TRANSPORTIST: OCTOBER 2021

How to value transport projects

Instead of measuring and monetising the fairy dust of `travel time savings’, a transport facility should be assessed on how much access it produces per unit of investmentAccess is the ease of reaching destinations. E.g. you might measure how many jobs (or restaurants or hospitals, etc.) can be reached in 30 minutes and/or $5 (or the dual of this measure, such as how many prospective patients an ambulance can reach in 12 minutes). A transport facility that increases access to destinations for a cost effectively is good. 

So the question is: does a streetcar or road or bike path enable people to reach more activities in less cost (time, money, aggravation, risk, negative externalities, etc.) than before, at a reasonable expenditure? (This cost includes the social and financial costs of building and providing the infrastructure). In short, are the upfront capital costsand ongoing maintenance and operations costs of the facility justified by the lower variable costs of its users? 

Sometimes (which is to say, often) transport projects are promoted for real estate. Real estate prices monetise the transport benefits (above what the user bears in time, money, and effort) in land value (time savings are not actually money, they become money through land value). We can build models that estimate the real estate value provided by additional accessibility.

So a better way of assessing the transport benefits is through real estate price uplift, as the market captures how people value the transport benefit. (We cannot simply add land prices to travel time and travel cost reductions, as that would be double counting). Places with higher access, and where access is more valuable, are more expensive and more productive and pay higher wages. We don’t really need to understand the detailed market mechanisms, nor attribute costs to detailed categories, the land market tells us how much access is worth, and transport models tell us how much access is created by a change to the network – from those two facts we can estimate the value created.

Because many projects are promoted by real estate interests, who presumably believe they will get the monetized benefits of those projects through higher land values, the public has a reasonable expectation that those interests pay for the costs of the project (that is, the tax incidence falls on the land owner). There are a variety of approaches, generally lumped as value sharing or value capture. The most general of these, a land value tax, originally promoted by Henry George, captures all of the uplift caused by all the access created by both transport investments and changes in the distribution of human activities.

From a project assessment point-of-view, land value uplift has often been part of the ‘wider economic benefits‘, which are optionally added after the value of travel time savings, which is considered the main benefit. ATAP for instance writes:

WEBs are improvements in economic welfare associated with changes in accessibility or land use that are not captured in traditional cost–benefit analysis (CBA). They arise from market imperfections, that is, prices of goods and services differing from costs to society as a whole. Reasons include economies of scale and scope, positive externalities, taxation and imperfect competition.

The international literature to date has concentrated on four types of WEBs that arise from major transport initiatives.

– WB1: Agglomeration economies — productivity gains from clustering by firms

– WB2: Labour market and tax impacts — productivity gains accruing to governments via the taxation system

– WB3: Output changes in imperfectly competitive markets — profit increases for firms

– WB4: Change in competition — gains to consumers and more efficient production.

ATAP goes on to write: 

“WEBs are only likely to be significant, and so worth estimating, for sizeable transport initiatives located in or improving access to large urban areas”

This logic is backwards. Because of induced demand, road projects rarely actually ‘save time’. Transit is often slower than car, so creating a project that induces someone from car to transit also doesn’t save time, but must nevertheless be preferred if people voluntarily switch.

Yet despite not ‘saving time’, these projects do create economic value. From a consumer perspective for instance, people can find a better fit for housing in the same travel effort (and may prefer to ride passively than to drive), or can engage in shopping activities that better match their desires in the same time window. From a producers perspective, WB1-WB4 from above are all embedded in land value. 

In reality, WEBs are the benefits of transport. If there were no productivity gains from clustering, we would not have cities and instead choose to be maximally spread out, and not need to be proximate in any sense. If there were no gains to consumers from competition, everyone would pay monopoly prices for everything, etc.

And these WEBs do not show up in ‘travel time savings’ but consistently show up in land value (CBDs are more expensive than suburbs are more expensive than rural areas). The WEBs are implicit in the land value uplift which occurs as a result the increased access. ‘Wider economic benefit’, properly measured as land value gains due to increased access, can and should be considered the primary benefit of new investment, not a speculative add-on aimed at juicing the numbers.

