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What does “Peak Car Use” mean for the smaller Australian cities

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In this first Blog entry for LUTI Consulting, we will present some analysis of the latest data from the BITRE Australian Infrastructure Handbook (2013)[1]. Australian cities are often refered to as car dependent, with the car holding the highest mode share of all the modes since not long after the second world war.


In his book titled “Great Cities and their traffic”, J. Michael Thomson, (1977), he presents and excellent diagnosis of the “urban transport problem”, where he states a city’s transport system results from the economic pricing of its amenities and externalities. The nature and scale of the city’s urban transport problem can be analysed in terms of the following factors:

  • City population
  • Number of jobs in the CBD
  • Travel intensity (VKT/city area)
  • Length of Public transport lines (km)
  • Length of Urban Road
  • Car ownership
  • Car use (VKT/capita)
  • PT use (# Boardings per capita)

Australian cities are going through a fundamental change in behaviour related their car use, which initially started internationally in 2004, where the next generation of drivers, Gen-Y, started getting their drivers licences at a much lower rate than any previous generation, and they started using public transport far more than Gen-X or the Baby Boomer generations before them. This trend has been called “Peak Car Use”.

This drop off in car vehicle kilometres travelled per capita (VKT/capita), and resultant (but noticably not propotional) increases in Public Transport Kilometres per capita occuring mainly in the rail transit cities of Melbourne and Perth, with Sydney’s transport system not keepin up with population growth over the same period.



So what does this mean for Australia’s smaller cities?  We need to start by encouraging the Commonwealth Government to stop investing the nation’s future in bigger urban roads, (which the current and next generations of Australians are choosing to use less and less) and shift his attention to high quality, efficient and effective public transit to meet Australia’s current and future transport needs.


[1] Australian Population (Table 1 1.5a), Total Pass. Km (Tables T 3.3a-i),