has a relatively high central city share, possibly as a result of frequent express bus services to the city
  • A pocket of St Kilda East and Caulfield North between the Sandringham and Caulfield rail lines that has a low share despite being relatively close to the city (not sure why that might be)

The next map shows the share of central city commuters who used public transport in their journey to work (by home location). I’ve only shaded SA1s with 20 or more central city commuters (which I admit is quite small for calculating mode shares).

Note: I have not filtered SA1s by density on the following maps (unlike others), so some low density SA1s are included.

Melb 2011 PT share to central city

Here’s a similar map showing mode shares at SA2 level (SA2s with less than 100 central city workers not shown), which overcomes the problem of low densities of central city workers in the outer suburbs:

Melb 2011 PT share to central SA2

Public transport mode share was particularly high for those in middle to outer suburbs around the rail lines, although less so along the Sandringham, Sydenham and Werribee lines.

It was lowest around:

  • the city centre itself (more on that in a moment)
  • Western Kew in the inner east (a relatively wealthy area)
  • Sanctuary Lakes in the south-western suburbs (largely remote from public transport in 2011)
  • Pockets of Caroline Springs
  • Areas of Templestowe, Donvale, Research and North Warrandyte in the east-north-eastern suburbs (but not central Doncaster where there is a high frequency freeway bus service to the CBD)
  • Areas around Keilor East and Avondale Heights (like Kew, close to the CBD but remote from train lines)
  • Greenvale (a relatively wealthy area)
  • Brighton and Toorak (very wealthy areas)

Here’s the share of people who only used private motorised transport to commute to the CBD (as SA1 level):

Melb 2011 Private share to central city

This map is largely the inverse of the previous SA1 map, except for areas near the inner city, suggesting active transport is being used by residents of the central city to get to work in the central city, as you might expect.

Finally, here is a map showing the density of people who work in the central city:

Melb 2011 density of central city workers

This map effectively combines population density with the proportion of workers travelling to the central city. The density falls away with distance from the city (quite markedly south of Elwood), but there are outliers in pockets of Carnegie, Point Cook, East Doncaster, Deer Park, Mitcham, Bundoora, and Heatherton (not all of which are connected to the city by high quality public transport).

A similar analysis could be conducted to other employment centres, although numbers per SA1 will be much smaller, and it would be time-consuming.

If you spot any other interesting changes and/or have explanations for them, I would welcome comments.

The journey to work and the city centre (Australian cities 2001-2011)

Sat 16 February, 2013

The city centre is a traditional market for public transport, and certainly where public transport mode shares are the highest. Recent strong growth in city centre employment is likely to be the cause of public transport patronage growth in some cities. So I thought it would be interesting to look at public transport mode shares and mode shifts to workplaces within and outside Australian city centres.

Definition of city centres

First up, its important to understand what data I’m analysing. In 2011 the ABS restructured their geography for census and other data. While this change brings many benefits, it creates some challenges when comparing data from previous years. In the analysis I generally compare Statistical Local Areas (SLAs) with Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2) geography, but sometimes I’m just comparing Local Government Areas (LGAs).

Here are the areas I have used as the “central city” for each of the five large Australian cities:


The “Sydney – Haymarket – The Rocks” SA2 which is very similar (but not entirely identical) to the “Sydney (C) – inner” SLA. There are only minor variations on the fringe of this area. On the following maps, the dark green area is included in all years, the red areas are only included in 2011, and the blue areas are only included in 2001 and 2006.


The “Melbourne” SA2 and the “Melbourne (C) – Inner” SLA, the former being larger as it includes a triangle of land between Peel/William Street, Victoria Street and Latrobe Street. City of Melbourne CLUE data from 2010 suggests 7.6% of jobs in the SA2 are in this triangle (and not included in the SLA). A previous post found that 2006 journey to work public transport mode shares in this triangle were around 56-61% whereas most of the CBD was around 60-70%. So this study is likely to understate increases in public transport mode share for central Melbourne.


As Southbank and Docklands include significant employment density, I have created a second definition of central Melbourne that includes these areas, and labelled it “Melbourne+”. Note this area also gains the triangle north of the CBD for 2011 due to boundary changes. While arguably I should also include East Melbourne, data is not available at that resolution for 2001 and 2006, which would mean I would need to expand to include all of the City of Melbourne which is starting to be a lot more than the central city core.