The consequence of properly and completely valuing benefits and full costs systematically may very well be a higher benefits estimate than a travel time savings-dominated metric would produce, which, if decision-making were rational, would justify more construction of public and active transport than would otherwise take place. A tax system that captured the land value that was thus created could relax whatever financing constraints currently limit that investment.

Jobs

Research

  • Wu, Hao, and Levinson, D. (2021) The Ensemble Approach to Forecasting: A Review and Synthesis. Transportation Research part C. Volume 132, 103357 [doi
    • HIGHLIGHTS
      • Review and synthesize methods of ensemble forecasting with a unifying framework.
      • As decision support tools, ensemble models systematically account for uncertainties.
      • Ensemble methods can include combining models, data, and ensemble of ensembles.
      • Transport ensemble models have the potential for improving accuracy and reliability.
      ABSTRACT: Ensemble forecasting is a modeling approach that combines data sources, models of different types, with alternative assumptions, using distinct pattern recognition methods. The aim is to use all available information in predictions, without the limiting and arbitrary choices and dependencies resulting from a single statistical or machine learning approach or a single functional form, or results from a limited data source. Uncertainties are systematically accounted for. Outputs of ensemble models can be presented as a range of possibilities, to indicate the amount of uncertainty in modeling. We review methods and applications of ensemble models both within and outside of transport research. The review finds that ensemble forecasting generally improves forecast accuracy, robustness in many fields, particularly in weather forecasting where the method originated. We note that ensemble methods are highly siloed across different disciplines, and both the knowledge and application of ensemble forecasting are lacking in transport. In this paper we review and synthesize methods of ensemble forecasting with a unifying framework, categorizing ensemble methods into two broad and not mutually exclusive categories, namely combining models, and combining data; this framework further extends to ensembles of ensembles. We apply ensemble forecasting to transport related cases, which shows the potential of ensemble models in improving forecast accuracy and reliability. This paper sheds light on the apparatus of ensemble forecasting, which we hope contributes to the better understanding and wider adoption of ensemble models.
    • This paper is the first dissertation paper from Dr. Hao Wu’s Dissertation: Theory of Ensemble Forecasting – with Applications in Transport Modeling. Hao successfully defended last month. It’s hugely important for changing how modeling is done, instead of relying on the one best model, an ensemble of models is more accurate and more reliable. Transport modeling has spent decades developing advanced (and Nobel prize-winning) methods, but has fetishised a single model approach rather than embracing uncertainty and humility. This needs to change. [Hao is also, as far as I know, the first Transport Engineering PhD from the University of Sydney since JJC Bradfield, who designed the Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Trains network] “In 1924, Bradfield was awarded the degree of Doctor of Science (for a thesis titled “The city and suburban electric railways and the Sydney Harbour Bridge”, the first doctorate in engineering awarded by the University of Sydney.”
  • Allen, Jeff, Farber, Steven, Greaves, Stephen, Clifton, Geoffrey, Wu, Hao, Sarkar, Hao, and Levinson, D. (2021) Immigrant Settlement Patterns, Transit Accessibility, and Transit Use. Journal of Transport Geography. 96, 103187 [doi]
    • ABSTRACT: Public transit is immensely important among recent immigrants for enabling daily travel and activity participation. The objectives of this study are to examine whether immigrants settle in areas of high or low transit accessibility and how this affects transit mode share. This is analyzed via a novel comparison of two gateway cities: Sydney, Australia and Toronto, Canada. We find that in both cities, recent immigrants have greater levels of public transit accessibility to jobs, on average, than the overall population, but the geography of immigrant settlement is more suburbanized and less clustered around commuter rail in Toronto than in Sydney. Using logistic regression models with spatial filters, we find significant positive relationships between immigrant settlement patterns and transit mode share for commuting trips, after controlling for transit accessibility and other socio-economic factors, indicating an increased reliance on public transit by recent immigrants. Importantly, via a sensitivity analysis, we find that these effects are greatest in peripheral suburbs and rural areas, indicating that recent immigrants in these areas have more risks of transport-related social exclusion due to reliance on insufficient transit service.
  • El-Geneidy, Ahmed and Levinson, D. (2021) Making Accessibility Work in Practice Transport Reviews (online first) [doi]
    • ABSTRACT: Accessibility, the ease of reaching destination, is the most comprehensive land use and transport systems performance measure (Levinson & Wu, 2020; Wachs & Kumagai, 1973; Wu & Levinson, 2020). Accessibility has been applied in planning research since the 1950s (Hansen, 1959), and still today, we find major barriers to adopting it in practice (Handy, 2020). Advances in computing and software have enabled researchers to generate complex measures of accessibility with higher spatial and temporal resolutions moving accessibility research at a fast pace, while the implementation of accessibility, in practice, lags (Boisjoly & El-Geneidy, 2017). Even simple measures, such as the cumulative opportunities measures of accessibility, confront challenges in adoption.

