Breaking the cycle: improving public transport access in the outer suburbs

Over four million people who live in the outer suburbs of Australia’s capital cities lack adequate access to public transport services, according to a new report by the nation’s independent infrastructure advisory body, Infrastructure Australia.

Australia’s population is forecast to grow by 11 million over the next 30 years, with around 80 per cent of this growth occurring in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide. A large portion of the population increase will be accommodated in the fringe, low-density suburbs of these cities.

A report released by Infrastructure Australia (IA) in October 2018, Outer Urban Public Transport: Improving accessibility in lower-density areas, assesses the frequency and accessibility of public transport services in Australia’s major cities, which are experiencing a rapid expansion in their population.

Over the last several decades, these suburbs have rapidly expanded outward, with more and more people living further and further away from public transport access, rail links in particular.

This state of affairs, according to the IA report, is leading to wide-ranging problems.

“The expansion of our cities away from public transport routes, particularly high-capacity railways, has resulted in a range of challenges, particularly around access to jobs, services and leisure activities,” the report says.

According to the report, with the growth of the “knowledge economy”, high-value jobs are increasingly moving away from the outer suburbs and clustering in the centres of cities. This is compounding the congestion already experienced on urban road networks across the country.

Drawing on the findings of its recent Future Cities report, the new IA report states that accessing jobs via car will steadily become more and more difficult, while public transport is to provide an increasingly important role.

The report details a new spatial analysis which compares the transport behaviours and jobs accessibility of inner, middle and outer areas of Australia’s five largest cities. Two key trends emerge in this analysis: (1) Outer suburbs are at significant disadvantage when it comes to public transport access and face long travel times and distances to major employment centres; (2) those living in outer suburbs use public transport less frequently than those living closer to city centres, and are more likely to drive in order to access jobs and services.

The report found that approximately four million people in Australia’s five largest cities are not within reasonable walking distance of public transport services. Further, they take much longer to get to work every day: 45 per cent of people living in outer-city areas travel more than 20 kilometres to get to work, while only seven per cent of those living in inner-city areas travel as far.

And, in addition to time spent in travel, lack of access to public transport has a deeper economic and social impact. “As a result, people residing in these areas have become more reliant on private vehicles,” the report states. “Subsequently, they pay more for operating their vehicles and have less money to spend on other household expenses.”

On the release of the report, Peter Colacino, IA’s executive director of policy research, said existing transport infrastructure in major cities was outside the reach of many communities living in the outer suburbs, leading to poorer access to job and educational opportunities.

“In Melbourne, more than 1.4 million people fall into this category, with more than 1 million in Sydney and Brisbane, half a million people in Perth and 200,000 people in Adelaide,” Colacino said.

“In the past, it has been very costly to deliver public transport in lower density, outer suburban areas where houses and employment centres are typically spread over large distances. As a result, people prefer to take the most direct route by driving, rather than taking a train or bus – adding to congestion in our growing cities.”


One of Sydney’s newest train stations at Leppington.


According to the report, the absence of quality public transport options in the outer suburbs leads to the development of “vicious cycle of policy challenge” for governments. First, as public transport receives little investment in these areas, it is often of poorer quality, leading to more people preferring car transport. Second, this pattern of low-usage, and the higher costs of running longer routes through spread-out, lower density areas means governments have lower recovery costs, which makes investment less economical.

And lack of investment leads, once again, to poorer quality public transport options.

The report calls on state governments to improve the efficiency of existing transport networks and consider new models, such as on-demand buses and share-riding, to complement traditional transport modes such as rail. These models, it states, could break the cycle outlined above by providing cost-effective public transport options for people living in lower- density areas.

“If incorporated into integrated transport networks, new transport models – such as on-demand services and sharing – can provide attractive services to areas of low transport demand,” the report claims.

“Additionally, governments must focus more on encouraging interchanging between transport services and modes particularly in areas of low density, where direct services cannot be provided in a cost-effective way.”

Colacino said that this would improve the flexibility and reach of transport networks and enable them to better service communities living in outer suburbs.

“We also want governments and transport operators to do more to encourage people to transfer between public transport services, which helps to increase the flexibility and reach of the network,” Colacino said.

“This includes investing in well-designed interchanges, extending integrated ticketing systems to new modes, and introducing fare incentives that actively encourage people to transfer between modes to get to their destination.”

According to federal cities and urban infrastructure minister, Alan Tudge, IA’s report is a welcome examination of what needed to be done to improve transport access in Australia’s outer suburbs.

