Australia State of the Environment Report 2001 (Theme Report)
Lead Author: Professor Peter W. Newton, CSIRO Building, Construction and Engineering, Authors
Published by CSIRO on behalf of the Department of the Environment and Heritage, 2001
ISBN 0 643 06747 7
Liveability: human well-being (continued)
During the period August 1998 to July 1999, it is estimated that Australian road vehicles travelled 177 635 million kilometres - an average of 14 900 kilometres per vehicle. While freight-carrying vehicles and buses travelled greater average distances, 80% of all the vehicles on the road were passenger vehicles and they accounted for 78% (137 885 million kilometres) of total travel. Of that distance, 51% was for general private use, 25% for work and business, and 24% for commuting (ABS 2000g).
The average distances travelled per driver, rather than per vehicle, is less. Figure 52 compares average distances per vehicle for drivers in different gender and age groups. This accounts for vehicles being used by more than one driver, but not for drivers using more than one vehicle.
Figure 52: Comparison of average kilometres travelled per driver, 1998-1999. [HS Indicator 4.9]
Source: ABS (2000k)
Travel for all purposes is increasing. The New South Wales Department of Transport's Household Travel Survey (Transport Data Centre 1999), a continuous survey until June 1997 of households in the Greater Sydney Metropolitan region, provides the most recent source of detailed data about travel in Australian cities. Figure 53 shows increases in both trips and distance travelled by household members in Sydney between 1991 and 1997. The travel categories in this and following figures from the same source are collapsed from a list of 21 trip purposes surveyed. Their meanings are as follows:
|home||all trips back to home|
|commute||trips to work|
|business||trips as part of work|
|education/childcare||from daycare for infants, to university|
|shopping/personal business||described thus by respondent as medical, dental, social security etc.|
|social/recreational||entertainment, sport, visiting friends and relatives|
|serve passenger||drop off or pick up another household member.|
Figure 53: Change in distance and number of trips by purpose in Sydney, 1991-1997. [HS Indicator 4.8]
Source: Transport Data Centre (1999)
Of particular interest is the large increase in travel for personal business and for dropping off or picking up other household members, termed 'serve passenger'. 'Household taxi' trips contribute to the high mode share for car for all journey purposes. These trips are often linked to other trips. For instance, children are dropped at school or childcare on the way to work. Multipurpose journeys are increasing in comparison to single-purpose journeys because of increased time pressures on households, and the flexibility provided by the car makes it particularly attractive for these trips. Thus, despite efforts to increase public transport use, car use still dominates all journey purposes. Figure 54 shows the mode share for journey to work travel, from the ABS 1996 census (ABS 1998g), in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, and also compares inner, middle and outer suburban commuters. To facilitate display, workers who did not commute on census day have been excluded, and the mode categories collapsed. Hence, car = car passenger or driver; train = train; bus = bus/ferry/tram; and other = walk only/bicycle/taxi/motorbike/sometimes truck.
Figure 54: Modes of journey to work in inner, middle and outer ring suburbs of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. [HS Indicator 4.8]
Source: Special tables from ABS (1996f, 1998e)
The only areas where less than 50% of commuting is by car are inner Sydney and inner Melbourne. Overall public transport use in Brisbane is less because the city's rail system is less extensive. Inner city residents are better served by public transport, are likely to be making shorter journeys to work to central locations, and may face parking restrictions at both home and work. The major reason for using public transport cited by 35% of public transport users in response to the Sydney Household Travel Survey was to 'avoid parking problems or costs'. In contrast, outer suburban commuters travel to a wider spread of locations, typically have garage space at home and free parking at work, make cross-suburb trips that are less suited to public transport, and have fewer public transport services available. Thus, public transport use is very low in the outer suburbs of Brisbane and Melbourne. The higher mode share for rail in outer Sydney is predominantly due to long-distance commuting on radial services towards the city.
Figure 55, again from Sydney Household Travel Survey, shows that car also dominates when all household travel is considered. Numbers of public transport trips have increased, but there has been a greater increase in car trips. Walk trips have actually dropped. This should be a concern, as walking is the most environmentally friendly transport mode and also provides health benefits. It is especially worrying that some children and teenagers now seldom walk. Numbers of walking trips by children under 16 on an average weekday have dropped by 5%, while trips as car passengers have risen by 5%.
Figure 55: Number of trips made by households using various modes, 1991 and 1997.
Source: Transport Data Centre (1999)
A comparison of average trip time by mode broken down by purpose (Figure 56) shows that public transport journeys are in general more time-consuming than car journeys, even allowing that rail is often considered a long-haul mode. Fifty per cent of motorists responding to the Household Travel Survey cited delays as a reason for not using public transport.
Figure 56: Average trip times for various household travel purposes, according to mode of transport. [HS Indicator 4.7]
Source: Transport Data Centre (1999).
All this travel imposes considerable costs on Australian households. The ABS Survey of Household Expenditure (ABS 2000e) found that, in the 12 months to June 1999, Australian households spent on average $118 per week on transport, which represents 17% of their total expenditure on goods and services. This compares with 14% on housing and 18% on food. Moreover, transport was the fastest-growing expenditure category since the last survey, although it has been high since 1984 (16%). Costs range across Australian capital cities from a low of 14% in Adelaide, a relatively compact city, to 18% in Melbourne. They average 16% for other urban centres and are higher (21%) for rural households. Government taxes on petrol (47% in Australia in September 2000; the Age, 17 September 2000) is a significant part of the price paid at the pump and its knock-on impact to household expenditure. While petrol tax rates in Australia are lower than in most European countries (64-74% range is common), they are higher than in North America and remain a significant domestic public policy issue, particularly in the context of rising global oil prices.