Videos

Research by Others

Polls

  1. How long must someone be dead before we should stop referring to them as “the late so and so”? (reading newspaper article describing the “late Erik Erikson”, dead 27 years.) Or should we say the late Isaac Newton?
    • <1 year 18.6%
    • 1-4 years 34.3%
    • 5-9 years 11.4%
    • >10 years 35.7%
    The median is just under 5 years, so I will go with that. 

News & Opinion

Making Accessibility Work in Practice

Recently Published:

  • El-Geneidy, Ahmed and Levinson, D. (2021) Making Accessibility Work in Practice. Transport Reviews [doi] [first 50 free download]

Accessibility, the ease of reaching destination, is the most comprehensive land use and transport systems performance measure (Levinson & Wu, 2020; Wachs & Kumagai, 1973; Wu & Levinson, 2020). Accessibility has been applied in planning research since the 1950s (Hansen, 1959), and still today, we find major barriers to adopting it in practice (Handy, 2020). Advances in computing and software have enabled researchers to generate complex measures of accessibility with higher spatial and temporal resolutions moving accessibility research at a fast pace, while the implementation of accessibility, in practice, lags (Boisjoly & El-Geneidy, 2017). Even simple measures, such as the cumulative opportunities measures of accessibility, confront challenges in adoption.

Immigrant Settlement Patterns, Transit Accessibility, and Transit Use

Recently published:

  • Allen, Jeff, Farber, Steven, Greaves, Stephen, Clifton, Geoffrey, Wu, Hao, Sarkar, Hao, and Levinson, D. (2021) Immigrant Settlement Patterns, Transit Accessibility, and Transit Use. Journal of Transport Geography. 96 103187 [doi]
  • Abstract: Public transit is immensely important among recent immigrants for enabling daily travel and activity participation. The objectives of this study are to examine whether immigrants settle in areas of high or low transit accessibility and how this affects transit mode share. This is analyzed via a novel comparison of two gateway cities: Sydney, Australia and Toronto, Canada. We find that in both cities, recent immigrants have greater levels of public transit accessibility to jobs, on average, than the overall population, but the geography of immigrant settlement is more suburbanized and less clustered around commuter rail in Toronto than in Sydney. Using logistic regression models with spatial filters, we find significant positive relationships between immigrant settlement patterns and transit mode share for commuting trips, after controlling for transit accessibility and other socio-economic factors, indicating an increased reliance on public transit by recent immigrants. Importantly, via a sensitivity analysis, we find that these effects are greatest in peripheral suburbs and rural areas, indicating that recent immigrants in these areas have more risks of transport-related social exclusion due to reliance on insufficient transit service.

    Fig. 3. Bivariate maps of transit accessibility and density of recent immigrants.

    Towards a General Theory of Access: Video

    Levinson, D. M., & Wu, H. (2020). Towards a general theory of access. Journal of Transport and Land Use, 13(1), 129-158. https://doi.org/10.5198/jtlu.2020.1660

    This paper integrates and extends many of the concepts of accessibility deriving from Hansen’s (1959) seminal paper, and develops a theory of access that generalizes from the particular measures of access that have become increasingly common. Access is now measured for a particular place by a particular mode for a particular purpose at a particular time in a particular year. General access is derived as a theoretical ideal that would be measured for all places, all modes, all purposes, at all times, over the lifecycle of a project. It is posited that more general access measures better explain spatial location phenomena.

    The Thirty-Minute City on ABC Sydney Afternoons

    I had the pleasure of being on James Valentine’s

    Afternoons on ABC Radio on Friday (June 18, 2021)

    We discussed the thirty-minute city and related topics for about 15 minutes.