The following map shows the Melbourne and Melbourne+ areas: the green area is included for all years, the red area is only included in 2011, and the yellow area is Southbank/Docklands, that is included in all years for Melbourne+ only.


The “Brisbane City” SA2, which precisely covers the “City – inner” and “City – remainder” SLAs combined. In 2006, “City – inner” accounted for 62% of the entire SA2 employment population, but the public transport mode share of the overall combined area was only about 1% lower than “City – inner”.

This Brisbane SA2 area is shown in green on the following map (the area in yellow represents Fortitude Valley and South Brisbane, referred to later in this post).


The City of Adelaide LGA (which includes North Adelaide). The new SA2 geography splits central Adelaide and North Adelaide, but historical data is not available at smaller resolution than the entire LGA. This area is shown in green in the following map:


The City of Perth LGA. While there are smaller SLAs and SA2s, there is weak correspondence between the old and new geographies so I had to use local government boundaries instead. This area is shown in green on the following map:

As these central city areas are not consistently defined, comparisons between cities need to be made with caution. That said, the high employment density core of the city is likely to dominate any geography that includes the CBD. For example, of the 94,764 people who travelled to the City of Adelaide, only 7501 travelled to North Adelaide, with the remainder travelling to central Adelaide. Thus, central Adelaide is likely to dominate the results for the City of Adelaide area.

Mode shares for journeys to work in city centres

Previous posts have looked at public transport mode share overall for cities, and journey to work by work location for some cities (Brisbane 2006 and 2011, Sydney 2006Melbourne 2006 with more to come). Here’s a look at the mode split for city centre areas (as defined above).

Mode split to city centres v2


  • as discussed above the central areas for Melbourne and Melbourne+ in 2011 are larger that for in 2001 and 2006
  • Adelaide “2011i” refers to central Adelaide excluding North Adelaide.

The chart shows public and active transport mode share increasing in all cities, with the exception of Sydney where there was an increase in private transport use between 2001 and 2006. Public transport dominates in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, with Perth now roughly evenly split between private and public transport, and private transport still being in the majority in central Adelaide. Active transport (walk/cycle) has posted significant gains in all city centres, with Melbourne having the highest share (9.0% in 2011) followed by Sydney (7.9%) and Brisbane (7.8%), with Perth the lowest (6.4%).

mode shift to PT

The above chart shows central Perth has having the strongest mode shift to public transport (in no small part due to the opening of the Mandurah rail line in late 2007), followed by Brisbane, and (perhaps surprisingly) then Melbourne (although Melbourne’s poorer performance may be related to the change in geographic boundaries as discussed above). Adelaide and Sydney were the laggards of public transport mode shift between 2006 and 2011.

mode shift from Private

Again, Perth is the stand-out in mode shift away from private transport in 2011.

Here is another look on the above mode split data with a little more detail, assigning each journey a “main mode” (precedence given to train, bus, any other public transport, vehicle driver, vehicle passengers, bicycle, in that order).

Mode split to city centres detailed

This chart shows trains accounting for around half of all journeys to work in central Sydney and Melbourne and buses being a significant mode in all cities except Melbourne where trams have a significant share. Notably Melbourne’s tram mode share is smaller than all the other cities’ bus mode shares. I note that Sydney is now moving to light rail to try to alleviate CBD bus congestion. Trains delivered less than 10% of central Adelaide commuters to work.

Vehicle passenger journeys are much more common in Adelaide (8.2%) and least common in Sydney, but are in decline in all cities, suggesting a move away from car pooling.

Central Melbourne is the leader in cycling with 3.3% of journeys primarily by bicycle, with Sydney the lowest bicycle share (1.4%).

Number of car journeys to city centres

The following chart shows the absolute change in the number of people whose primary method of journey to work was vehicle driver.

change in vehicle drivers to city centres

*Caution should be applied for Melbourne, as the 2011 geographic area included additional area that in 2006 (and that areas had a lower public transport mode share in 2006).

