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Why Australia lags on urban transport sustainability

Australian cities lag the world on the sustainability of urban transport systems due to a lack of metro systems, and relatively low public and active transport rates, according to a new report from consultancy Arcadis.

The Sustainable Cities Mobility Index looks at mobility through social, environmental and economic lenses in order to rank the world’s top 100 cities.

Brisbane was the only city to make the top 50 – just, at 48 – in front of Sydney (51), Canberra (53), Melbourne (55) and Perth (87).

Lack of metro rail networks and a low proportion of public transport and active travel trips were key reasons Australian cities lagged behind international counterparts, the report found.

“Australia’s cities largely all ranked middle of the road for the sustainability of their transport,” Arcadis managing director infrastructure Australia-Pacific Phil Kajewski said.

“This doesn’t mean that we are doing poorly, just that we can do better.”

On a positive note, Mr Kajewski said there had been “significant” investment in infrastructure over the past year, including metro rails in Sydney and Melbourne, and major roads such as WA’s NorthLink, which could act to boost scores in future reports.

The top city overall for urban transport sustainability was Hong Kong, thanks to a well-connected metro network and high proportion of public transport trips. It was followed by Zurich, Paris, Seoul and Prague.

Hong Kong also topped the “people” sub-index, covering such things as coverage, reliability, hours of operation and popularity. The sub-index had strong representation from Asian cities.

“Hong Kong’s modern metro system, which allows riders to use 3G internet in all tunnels and stations, helps the city top this sub-index,” the report said.

European cities featured strongly in the “planet” sub-index, taking out all of the top 10 positions with German cities Frankfurt, Munich and Berlin the top three.

“Many of the bolder moves taken in these cities – from fostering cycling cultures through sharing schemes to incentivising greener vehicles – could be replicated in other cities around the world.”

In terms of economics, Zurich was number one, with the sub-index looking at a city’s financial commitment to transport infrastructure as well as commute times and affordability.

“This global financial centre has a highly affordable and efficient transport system, which is subsequently one of the most popular networks of any city in the overall index with a highly utilised system,” the report said.

Mr Kajewski said all top global cities had in common an integrated transport system featuring metros, light rail, bus and road projects.

“For Australian cities to continue to remain globally competitive and mobile we must continue to invest in a range of road and public transport projects, ensure transport planning for these projects is strongly linked to land use planning, and do what we can in this planning to encourage mixed-mode journeys that include active mobility such as walking and cycling.”

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