    An automated transcript is below:

    James Valentine 0:11
    You’ve been hearing for a while now that we’re going to have sort of three cities in Sydney. We’re going to have the city city, the river city of Parramatta and now the new Bradfield city, the Western Sydney parklands city, the Aerotropolis, it seems to be a city, it’s got at least three names at the moment, that Western one and there’s going to be three hubs, we’re going to be a 30 minute city, we’re gonna be able to get around this city, you’ll be able to live, you know, Jason, the paramedic, everything will be there, your job will be there, the school will be there to help services will be there and everything. So you’ll never need to leave that area, necessarily. The you may have also heard that the IBC announced a little earlier in the week that 300 or so staff will be moving to Paramount or will be based in Parramatta in a few years time that we’re in the process of looking for the right accommodation and figuring out what what would be best in that in that part of the world. So these are interesting things. And I wondered whether it was a good time to have a conversation about how successful is this going to do things like this work? When when, when an industry when something like our says yeah, when a government department or the ABC or an industry says, Okay, we’ll base ourselves here. What is it? What do we need to make that work? Do we have the infrastructure to make it work? And what effect does it have on the area? Is that a good thing? Does it you know, usually mean? Yep, this is great. The play starts to boom. And it works. I mean, there’s a big broad questions, but let’s see if we can crunch them down a little Professor David Levinson joins us. He’s from the School of Civil Engineering at the University of Sydney. He’s a very successful career looking at transport and urban infrastructure in lots of ways. He’s the author of something that’s got a dissertation that’s called probably my favorite title, “on whom the toll falls”. Yeah, a brilliant title about road road charging. Really a title of people good road charging and the like. But it’s great to have you been here for a for a conversation. Professor David Levinson. Good afternoon. Thank you for having me. I mean, you’re we’ve been sitting about four years or so now from from Minnesota. Is that right? Yes. And so do you look, I would look at the City of Sydney go. It’s pretty congested, messy, haphazard, thing, but you know that that’s grown like, like Topsy over over a couple of centuries. Now. How do you see it?

    David Levinson 3:35
    Well, I mean, it’s certainly grown fast. But all cities are messy. All cities are congested. A city that’s not congested, is probably dying. And so congestion is one of the prices for urbanity. Right? We can’t expect our infrastructure to grow as fast as our population and places that tried to invest excessively in infrastructure before the people are there are going to have a lot of white elephants, a lot of projects that aren’t aren’t well used.

    James Valentine 4:02
    Right? So. So the notion that you might think, let’s, let’s build all the metro and the schools and the parks and hope people come, that doesn’t quite work.

    David Levinson 4:11
    We don’t have the resources to do that, unless you want to not address the existing problems that are already there. You know, if, if planning were 100% accurate, and we could forecast these things perfectly sure. But that’s not the case. that’s never been the case. And, you know, you, you can’t expect the populations that were here before 1788 to have built in advance of the settlers. It just doesn’t, you know, so we have to think about what are we trying to do and try to establish some sort of concurrency between the development of land and the development of infrastructure. And once you’ve solved all the problems for your existing residents, then if you have some excess resources and want to sort of plan for our future residents We might be moving into currently greenfields undeveloped areas. That might make sense. But we clearly haven’t solved the problems for all of our existing residents. And yet we’re starting to build some infrastructure for people who don’t live here yet.

    James Valentine 5:12
    Right. So is your sense of most cities is that the it’s enough for them to play catch up.

    David Levinson 5:19
    I think most cities need to play catch up with their existing demand. Certainly a fast growing city is always going to be playing catch up. When the growth slows, you might be able to have caught up at at some point. But at that point, your city’s not really growing anymore. And I think of cities in the American Midwest. You’re Detroit’s in Cleveland, well, they probably have enough infrastructure for the population that’s there. Now, they did catch up. And then things change, because that’s what happens, things change, we can’t accurately foresee how the technology is going to change how preferences are going to change how economics are going to change. And we really need to be thinking I mean, a 40 year time horizons fine for a vision. So if you think about the plans currently out there 2056 plans they were started in 2016. That’s fine for vision, but we have to also constantly be updating and and checking those and make the next investment decision aligned with the plan. But we can’t expect to build out a 40 year plan today and just wait for those roads and train lines

    James Valentine 6:22
    fell out. Yeah. And we can’t control that within a city like Sydney, will say things like, there’ll be another million people here in 10 years old and that sort of stuff. And people will say, Well, does that have to happen? Is this also somewhat uncontrollable cities have a great gravitational pull?