The stand-out result is Melbourne+, which indicates a lot more vehicle driver commuter trips generated as Docklands and Southbank employment centres expand. Public transport’s mode share for Southbank and Docklands combined increased from 39.4% in 2006 to 46.8% in 2011, but this was not enough to stop an increase in the overall number of vehicle driver trips. My understanding is that parking costs are generally cheaper in Southbank and Docklands compared to the CBD core.

There was a decline in city centre commuter car parking requirements in Sydney, Brisbane and Perth between 2006 and 2011, while central Adelaide had a substantial increase in vehicle driver commuters (despite some mode shift to public transport), no doubt putting pressure on traffic congestion.

Share of jobs in city centres

Are jobs within metropolitan areas concentrating within city centres? The following chart shows the percentage of metropolitan jobs located within the city centre areas defined above, as well as a wider city centre definition for Brisbane.

city centre share of jobs

Comparing cities is dangerous as there is not a consistent definition of city centre. What the data does show is that central Perth is reducing its share of metropolitan jobs, central Adelaide’s share seems relatively static, central Sydney’s share is growing, and for Melbourne and Brisbane, the central city share is growing but only if you also include nearby employment-focussed areas (Southbank and Docklands for Melbourne, South Brisbane and Fortitude Valley for Brisbane).

In the above analysis I have used my own definitions for metropolitan areas, as ABS have changed from using Statistical Divisions to sometimes larger Greater Capital City Statistical Areas for metropolitan areas. See the appendix at the end of this post for how I have defined metropolitan regions.

Comparing journeys to work inside and outside city centres

Here is a chart comparing 2011 public transport mode shares for journeys to work inside city centres, outside city centres, and for each city overall:

PT mode share in out of city centre

The differences are very stark, but as you might expect as it is generally easier to drive and cheaper to park at workplaces outside the city centre (plus public transport service quality is often lower). Note that many city fringe areas are included in the “outside city centre” figures, and public transport mode shares are generally higher in these areas, and lower further out. You can see the mode share for trips to workplaces outside “Melbourne+” (Melbourne + Southbank + Docklands) is only 9%.

Here’s the trend for public transport mode share to destinations outside city centres, showing increases between 2006 and 2011 for all cities except Adelaide.

PT mode share to outside city centre

The following chart shows that mode shifts to public transport have been much higher in central city areas for Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide, but not Sydney (low mode shift to both city centre and elsewhere) and Melbourne. Mode shift to public transport outside the “Melbourne+” city centre was just over 1%.

mode shift to PT by in out city centre

Growth in public transport for journeys to work versus all purposes

The following chart compares the growth in the absolute number of people choosing public transport to get to work (between census 2006 and 2011), versus overall growth in public transport patronage (comparing financial years 2010-11 to 2005-06).

JTW versus overall PT growth v2

Note: For Brisbane, the overall patronage growth figure refers to all of South East Queensland (SEQ).

In all cities except Melbourne, the number of public transport journeys to work increased faster than overall patronage, suggesting growth in public transport use for other trip purposes was weaker.

Do city centres dominate journeys to work by public transport?

We think of city centres as the main workplace location where people would use public transport to get to work. But is this accurate?

central city share of PT JTW

The answer is yes in the smaller cities, no in Sydney, and in Melbourne it depends on whether you include Southbank and Docklands.


We have seen that:

  • Public transport is the dominant mode of journeys to work in city centres in the larger cities, but a minority mode in central Adelaide
  • Perth has shown the greatest shift to public transport for travel to the central city
  • Melbourne has shown the greatest shift to public transport for journeys to work overall
  • Melbourne has the highest active transport (and bicycle-only) mode share for journeys to city centres
  • In Brisbane, Perth and probably the Melbourne CBD, there was a net decline in private vehicles being driven to city centres for work between 2001 and 2011
  • Public transport’s share of journeys to workplaces outside city centres is much lower in all cities
  • Mode shift to public transport for journeys to work was higher for city centres except Sydney and Melbourne
  • Growth in public transport use for journeys to work was higher than overall public transport patronage growth in all cities except Melbourne
  • The central city share of all metropolitan jobs is increasing in Sydney, Melbourne (when Southbank and Docklands are included), and to a lessor extent Adelaide. Central Perth and Brisbane are declining in their share of metropolitan jobs.
  • Most public transport journeys to work in the smaller cities are to the city centre, but this is not the case for Sydney and Melbourne (without Southbank and Docklands)

