Inner Sydney Transit Grid – Fantasy Map

While we are doing fantasy transit maps, here is my indicative sketch of an Inner Sydney Transit Grid (i.e. these are new high-frequency transit lines, likely some mix of tram/LRT or arterial Bus Rapid Transit with mostly dedicated lanes, assuming the already existing Sydney Trains and planned LRT and Metro [Red] lines remain, plus something on Parramatta Road [Green]). These are, of course, doodles, I haven’t done any modeling of them yet, and they would certainly replace existing bus routes in places.

The problem I am trying to solve is that the network is too radial in orientation, and even simple lateral movements are difficult on public transport. A clearly defined, not circuitous, high-frequency system that serves Sydney outside the CBD (without having to transfer in the CBD) seems useful. The lines are designed to connect existing and planned stations conveniently, so the routes are run on-street from station to station.

Inner Sydney Grid
Inner Sydney Grid


The concept is to provide ring routes to complement the existing and under construction radial train lines

Starting along the Pacific there are 6 major lines (Ocean to River):

  • Bondi – Fish Market (via Paddington ) [Pine Green]
  • Bronte – Glebe (via Moore Park) [Pink]
  • Coogee – White Bay (via UNSW, University of Sydney) [Purple] [The Busful of Knowledge]
  • Maroubra – Balmain (via the Canal Zone) [Orange]
  • Little Bay – Drummoyne / Abbotsford (via the Airport* and Ashfield) [Brown]
  • Brighton Le-Sands – Mortlake (via Campsie and Burwood) [Silver]

There is also an interior branching route

  • Annandale – Alexandria [Avocado Green, Maroon]

There are some “new” thin radial lines shown, which track old tram lines, in particular around the University of Sydney and Newtown. And there are some new shuttle lines in Technology Park (and presumably on the Darlington side as well) (running along the rail lines) to better connect workers to the nearby stations, which are actually relatively far away given the large numbers of workers.

With most of these there is challenge finding right-of-way. I would take it from existing streets (these lines are mostly at-grade) so transit has priority. This assumes that transit service would carry more people than a laneful of cars, which likely will hold if the transit is designed to be effective. This is easier to do where there is on-street parking, harder where there is not.

* The Brown Line as shown, this assumes a rail line sharing tracks with existing rail service in airport tunnel. I am not certain the technical feasibility of this, otherwise it circumnavigates the airport somehow.



 Accessibility-Oriented Development

Recently published:


Access to jobs and the labor force by car within 30 min.
Access to jobs and the labor force by car within 30 min.

Local authorities worldwide have been pursuing transit-oriented development (TOD) strategies in order to increase transit ridership, curb traffic congestion, and rejuvenate urban neighborhoods. In many cities, however, development of planned sites around transit stations has been close to non-existent, due to, among other reasons, a lack of coordination between transit investments and land use at a broader spatial scale. Furthermore, while TOD considers access to transit, it often neglects the access to destinations that is provided by transit.

We contend that accessibility-oriented development (AOD) can overcome these drawbacks of transit-oriented development. The AOD strategy fosters an environment conducive to development by balancing access to both jobs and workers. As such, AOD explicitly considers the connections between TOD locations and destinations that matter, both locally and regionally. Where markets are free to take advantage of accessibility levels, AOD is a naturally occurring process. Planners could therefore use the various tools at their disposal to influence accessibility levels (to jobs and workers) in order to attract urban development in potential AOD areas.

To test the assumptions that guide AOD strategies, access to jobs and workers are calculated in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, Canada in 2001 and 2011. Cross-sectional and temporal regressions are then performed to analyze average commute times and urban development occurring across the region. Results show that residents in neighborhoods with high access to jobs and low access to competing workers experience the shortest commute times in the region, while the relationship also holds for changes in average commute times between the studied time periods. In addition, both access to jobs and access to workers are associated with changes in residential, commercial and industrial development: high labor force accessibility is associated with increases in job density, and high access to jobs is related to increases in population density between 2001 and 2011. Planners can thus leverage accessibility as a tool to direct development in their cities and to strategically adjust commute times, thereby realizing the full benefits of planned transit investments.

Keywords: Transit-oriented development; Accessibility; Travel behavior; Land use

Creating Great Australian Cities

Creating Great Australian Cities
Creating Great Australian Cities

Jonathan Hair reports on ABC Radio “The World Today” (Tue 22 May 2018) about the new study from Australia’s Property Council: Creating Great Australian Cities.

Property Council warns Australia still has work to do on urban liveability by Jonathan Hair on The World Today

Australia’s top cities may rate among the most liveable in the world, but the Property Council of Australia is warning us not to get complacent.

It has commissioned a report which finds that our cities need to improve issues, like infrastructure and public transport, if they want to continue to be attractive places to live.