    David Levinson 6:37
    Well, I mean, a city is part of a country and the national government will decide immigration levels. And obviously, unexpectedly last year, immigration levels fell. And we see cities in Australia, especially Sydney, are losing population in the past year to regional areas as there’s more out migration and then migration. Now, maybe immigration will reopen. But that’s a policy choice. And assuming that that policy choices made, may be probably those people will come to cities, because that’s where most of the economic activity still is. But there’s no guarantee of that. I mean, we could have much better telecommunications technologies in 10 or 20 years, in which case, the advantages of the city are lower than they are today. Because today, it’s still better to be in person for doing things than to do them virtually.

    James Valentine 7:30
    Yeah, that’s right. And we’ve seen that, you know, 10 years ago, if people said, Yeah, I could probably work from home and use the computer system where you couldn’t really it didn’t really work. But it wasn’t robust enough, it couldn’t carry enough.

    David Levinson 7:41
    Yeah, and I think that the shift has been, I mean, there’s been a push, obviously a force factor, which has required people to work from home more than they otherwise would. But there’s also been the enabling of technology, which is better that we had video conferencing. 15 years ago, I lived in London for a year and supervise my students from in who were in Minneapolis via Skype calls. And it worked beautifully. We had a 24 hour work schedule, and it’s like I would, you know, it’d be late at night there and early in the morning in London, and I have meetings with them. And then you know, they would do things in and they would go to sleep, but I would wake up and I would see what they done. And it was probably more efficient than us being on the same timezone. Because the response was, was taking place during their off time. So we need to think about this dynamic of telecommunications is changing, not just work for for people who work in offices, I mean, it’s also changed how we shop significantly and our social patterns. And you know, how many people do you know on the internet that you’ve never actually met in person? I mean, this is a growing phenomenon. We’ve seen from travel data that people are making fewer social trips than they used to. And our hypothesis is they’re substituting online communications. Yeah, social social media for that guy is that even pre COVID COVID. work at home was rising as well. And virtual shopping was rising as well, but obviously is a huge spike in the in the last little over a year.

    James Valentine 9:08
    At this point. He listened to what Professor David Levinson. He’s from school of civil engineer at the University of Sydney and we just joined the fat a little on some of the planning issues around Sydney and some of the ways in which we’re moving around and some of what what what was coming so this notion of the 30 minutes city is that more than a slogan is that is that a reality?

    David Levinson 9:26
    Well, it depends on what you mean by the 30 minutes city right so the the Greater Sydney Commission has a few definitions in their report, which are not all the same, but that you can reach the the destinations that you need for your daily life within a 30 minute trip by public transport or active transport, walking and biking. But that’s not guaranteed that you will have a job within 30 minutes or in your local region of Sydney. And we see today of course there’s huge tidal flows of people who come from the western parts of Sydney towards the eastern parts of Sydney because There’s more housing in the West and more jobs in the east. And until all of these areas are balanced with terms of jobs and housing, a workers and housing in each of those places are roughly equal. We’re going to continue to have those kinds of tidal flows. And so it won’t be a 30 minute city, if you live in the West and work in the next city over or if you run if you’re if you’re in Bradfield and Western Sydney or near retropolis. And you work in the City of Sydney, that’s going to be well, more than a 30 minute commute by any mode of transport at this point. Yeah. And so

    James Valentine 10:32
    is that answered by you know, we’re making a gesture of moving 300 people to to paramedic, so then those people there, if that’s their job, is there, that’s good? Could the same thing? What is the answer also, then, for other industries and ourselves to move to campbelltown, to move to the hills district,