Appendix: Common definitions of city metropolitan regions 2001-2011

The change in ABS geography makes it difficult to have a fair time series estimate of the total number of jobs in each metropolitan area. To try for maximum consistency across the change, I have calculated the number of jobs in each city as follows:

Melbourne: Melbourne Statistical Division, plus Shire of Yarra Ranges – Part B (ie includes all of the Shire of Yarra Ranges)

Perth: Perth Statistical Division plus the City of Mandurah (which was incorporated into the Greater Perth definition in 2011)

Brisbane: The Greater Brisbane Capital City Geographic Area, which for 2006 was approximated by the Brisbane Statistical Division plus the SLAs of Beaudesert Part C, Beenleigh, Bethania-Waterford, Boonah, Eagleby, Edens Landing-Holmview, Esk, Kilcoy, Laidley, Mt Warren Park and Wolfdene-Bahrs Scrub.

Sydney: there are very few differences between the Sydney Statistical Division and Greater Sydney, so I assumed equivalence.

Adelaide: All LGAs in the Adelaide Statistical Division, including all parts of the Adelaide Hills Council.

Spatial changes in Sydney journey to work 2006-2011

Sun 25 November, 2012

How have mode shares of journeys to work from different home locations in Sydney changed between 2006 and 2011? What has the impact been of the new T-Ways and the Epping-Chatswood railway?

In my recent post on city level mode share changes we saw that Sydney had a 2.1% mode shift to public transport between 2006 and 2011. This post will uncover which areas shifted the most. For more analysis of patterns in the 2006 journey to work, see an earlier post.

The following animations show various mode shares for journeys to work from Census Collection Districts for 2006 and Statistical Area Level 1 (SA1) for 2011, with a minimum density of 3 workers travelled per hectare. These are the smallest geographies available for each census. All the data is by place of usual residence. I’ve animated each image to alternate between 2006 and 2011, so you can gaze at them and spot the changes. You’ll need to click on them to enlarge and see the animation.

Public transport

A shift to public transport is particularly evident in the north-western suburbs between Blacktown, Castle Hill and Epping. This is like to be a result of the new T-Ways (busways) between Parramatta, Blacktown and Rouse Hill, and express bus services from the area to the city along bus lanes on the M2 motorway.

There is also some evidence of mode shift along the Cronulla rail line.

Many new patches of green appear in the 2011 map which were blank in the 2006 map. I’m not sure if these are a result of the changed ABS geography (CD to SA1), or new transit orientated developments (I suspect mostly the former).

Sustainable transport (only)

This map excludes those who used private transport to reach public transport.

As well as the above public transport shifts, shifts to sustainable transport are evident around Turramurra and Forestville in the northern suburbs.


Areas with a noticeable shift to train include Hornsby, Quakers Hill and Epping.

There is little change evident around the new Epping-Chatswood rail line, other than for a small residential pocket near Macquarie University station. Most of the stations on the new line are surrounded by non-residential land uses and show up as white. There has been quite a substantial impact on the public transport share of journeys to workplaces along the new line, which you’ll see in an upcoming post.


A shift to bus is most evident in the region between Parramatta and Castle Hill (as mentioned above).


(ferry wharves are shown as blue dots)

Shifts to ferry are most evident around Manly, Balmain, and Watsons Bay (which is a little odd as it does not have peak period services).

Train and bus

43,815 people in Greater Sydney travelled to work by train and bus (and no other modes except walking) in 2011, up from 34,377 in 2006.

Journeys involving train and bus remain most heavily concentrated around Bondi Beach, where special cheap integrated train/bus link tickets are available. Areas with some shift to train and bus travel include Epping, south of Blacktown, Bossley and St Johns Park (served by the Liverpool-Parramatta T-way), and North Parramatta.

Multiple public transport modes

Here is a summary over the Greater Sydney area of journeys using single and multiple public transport modes (using place of enumeration data and thus losing journeys with ferry + non PT modes):

Sydney’s public transport mode share went backwards between 2001 and 2006, particularly for multi-modal public transport trips. There was a strong shift towards public transport between 2006 and 2011, with roughly equal growth in single mode and multi-mode public transport journeys. The data doesn’t tell us whether this represents a shift from single mode to multi-modal journeys (following the change to the fare system in April 2010).