The segment runs  on the linked .mp3 file. I get to have my say as well, arguing that access is a good, even if congestion is a bad and a feature of people wanting larger homes in the suburbs and commuting by car and population growth in excess of infrastructure growth. (I also talked about road pricing in the interview, but that was cut for time … that’s what I meant when I said “managing”.)


JONATHAN HAIR: David Levinson is a Professor of Transport at The University of Sydney.

DAVID LEVINSON: Congestion is only going to get worse as long as there’s people being added to the system faster than infrastructure is added to the system, and as long as people aren’t doing anything to manage it.

People want to live further away from their jobs, and have larger houses, and there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But the cost of doing that is that there’s more people using the same roads in the same amount of time.

JONATHAN HAIR: He believes the solution to the problem is making it easier to access services without having to travel.

DAVID LEVINSON: Manhattan is more congested than Sydney is but there are more things to do in Manhattan, so the accessibility is higher.

People can reach more things in the same amount of time. What we really care about is not moving quickly on the network, but getting to where we want to go. And if there’s more things around us, that are close to where we want to be, we don’t have to travel as long a distance.

So while growth has costs, it also has benefits in terms of activity, because there’s more stores nearby, there’s more restaurants, there’s more jobs that might be better suited to the kinds of skills that we have.

ELEANOR HALL: That’s University of Sydney’s Transport Professor David Levinson.




Meanwhile, the Sydney Morning Herald breathlessly reports “Sydney’s congestion at ‘tipping point‘” interviewing my colleague Stephen Greaves at ITLS.




A modest solution to the housing problem

Everyone (all the cool kids, anyway) says more housing is the solution to high rents and the urban housing shortage. To be sure, it is “a” solution. I have an alternative solution. Compression. Putting more people in the same number of units. Seriously, we used to have a lot more people living in the same number of housing units, with even less floor space. As a typical example of US cities, the City of Minneapolis once (as recently as 1950) had over 500,000 people, now it’s just over 400,000, in about the same number of housing units.

Double, triple, quadruple up. Living room couches are unproductive resources when everyone’s in a bed. Share the same home as your parents and your grown children, it makes for great TV comedy.

Even more systematically, repeal the Third Amendment to the United States Constitution, conscript the millennials (call it National Service) and post-millennials, declare a war against poverty, and quarter them in existing housing in neighborhoods which won’t build more!

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

If you don’t want more housing, love the housing you’re with, and stop mocking adult children living in the basement of their parents home. People aren’t going away just because you don’t build them houses.


Dr. Mengying Cui: Full cost accessibility


Congratulations to soon-to-be Dr. Mengying Cui for successfully defending her dissertation: ‘Full cost accessibility’  at the University of Minnesota campus on 8 May 2018.


Accessibility measures the ease of reaching destinations, and is the product of a function of the cost of travel between two points and the number of opportunities at the destination. That cost is usually represented as individual travel time, and occasionally as time and out-of-pocket monetary costs. Thus, it fails to fully capture travel costs, especially the external costs, of travel. This study develops a full cost accessibility (FCA) framework combining the internal and external cost components of travel with accessibility evaluations, to provide an efficient evaluation tool for transport planning projects.FullCost_10D

The FCA framework includes three major steps: analyzing cost components of travel, proposing new path types, and performing FCA analysis. The cost analysis distinguishes the internal and external costs of travel for alternate cost components and proposes a link-based cost model applied to each road segment in a metropolitan road network. The new path types, including the Safest and Greenest/Healthiest paths, in addition to the traditional Shortest Travel Time and Cheapest (least expensive) paths, are proposed to translate link costs into trip costs by selecting the routes with the lowest cost. For the FCA analysis, we measure the number of opportunities that can be reached in a given cost threshold.

The key cost components for travelers are categorized as time costs, safety costs, emission costs, and monetary costs. The Minneapolis – St. Paul Metropolitan (Twin Cities) region was selected as the study area to implement the FCA framework based on each of those key cost components. Our major findings indicate:

    1. The average full cost of travel is $0.68/veh-km in the Twin Cities region. Time and monetary costs account for approximately 85% of the total. It is unlikely that travelers will shift their route significantly to consider safety and emissions.
    2. Except for the infrastructure cost, highways are more cost-effective than other surface roadways considering all the other cost components, and the internal and full costs.
    3. Most new path types show largely the same spatial distribution as the shortest travel time path. However, the healthiest path, concerning the emission intake cost, detours to exurban areas where the on-road concentrations are lower; the lowest infrastructure cost path detours to local surface roadways where the infrastructure expenses are lower.
    4. Job accessibility measurements based on different cost components show similar spatial distribution patterns. Accessibility decreases with the distance to the downtown area. Slight differences exist depending on the properties of cost components.
    5. Accessibility difference assessment reveals a cost-benefit trade-off showing that travelers will save $0.24/veh-km of full cost on average based on the lowest full cost path rather than the shortest travel time path by paying a time-weighted accessibility loss of 191 jobs.