    David Levinson 10:50
    I think some of this will happen anyway. Because as telecommunications gets better than need to pay the high rents to be in the center, go down, or you see that you own a building in the center, and you can sell it and if you don’t actually need to be there. So there’s some industries for which the technical term economies of agglomeration are really high the benefits of being near other firms within walking distance of other firms. And typically, that’s things like finance and media and advertising. And arguably government. And there’s other industries, manufacturing, for which there’s no real benefit to being adjacent to the shelter. You know, you need the space. And once upon a time, it might have been appropriate when you physically move the goods by hand or horse from one building to another. But now, since it’s by truck, you just need to be nearby. You don’t need to be adjacent to. And so we’ve seen this kind of decentralization for decades. I mean, we’ve essentially been decentralization since 1788, right? I mean, we’ve people landed at a point and then they’ve spread out. employment in the Sydney CBD is about 15% of regional employment, which, you know, is probably not as high as people imagined it is. So what was the percentage of the 15% of total workers in the Greater Sydney region work in the CBD, right? And if you count the neighborhoods adjacent to the CBD, like ultimo or piermont, or Surry Hills, it gets up to about 20%. Right? Yeah.

    James Valentine 12:21
    But when we think of it as the CBD, so there’s all these workers come in. And that’s a fairly low percentage, it’s a low percentage. I

    David Levinson 12:26
    mean, it’s bigger than any other business district. And Paramount is on the order of 2%. Right now, and Western Sydney is going to be pretty close to 0% right now. And this will change over time. But this percentage has also been declining, historically. And so in 1789, it would have been close to 100% of all jobs were in the CBD. Now, it’s it’s much fewer. So this is a long term dynamic and the shock to the system of enabling office workers to work from home full time, but you know, maybe they’ll go back two days a week or three days a week? we don’t we don’t know yet. I mean, it’s still, I mean, we’re a year and a half into this. And public transit, which is basically a measure of how many people are going into the central business district is still below 70% of its pre COVID levels, indicates that it’s probably some kind of permanent effect. And yeah, and I think that’s going to be you know, an issue for people who own real estate and CBD who own businesses in the CBD and so on that, that it’s going to be harder for them in the future to generate as much money as they used

    James Valentine 13:32
    to So will it just happen all the deliberate moves and deliberate infrastructures have to put in nothing if something like the metro out to the to the northwest and that you know, huge industrial park and and business park out there, which major firms have their head office set up? Now? That’s a it’s made to be some, you know, some planners sitting down guy, put the trail on there, build that thing there, you know, that’ll boom, that area, it’s the same source, is that what they never aerotropolis look like? Yeah, I

    David Levinson 13:56
    mean, there has to be there. There are 1000s of deliberate decisions I think is the way you need to think about it and and ABC moving offices from ultimo to Parramatta is, is one of many of these kinds of decisions that will take place over next decades. That will help adjust the regional balance of jobs and and workers and ultimately reduce commute times overall. giving people more freedom. But you know, the question I mean, you physically are working in a building, I physically work in a building, but how often do you actually have to be here? It’s better if we’re in the building, perhaps but is I

    James Valentine 14:34
    very much have to be here between 1230 and 330. In the audition, sure, but I mean, at

    David Levinson 14:38
    the peak of COVID lots of reporters and working at home and makeshift studios and sound quality wasn’t quite as good. And, you know, obviously there were other issues associated with that. It’s better to be interviewed in person than it is to be interviewed over the phone. So these kinds of what actually needs to be done in person versus what can be done remotely is going to be needed. Oceana is going to be steadily changing as telecommunications technology gets better as more deals are built

    James Valentine 15:04
    as more software is made, once your report card on how Sydney’s handling all this in the moment,

    David Levinson 15:09
    Sydney is doing pretty well, overall, I mean, compared to say, how Europe, the United States did over the last, you know, your year and a half? I think we’re being a little bit, perhaps overcautious on some things.

    James Valentine 15:25
    Also, this is with the with COVID. You’ve been with Calvin sort of in general is our is that is that getting that road? that balance? Right, between the long term planning and the short term investment, for example, is that sort of, we’re getting it I think,

    David Levinson 15:37
    I think we make transport decisions based on assuming the land use is fixed. And we make land use decisions based on assuming the transport is fixed. And we’re not really taking these decisions together in the way that we could, I mean, we, we should be planning for access and trying to see, you know, the city is measured by how many things you can reach. And we know that a function of where things are located as well as how fast you can move on a network to get there. We want to be able to we should be planning for that directly. And right now, the planning is is somewhat fractured for that. And we also are there’s sort of a mismatch between who gets the benefits from infrastructure decisions and who’s paying for the infrastructure. If you build a train station, and somebody owns land adjacent to it, they get a huge uplift in value, but they didn’t really pay for the full costs of the benefits they’re receiving. Yeah.