“Having effective public transport connections is critical in providing access to jobs and services – maintaining our cities as liveable, thriving and vibrant economic centres – and the Government welcomes IA’s contribution to this important debate,” Tudge said.

Tudge claimed the federal government’s infrastructure investment program was a step towards achieving better access in outer-urban areas.

“The Coalition are investing significantly in public transport for urban areas across Australia’s major cities as part of our $75 billion commitment to transport infrastructure,” he said. “These investments provide huge benefits for commuters in outer suburban areas who so often have to spend long periods of time stuck in traffic to get to work.”

However, according to Greens senator and transport spokesperson Janet Rice, outer suburban residents have been neglected, with successive governments failing to invest in quality public transport.

“This report shows just how successive Liberal and Labor governments around the country have failed to properly plan transport solutions for people in outer suburban areas, who are stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic jams for several hours a day,” Rice said.

“People are crying out for accessible, reliable and affordable public transport. Instead we have governments throwing money into expensive, polluting toll roads that do nothing to solve congestion and mean that people living in the outer suburbs have no other option but to drive.”

Rice said investments needed to be targeted to provide a fully-integrated public transport system across different modes.

“We have to make sure public transport is planned properly. It’s not just a matter of announcing big flashy projects. We need comprehensive integrated transport plans across the country that prioritise public transport, and walking and cycling.”

The merits or otherwise of the current federal government’s transport investment program notwithstanding, IA’s new report states that governments need to ensure public transport operates as a coordinated network, rather than as a series of individual routes. “Smarter” network planning, new technology, greater availability of data and new trends in shared consumption, the report concludes, can offer an opportunity to break the vicious cycle of low accessibility of public transport in Australia’s cities.

“Governments have a broad range of policy options available to them for improving public transport in lower-density outer suburbs. As our cities grow and expand, governments will need to look at all options to ensure future generations have access to the jobs and the crucial services they require.”

KiwiRail providing live data for GDP tracking platform

New Zealand operator KiwiRail says real-time reporting on freight volumes and movements will inform a live economic growth tracker being launched by Massey University.

KiwiRail says it will be providing the data to GDPLive, a tracking system launched on December 17 by the university.

KiwiRail Group general manager for sales and commercial, Alan Piper, said the operator moves 18 million tonnes of freight each year, representing roughly 16 per cent of the country’s freight task.

“As a critical part of New Zealand’s freight transport network, KiwiRail is able to provide data that helps provide a picture of how our economy is performing,” Piper said.

“We transport around 25% of New Zealand’s exports so we’re a vital part of the bigger picture being presented by this initiative, which is thought to be the first of its kind in the world.”

The GDPLive system is designed to use machine-learning algorithms and live data sources, to give the user an estimate of how the economy is performing on a daily basis.

Users can view historic data, current national and regional GDP figures and forecasts, as well as getting an overview of the performance of a large range of industry sectors.

Along with KiwiRail, the platform is being informed by payment transaction data, container movements through Ports of Auckland and Ports of Tauranga, traffic flows, immigration and import/export data.

Harnessing processing power to develop smarter train assembly

Terence Vu sees a future where robots can work out the best way to assemble rollingstock components. The PhD student spoke with Rail Express about his project.

With research co-funded by the University of Wollongong and the Rail Manufacturing CRC, Terence Vu is working to advance the field of automated assembly for rollingstock fabrication.

Put simply, Vu wants machines to determine the best way to assemble components by learning and adapting to new processes on the fly.

“Traditionally in manufacturing, people program robots the step-by-step process to manufacture a part,” Vu explains. “But any time they have a new component, they have to program that additional component again.”

In Vu’s version of the ‘factory of the future’, that engineer would simply provide inputs and a desired result – a 3D model – and the robot would establish the steps required to get there.

“My PhD project is aiming to develop a certain brain for the robot to ‘think for itself ’, where it can determine how to assemble a product from many individual parts,” he says.

“When the parts are brought together, we want the robot to consider lots of constraints from the assembly configurations. We also want other requirements such as the assembly stability and the part’s tolerance to be considered, before making a decision regarding the sequence, and the path to bring those parts together into the final product.”

For every new part or assembly, the machine would be able to adapt and adjust to ensure its process was the most efficient possible, given the constraints.

Vu’s PhD research combines physics, mathematics, engineering and artificial intelligence. Given the large number of potential assembly routes to take, running software simulations helps to select the quickest, safest and most tolerant route when assembling components. The algorithms Vu builds currently work to assemble virtual components, but in the future may be trialled and adapted to be a real-world rail scenario.

