Sydney’s public transport system has been ranked as the best in all of Australia

The public transport systems in Australia’s largest cities have been ranked, and Sydney came out on top

Melissa Woodley
Winnie Stubbs
Sydney ferry
Photograph: Supplied | Transport for NSW

Sydney is a city known for its beaches and its beauty. Heck, we've even been identified as one of the most walkable cities in the world, but our public transport system isn't generally thought of (by Sydneysiders) as one of our biggest drawcards. But, while Sydney’s public transport system isn’t exempt from issues, it seems we’re doing better than elsewhere in the country – with a recent report ranking Sydney’s public transport system as the best out of Australia’s capital cities. 

According to the brand new report, only half of the 15 million people living in Australia’s five largest cities have access to frequent all-day public transport, and Sydneysiders are better connected than people living in any other capital Aussie city.

The findings were published in the Climate Council's annual Next Stop Suburbia report, which ranks public transport systems in our nation’s five biggest cities from best to worst based on a number of factors. The report looks at population, population density, land area and public transport maps to determine what proportion of the population has adequate access to public transport, and it looks like Sydneysiders have it good(ish).

According to the report, 67.2 per cent of Sydneysiders are living in areas with access to the minimum level of public transport – defined as having 'an address within 800 metres or a 10-minute walk or a service that runs at least every 15 minutes between 7am and 7pm'. And while this is better than the country’s other major cities, it still leaves a whole lot of Sydneysiders with little choice but to rely on expensive and polluting private cars to get them from point A to B. Alarmingly, despite 67.2 per cent of us living within 800 metres of regular public transport options, only 27 per cent of Sydneysiders use public transport to travel to work – with the most popular alternative being to jump in the car.

Bus is leaving Meadowbank Stop
Photograph: Supplied | Transport for NSW

So, which Australian cities have the toughest transit challenges?

  • Brisbane ranks at the bottom of the list for places to get around without a car in Australia. Only 33.7 per cent of Brisbane residents have access to all-day frequent public transport services, with a mere 14 per cent actually relying on this method of transport for their daily commute to work.

  • Perth ranked as the second worst Australian city for public transport, with only 40.5 per cent of people having access to frequent services from 7am to 7pm. 

  • Adelaide followed closely in third place at 47.6 per cent.

  • And, surprisingly, despite its trams, Melbourne came in fourth place, with 52.5 per cent of residents having access to all-day frequent public transport services.

The report also highlighted a significant gap in public transport access between poorer and wealthier areas across most cities, which correlates with a recent report which found that Western Sydney’s public transport system has been neglected over the past few years (leading the government to introduce a $1.9 billion upgrade to the transport system in the area). That being said, according to the report, Sydney’s lower-income areas are better connected than those in Australia’s other major cities. Brisbane and Melbourne show a 27 per cent lower access rate in poorer areas, while Adelaide and Perth follow with 19 per cent and 18 per cent respectively – while in Sydney, access is "about the same" in lower income suburbs.

The findings from this report highlight the need for governments to invest in improving the connectivity of our cities, so it’s heartening to know that Sydney’s public transport system is about to welcome a major new network.

The opening date for the Sydney Metro has just been announced – and once it’s up and running, our city’s transport system is set to look a whole lot more efficient. So while we might have some major issues to contend with here in Sydney (housing crisis, we're looking at you), it's good to know that some solutions are on their way.

You can read the full report and the Climate Council's proposed solutions in the report here.

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