    James Valentine 16:29
    David Levinson great to get some time with you. Thanks so much for coming in. All right. Fight faces. Great. So nice to meet you, Professor David Levinson from the School of Civil Engineering at the University of Sydney. We’ll talk about employment and wage growth with with David Taylor in a moment or two ABC business reporter. I asked him if there was a song he wanted to sort of intro and he said I am in this one I want to groove into Michelle Pfeiffer that white. This was a masterpiece. Living in the city got Chuck was saying we got a kiss. So pretty. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Hallelujah. Don’t give it to you. Believe images

    How does the commute to work in Australia compare to overseas? | ABC Radio Perth

    I was interviewed by ABC Radio Perth On Breakfast with Russell Woolf about “How does the commute to work in Australia compare to overseas?” on June 10.

    When choosing a place to live one of the first things you consider is proximity to work. The less time you spend sitting on public transport or in traffic the more time you have to do other things.

    New research by the University of Sydney has compared the commute to work in more than a hundred cities worldwide, including 8 from Australia, by measuring the number of jobs that can be reached within 30 minutes.

    So how do Australian cities stack up?

    • David Levinson is a Professor of Transport at the University of Sydney and is speaking with Russell Woolf.

    Duration: 3min 52sec
    Broadcast: Thu 10 Jun 2021, 7:00am

    MP3

    Reviving our city centres | ABC RadioNational Life Matters

    I was on ABC RadioNational Life Matters on June 10 talking about the topic “Reviving our city centres“, hosted by Hilary Harper

    Our Prime Minister has urged workers to head back to the office, in a bid to increase economic activity in CBDs. But it’s become less common for us to go to our city centres for work and pleasure, and that might be an ongoing trend.

    So what works best in your life – ‘CBD centric’ or more decentralised, ‘polycentric’ cities? And what will all this mean for city businesses?

    Guests:

    Dr Marcus Spiller, Principal & Partner SGS Economics and Planning and past president of Planning Institute of Australia

    David Levinson, Professor of Transport, University of Sydney

    Duration: 21min 2sec
    Broadcast: Thu 10 Jun 2021, 9:06am

    MP3 File

    New housing supply, population growth and access to social infrastructure

    We are pleased to publish the following new AHURI report today.

     

     

    Report Title

    New housing supply, population growth and access to social infrastructure

    AHURI Final Report No.356

     

     

    Authors

     

     
    Somwrita Sarkar, The University of Sydney
    Emily Moylan, The University of Sydney
    Hao Wu, The University of Sydney
    Rashi Shrivastava, The University of Sydney
    Nicole Gurran, The University of Sydney
    David Levinson, The University of Sydney
     
    What this research is about?

     

     

    This study focusses on the potential to better inform the planning, scheduling, delivery, maintenance, and coordination of social infrastructure in the rapidly growing greenfield areas of major Australian cities through the use of big data sources and techniques. The research focusses on greenfield areas of Sydney, Brisbane and Perth greater metropolitan regions to demonstrate data sources and methods that can be replicated in other locations.

     
    This study used several novel data sources to develop a monitoring and coordination tool that enables mapping of fine spatial scale accessibility for various social infrastructure dimensions. The tool is used to demonstrate accessibility to schools and hospitals, including their hierarchical distributions. The authors also conducted a panel discussion and workshop with several local and state government officials, along with private industry consultants and practitioners, to reveal how the tool could be beneficial in different policy and planning contexts.
     
    Findings indicated that social and community infrastructure is critical to the effective functioning of rapidly growing urban regions, but lag times between population growth and new infrastructure delivery are pervasive in new greenfield development areas. The research also found timely fine-grained spatial data is critical to informing and measuring performance in spatial planning and infrastructure delivery processes, but existing datasets are limited.
     
    This study breaks new ground, as it extends the idea of accessibility to social infrastructure as a critical facility to support daily life.

