A summary of The State of Australian Cities 2011 – part 2

One of the biggest challenges facing Australian cities as they continue to grow is ensuring that the infrastructure provided keeps apace with the growth so that productivity continues to improve. Much of the country’s increased productivity since the 1970s has come about from women entering the workforce. But as Australia’s population ages, there is a limit to the contribution to increased productivity that can come from increased participation – of which Australia already has one of the highest rates in the world.

Much of the future improvement in productivity will come from improved efficiencies in our infrastructure, particularly our transport infrastructure which is under strain from increasing use due to population growth and a fast growing freight task.


Multi-factor productivity, which measures productivity as a function of labour and capital, has steadily increased since the 1970s and peaked in the early 2000’s. Reasons for this are not discussed in much detail in the report, although it could be speculated that limits to increased participation in workforce, the global financial crisis and increased congestion on Australia’s transport systems have all played a role in the slight decrease in the late 2000’s.

Commute Patterns and Times

Not surprisingly, the longest distance commutes in any major Australian city on average are in Sydney with the average commute at 11.3 km. However, Melbourne and Perth are not far behind at 11.1 km and 10.5 km respectively.

Public transport use as a proportion of total transport use has increased in all major Australian cities, from 9.3% in 2004 to 10.6% in 2008. The fastest growing patronage was seen in Melbourne, where the rail system has seen annual growth in passenger numbers in the range of 10.5% every year over the same period. Both Perth and Brisbane’s rail systems also saw annual growth well above the average for many other major cities, coming off considerably lower bases.

Adelaide’s rail patronage was the only one that was growing by less than its metropolitan population growth rate, although this is expected to change when numerous upgrades and expansions (including electrification) are completed over a number of years.

Transport Infrastructure Investment

Since 2007, the value of investment in transport infrastructure has risen sharply from the long term average. The total annual investment has been running at about double the long term rate at $54 billion versus $28 billion in real terms.

Much of the increase has been driven by the private sector to serve the mining industry, but there has also been large increases in public sector expenditure to improve public roads and public transport infrastructure between and within Australia’s major cities.

Broken down by mode of transport, all modes have seen increased levels of investment. Roads remain the key area of investment with total annual expenditure totalling approximately $5 billion in 2010, compared with rail at $1.9 billion and harbour infrastructure at just over $1 billion.


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