Mode shift to public transport overall

Here’s a map showing the overall mode share to public transport in Statistical Local Areas (SLAs), the smallest geography where data is available for both 2006 and 2011 (you’ll need to click to enlarge).

The biggest mode shifts are in different locations when aggregated at the SLA level. The biggest shifts were in Hornsby south, Concord, Manly, Parramatta north west and Baulkham Hills. I suspect the large mode shift in Hornsby south is a result of the new train line connecting this area to the major employment areas around Macquarie Park.

Campbelltown south was the only SLA to record a mode shift away from public transport.

Walking only

I cannot spot any significant shifts between 2006 and 2011.


There were quite noticeable shifts to cycling in the inner south and around Manly. The total number of people cycling as part of their journey to workplaces in Sydney went from 12,128 in 2006 to 17,838 in 2011.

Here is an enlargement of the inner suburban areas:


Cycling’s mode share peaked at 21% in a pocket of Redfern between Telopea Street and Phillip Street, closely followed by a pocket of Dulwich Hill around Kintore Street at 20%.

I’m sure other people will find more patterns in these maps – please comment on any interesting finds.

How commuters got to workplaces in Brisbane, 2006 and 2011

Sat 17 November, 2012

My last post about Brisbane journey to work focussed on where people live. This post focuses on where people work and what modes of transport they use to get there. It covers employment density, mode shares by work locations, and mode shares for people travelling to the CBD.

ABS data about mode shares at work place locations is available for Statistical Local Areas (SLA) in 2006, and for Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2) geography in 2011. These are the smallest available areas in each year, and unfortunately SLA level data was not available at the time of posting for 2011 (to enable a direct comparison on the same areas).

Fortunately for Brisbane, there is a lot of similarity between the two sets of boundaries (some SLAs split, some combined, some restructured).

The following maps alternate between 2006 and 2011 using the slightly different boundaries. You will need to click on them to enlarge and see the animation.

Caution is needed when making inferences when the geographies change as different areas will have different numbers of employees. For example: If two SLAs with 2% and 10% mode shares (in 2006) were combined into a new (2011) SA2 area with 11% mode share (in 2011), it doesn’t mean that mode share actually changed from 2% to 11% in the first of the SLAs. It may be that many more people were employed in the SLA with 10% mode share and actually very little changed overall.

Employment density

Firstly, what does the employment density of Brisbane look like? If I had the travel zone data available (as per Sydney), I’d be able to draw a much higher resolution picture, but for now I will have to suffice with SLA/SA2 employment density:

A lot of the differences you can see between 2006 and 2011 are to do with the change in boundaries, not necessarily changes on the ground. For example, there are many more SA2s than SLAs in the Ipswich area, which has meant the 2011 data shows a slightly dense area in the centre of Ipswich.

Some places where the SLA and SA2s are the same and a change in employment density is evident include reductions in New Farm, West End, Mitchelton, Wynnum, and Chermside West, and an increase in Enoggara.

Mode share by workplace location

I’ve zoomed in on the inner parts of Brisbane so you can see the inner city details for mode shares (apologies for the lack of place names – I figured the numbers showing the mode shares might be more interesting).

First up, public transport mode share:

Public transport mode share was highest in the CBD, then for areas around the CBD and stretching to a little more to the inner south-west. Curiously, public transport mode share was relatively high in suburban Carindale (the patch of yellow turned green in the “middle” eastern suburbs) and Nundah in the middle northern suburbs.

Significant rises in PT mode share were evident in the following places:

  • Fairfield/Dutton Park – which went from 7%/9% to 23%, which is probably related to the Boggo Road busway and green bridge and route 196 BUZ route.
  • Chelmer (6% to 12%) – perhaps related to train frequency upgrades on the line to Darra
  • Teneriffe (10% to 20%) – although it was absorbed into Newstead-Bowen Hills in 2011 the two SLAs combined into one SA2 had a similar number of employees in 2006. In 2011 Teneriffe was served by a new CityCat ferry terminal, and bus services were upgraded (including the CityGlider bus).
  • Kelvin Road – Herston, which went from 14%/16% to 21% (including the growing Kelvin Grove Urban Village and bolstered by the northern busway)

Next is active transport:

There was very little change in active transport mode share by destination. The exceptions were St Lucia (including University of Queensland) which increased from 13% to 16%, and Highgate Hill which went from 9% to 13%. These areas are connected by the new green bridge (buses, walkers and cyclists only) which would have made it easier to reach these places by active transport.