This dissertation demonstrates the practicability of the FCA framework in metropolitan areas.

Access Across America: Auto 2016

My peeps back in Minnesota released Access Across America: Auto 2016. They write:

This study estimates the accessibility to jobs by auto for each of the 11 million U.S. census blocks and analyzes these data in the 50 largest (by population) metropolitan areas.

Travel times are calculated using a detailed road network and speed data that reflect typical conditions for an 8 a.m. Wednesday morning departure. Additionally, the accessibility results for 8 a.m. are compared with accessibility results for 4 a.m. to estimate the impact of road and highway congestion on job accessibility.

Rankings are determined by a weighted average of accessibility, with a higher weight given to closer, easier-to-access jobs. Jobs reachable within 10 minutes are weighted most heavily, and jobs are given decreasing weights as travel time increases up to 60 minutes.

The report presents detailed accessibility and congestion impact values for each metropolitan area as well as block-level maps that illustrate the spatial patterns of accessibility within each area. It also includes a census tract-level map that shows accessibility patterns at a national scale.

The Canal Zone – Transforming the Precinct between Green Square and Mascot

There is unquestionably a continuing housing shortage in Sydney, leading to some of the most expensive real estate in Australia and the world.

It is a law of modern cities that no urban water feature should stay underdeveloped. The Alexandria Canal was built around 1900, widening Shea’s Creek, a tributary of the Cook’s River, to serve industrial activities like tanneries that lined its shore. Proposals have been floated to transform it to into a Little Venice, but these were spiked for environmental reasons, disturbing the canal would let loose toxic sediments which would contaminate other waterways. So instead it was left fallow, to wallow in its chemical filth. While that may (or may not) have been a wise decision under one set of economic cost calculations, considering the current costs of remediation, the environmental costs of doing nothing and the value of the redevelopment, conditions have changed and the decision should be revisited.

Alexandria Canal, NSW looking north. Source wikipedia.
Alexandria Canal, NSW looking north. Source wikipedia.

The parallel Airport Rail Line opened a century later in 2000, just prior to the Sydney Olympics. It was financed under a poorly structured public-private partnership which initially levied exorbitant station access charges, that the NSW government eventually bought down for the non-airport stations. Nevertheless it has significant excess capacity which could be taken advantage of.  If we assume it eventually becomes a normal line, we can think about how it might be used to promote the kind of growth that is beneficial to the public.

Walking Route from Green Square to Mascot. Approximate half way point in orange oval. Alexandria Creek to the southwest. Map by Google.
Walking Route from Green Square to Mascot. Approximate half way point in orange oval. Alexandria Creek to the southwest. Map by Google.


I walked the corridor this weekend. This Airport Rail Line cries out in pain for an additional stop halfway between Mascot and Green Square. This lands just south of Huntley Street and Bourke Road, at the northern edge of the Alexandria Canal, home today to the redeveloped Mill at Bourke Road.

The distance between the rail stations at Green Square and Mascot is 2.6 km, 32 minutes walking, 3 minutes by train. Typical station spacing this close to the CBD is much shorter. Redfern to MacDonaldtown, e.g. is only 1.7 km. Given 800m is a useful threshold for walking distance to rail stations, 1.6 km (1 mile) is a natural spacing. 1.3km might be a bit close between stations, but it is still longer than the CBD stations (Town Hall to Central is 1.1 km). I don’t know the cost of designing and constructing a new station on this existing line, it is undoubtedly more expensive than it should be, but there is experience with infill, and it is less expensive than a new line on a per passenger basis. I would think the real estate development could cover it.

The historic Mill plus a train station  would make a great community centre for a new precinct, perhaps the Mill District, or the Canal Zone, which would feature more intense residential, office, and commercial development  complementing, and eventually replacing, single story warehouses, auto dealerships, big box retail stores, and light industrial between Mascot and Green Square, lining the area from the canal to O’Riordan Street.

Development in Mascot. Photo by author.
Development in Mascot. Photo by author.

The region is focusing on new Metro Lines while forgetting opportunities that lie immediately at hand, incremental investments in the Trains network which likely reveal benefits well in excess of costs. Mascot and Green Square will soon be built out, and new land will need to be engaged.

The Transportist: May 2018

Welcome to the May 2018 issue of The Transportist, especially to our new readers. As always you can follow along at the blog or on Twitter.

Thank you to all who purchased Elements of Access and Metropolitan Transport and Land Use in recent months. Copies are still available.

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