Australian cities rank poorly in mobility

Australia’s major cities fare badly in a recently released global ranking of mobility – how well they allow their citizens to move around.

The ranking of 100 global cities, the ‘Sustainable Cities Mobility Index 2017: Bold Moves’, was published by Arcadis, a major Dutch engineering and management consultancy. Each city is rated on three factors: People (how the system affects those using it), Planet (environmental measures), and Profit (economic aspects, including commute times).

Overall, Brisbane is the most highly rated Australian city, in 48th position globally. Sydney is 51st, Canberra 53rd, Melbourne 55th, and Perth a lowly 87th (Adelaide was not rated).

First on the list was Hong Kong, followed by Zurich, Paris, Seoul and Prague. All Australian cities rated worse than what we might regard as less developed cities, such as Chennai, Macau and Sao Paulo.

It is not a function of population. Megacities like Paris (3rd) and Tokyo (13th) rated well, as did much smaller cities such as Prague, Lyon and Dublin. Australia did about as well as many US cities, with Middle Eastern cities at the bottom of the list (the last for places were Jeddah, Amman, Riyadh and Kuwait City).

“Most Australian cities sit in around the middle of the overall Index,” says the report. “A lack of comprehensive underground metro systems and dependence on private vehicles deters mobility in Australian cities, and all have less travel made by foot, bike and public transport than their peer cities.

“Greater utilisation of urban public transport would improve mobility in cities like Perth and Canberra. Promisingly, underground train networks are being expanded in Sydney and Melbourne, and under consideration in Brisbane.”

Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane all have short analyses in the report:


While Sydney is well on its way to global city status, its middle-of-the-road ranking in this Index reflects historic under-investment in mass transit, compounded by increasingly rapid population growth – the city’s population topped five million for the first time in early 2017.

Some of Sydney’s lacklustre performance can be attributed to the high concentration of professionals traveling into the CBD, which is on the city’s eastern coastal edge and a significant distance from Sydney’s geographical centre.

While initiatives from the Greater Sydney Commission and State Department of Infrastructure are driving the development of multiple business hubs, it will be some time before the benefits of these schemes are realised.

Further impacting Sydney’s mobility performance are a cultural preference for single-family dwellings and a legacy of urban sprawl, coupled with Sydney’s ranking as the second least affordable city for housing globally. These factors result in a high proportion of residents undertaking long daily commutes, thereby putting further pressure on congested suburban road and rail networks.


Melbourne has a reputation as a thriving city with strong business, cultural and sporting sectors. Melbourne has become known as the world’s most liveable city, yet it ranks 55th in the Index.

One of the largest factors affecting Melbourne’s mobility is its rapid recent growth. It is projected that Melbourne’s population will double to around eight million in the next generation, overtaking Sydney as Australia’s largest city.

Expanding fast and with high house prices in the city centre – Melbourne has the fifth least affordable housing market in the world – the city is increasingly reliant on long-range transport options.

Melbourne boasts the world’s largest tram and light rail network and has recently begun the development of a cross-city Metro. This will help to free up the train network and enable more commuters to use public transport.

Melbourne performed relatively well in the People sub-indicator compared with Australian cities (second to Sydney). This is despite the fact that the city does not yet have a functioning Metro network; a situation that will improve upon its completion.

Melbourne already has a digital ticketing system and public transport mobile applications. Further digitisation will ensure continued improvements to the mobility of the city.


Brisbane ranks highest out of all the Australian cities in the Index.

As the capital of Queensland, Brisbane is Australia’s third-largest city and has the most rapid population growth rate of any capital city in Australia. Established as a port within the Brisbane River, the city offers a laid-back urban lifestyle which is subtropical, creative and sustainable.

Benefitting from a diverse trade industry based on aviation, sea ports and expanding industries, Brisbane also profits from its position as the gateway to Queensland’s education and tourism industry and is a huge pull for the world’s creative and knowledge economies.

Its residents and visitors enjoy an exceptional quality of life amidst the natural beauty of Australia’s eastern coast. However, despite ranking top in Australia, Brisbane still has work to do to strengthen its infrastructure and to remain attractive, liveable, and mobile.

Chronic underinvestment in public transport has seen the city, alongside its southern counterparts, suffer on the global mobility stage. The mobility sub-indices show that, not only does Brisbane need to find better ways to fund public transport, it must also ensure any existing and new public transport developments are affordable and sustainable.

The report is available here.


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