Enoggera records 13% in both 2006 and 2011, which is explained by the existence of a major army barracks there. I’m not sure why the Anstead area had a 15% mode share in 2006 (it was blended out in 2011 with the change of geography).

Finally, here is sustainable transport mode share (public transport + active only transport):

Suburban destinations with high sustainable transport mode share include:

  • Robertson (which includes Griffith University went from 13% to 17%)
  • Carindale (eastern suburbs, 14% to 17%)
  • Taigum/Fitzgibbon (north suburbs, steady 12%)
  • Mount Ommaney (south-western suburbs, 13% in 2006 but unclear in 2011 due to larger SA2)

The significant rises are covered by the discussion above.

Commuting to the CBD

The Central Business District (CBD) is an important destination as it has the highest employment density, and public transport is probably best placed to compete against the car. For this analysis I am defining the “CBD” as the Brisbane City SA2, which is bounded by Hale Street in the west, Wickham Terrace in the north, Boundary Street in the north-east, and the Brisbane River (here is a map). That’s probably bigger than what you might call the core CBD, but unfortunately I cannot obtain 2011 data at a smaller geography.

Brisbane’s CBD accounted for 15.5% of Greater Brisbane journey to work destinations in 2011, and 14.1% of Brisbane Statistical Division destinations in 2006 (Greater Brisbane is slightly larger than the Brisbane Statistical Division). There were 9.5% more journey to work destinations in the CBD in 2011 compared to 2006.

Here’s a map showing the proportion of commuters who had a destination of the Brisbane CBD in 2011 (by home location at SA1 geography):

The prevalence of the CBD as a work destination is almost directly proportional to the distance people live from the CBD, with the notable exception of Springfield in the southern suburbs.

The next map shows the portion of CBD commuters who used public transport in their journey to work (by home location). I’ve only shaded SA1s with 20 or more CBD commuters, which is quite small for calculating mode shares.

Note: I have not filtered SA1s by density on these maps (unlike others), so some low density SA1s to the south-west of the CBD are included in the following maps.

Public transport mode share was particularly high for those further from the CBD (where such a long drive would probably not be fun or cheap). It was lowest around the CBD itself (presumably the locals just walked to work), a few scattered suburban locations, and around the wealthy and low density Pullenvale area to the south-west (served only infrequently by public transport but not that far from the CBD).

Here’s the share of people who only used private motorised transport to commute to the CBD:

Pockets of high private motorised transport mode share include:

  • Hamilton/Albion
  • Bardon
  • Kenmore
  • Fig Tree Pocket
  • Capalaba
  • Gumdale
  • Tingalpa
  • Yeronga
  • Indooroopilly
  • Pullenvale

I understand that many of these are relatively wealthy areas.

Mode shift in journeys to the CBD

How have mode shares changed for journeys to work in the CBD?

Public and active transport increased their mode shares considerably over the 10 years. In fact, the Brisbane CBD had the second highest mode shift to public transport (in percentage terms) of major Australian CBDs (behind Perth, more on that in a future post).

The absolute number of car driver trips fell from 26,397 in 2001 to 23,244 in 2011, while the number of public transport trips shot up from 47,208 in 2001 to 65,570 in 2011 – a 39% increase (a very similar increase to Melbourne and Adelaide). In the same time, South East Queensland public transport patronage grew by 59%.

The vast majority of people who used public transport to commute to the CBD only used one mode of public transport. However, the percentage of people using multiple public transport modes rose from 2.7% in 2001 to 2.9% in 2006 and 3.6% in 2011, suggesting integrated ticketing may be influencing public transport travel behaviour. That said, Brisbane’s CBD still had the lowest rate of multiple public transport mode journeys to work of the CBDs of Australia’s five biggest cities (more on that soon).


I’d like to acknowledge Jane Hornibrook for assistance with this post.