     

       
     

    Towards the 30-minute city — how Australians’ commutes compare with cities overseas

    Reprinted from The Conversation by Hao Wu and David Levinson

    The ease of reaching urban amenities underpins city life. We led a global research team that compared access to jobs in 117 cities across the globe, including eight capital cities in Australia, and examined strategies that might improve transport in our cities. The newly published research finds access to jobs increases with population and that our two largest cities, Sydney and Melbourne, compare favourably with similarly sized cities overseas.

    Transport infrastructure and land use patterns form the backbone of a city. It’s the reason so many people choose to live and work with other people in cities – despite the noise, congestion and negatives of city life – because they can easily reach a variety of destinations. Towards this objective, many planning agencies set themselves a “30-minute city” goal, which is behind many planning decisions.

    heat map showing number of jobs accessible within 30 minutes across Greater Sydney

    Heat map showing access to jobs across Greater Sydney. Red denotes more jobs and green fewer jobs within 30 minutes’ travel time. Author provided

    Read more: Access across Australia: mapping 30-minute cities, how do our capitals compare?


    What did the study find?

    The ease of reaching destinations can be measured by the number of jobs reachable within 30 minutes. Job locations offer both employment opportunities and amenities; restaurants, schools, hospitals, shopping centres and so on are also job clusters.

    The research measured how many jobs were accessible within 30 minutes (travelling one way) for four different modes of transport – cars, public transport, cycling and walking. The 117 cities studied are in 16 countries on six continents. The research finds cities really differ in the convenience of transport, but also finds significant similarities between cities from the same country.

    Australian and Canadian cities have poorer car access than US, European and Chinese cities. They have better public transport, walking and cycling access than US cities, but access via these modes is generally not as good as in Europe and China.

    Cities in the United States have reasonable car access, but lag behind globally in public transport, walking and cycling access.

    Chart showing numbers of jobs accessible within 30 minutes' cycling plotted against population for global cities.

    Number of jobs accessible within 30 minutes’ cycling plotted against population for global cities. Urban Access Across the Globe 2021Author provided

    In Chinese and European cities, compact development combined with an intensive network produces the highest access globally across all modes of transport.

    Chart showing number of jobs accessible within 30 minutes’ walking plotted against population for global cities.

    Number of jobs accessible within 30 minutes’ walking plotted against population for global cities. Urban Access Across the Globe 2021Author provided

    One surprising finding is the middling car access in US cities. Despite the reputation of US cities being built around the car, urban sprawl has made it difficult to reach destinations even by car.

    Chart showing numbers of jobs accessible within 30 minutes' drive by car plotted against population for global cities.

    Number of jobs accessible within 30 minutes by car plotted against population for global cities. Urban Access Across the Globe 2021Author provided

    This sprawl also exposes the Achilles heel in mass transit and non-motorised modes. Immense spatial separation makes for worse access by public transport and active modes of transport such as cycling and walking. US cities have the largest disparity between public transport and car travel.

    Chart showing number of jobs accessible within 30 minutes by public transport plotted against population for global cities.

    Number of jobs accessible within 30 minutes by public transport plotted against population for global cities. Urban Access Across the Globe 2021Author provided

    This research also finds access to jobs increases with city population, so reaching a greater number of desired destinations would be easier for people in larger cities than in smaller cities. So, despite traffic congestion, larger cities are still more efficient in connecting people with places they want to go.

    However, this benefit has diminishing returns. Doubling the metropolitan population results in less than a doubling of access to jobs.

    What are the lessons for Australian cities?

    The moral of the story is that we don’t need to choose between the US-style sprawling development and European-style compact cities. We can and should have the benefits of both development patterns. We need both density and a well-developed transport network for better access.

    Massive road building alone can improve access by car to only a limited extent. The problem is that investments in road infrastructure are often accompanied by lower-density development. That makes it harder for people who walk, bike or use public transport to reach increasingly separated places.

    In cities that do have compact land-use patterns, access to jobs remain high across all modes of transport, including cars. So, despite congestion, it is still easier to reach desired destinations in these compact cities. Roads are not race tracks, and high-speed roadways connecting nobody with nowhere are not better than lower-speed paths connecting people and places.

    The Australian government is investing A$110 billion over the next ten years in transport infrastructure. This will have significant implications for the future of our cities. If we want our cities to continue to be vibrant, liveable and accessible by all modes of transport, we will need to keep our cities compact and invest more in public transport, walking and biking.