Vu says this kind of capability is thanks to recent developments in computing power, and research, specifically within the field of artificial intelligence.

“In recent years, people started to think of many ways to present the different constraints and data efficiently, so the robot can make use of that information,” he says. “And certain algorithms have made the process faster as well.”

With an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering and a Masters in Design Engineering, Vu gained industry experience working in robotics at the Rolls-Royce@NTU Corporate Lab – a collaboration between Rolls-Royce and Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, before relocating to Australia to pursue his PhD studies and continue progressing his passion in robotics.

Vu believes technology like this has a future not only in manufacturing, but in the maintenance and repair side of the rail industry. He says more students should be encouraged to enter the rail sector.

“I think the rail industry is very lively and very colourful,” he says. “It serves and employs people from all walks of life, and I believe that people of any disciplines can participate and contribute to this industry.”

The Rail Manufacturing CRC (Cooperative Research Centre) sponsors and directs collaborative research and commercialisation partnerships in rail manufacturing. It pairs researchers with commercial businesses, with the aim of furthering the rail manufacturing sector within Australia.

The Rail Manufacturing CRC also supports the next generation of rail leaders, with more than 30 students supported across industry projects, scholarships and internships run by the Centre.

For more information, visit:

The CSIRO model shaping future supply chain strategies

Rail Express spoke with the CSIRO about the model aiming to quantify and map out constraints across Australia’s vast supply chains.

Agricultural production in northern NSW and southern Queensland comprises a diverse array of commodity types, including sheep, pigs, grains, cotton, dairy, and horticulture.

Road and rail networks, and the processing and storage facilities along them, form the lifeline of these regional industries, linking farms to foreign markets via the Port of Newcastle and the Port of Brisbane, and various domestic markets across Australia.

Distances of over 1,000 kilometres between production, processing and the marketplace are a regular feature of Australian supply chains, with transport costs often making up approximately 40 per cent of the market price.

For producers trying to get their goods to processing and storage facilities, or directly to market, this complex of transportation networks, and their varying constraints and advantages in different locations, can make logistical decisions difficult.

The Transport Network Strategic Investment Tool, or TraNSIT, was first developed by the CSIRO in 2012 and 2013 under commission from federal and state governments to identify bottlenecks in livestock supply-chains across northern NSW and southern Queensland.

Today, it now covers 98 per cent of all agricultural and horticultural supply chains.

The TraNSIT model serves to map out and quantify the various constraints affecting supply chains. Since 2012, the CSIRO has collaborated with more than a hundred different industry associations and government agencies to gain access to datasets from industry and government.

“In relation to rail transport, TraNSIT has mostly been applied to grain supply chains so far,” said Dr Andrew Higgins, the CSIRO’s lead researcher working with the tool.

“It looks at the potential benefits of upgrading loading facilities and improving load times, and the impacts of future train configurations – how longer trains with more locomotives and higher axle-load limits can improve supply chain efficiency.”

In the rail sector, the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC) has used the tool to support its work on the Hunter Valley rail network, where it has been focussed on leveraging the significant expenditure within its heavy haul network to benefit wider regional supply chains.

Over the past three years, the ARTC has introduced a number of initiatives to encourage modal shift to rail, including the lifting of axles loads and train lengths across the Intrastate network corridors between Dubbo-Gulgong and Narrabri-Moree.

In carrying out these initiatives, the ARTC has worked close with rail operators at the agricultural sector to determine the impediments to the utilisation of rail.  And, using the TraNSIT tool, the ARTC has been able to quantify the total transport costs for these agricultural commodities over their whole journeys, based not only on individual trip costs but across total production and likely end market destination, demonstrating the benefits of these upgrade projects and pointing towards further solutions.

“The tool itself can not only indicate which infrastructure is the limiting factor but will give a transport cost (road or rail) according the route taken and the maximum payload and time taken for a for a specific route,” ARTC’s business development manager Michael Clancy said.

“Individual infrastructure owners can then apply different parameters to test if a particular infrastructure change will provide an economic benefit great enough to proceed with further investigation or project initiation.”

According to Clancy, the key advantage of TraNSIT is its ability to easily test scenarios across transport mode and commodity-type, providing a visual demonstration of cost impacts and outcomes.

“All supply chains will eventually follow the least cost path to market, and while it may not currently include handling costs incurred during modal transfer, the tool can definitely provide insight into how lower payloads or increased transit time impacts on the cost of moving products,” Clancy said.

“For ARTC, it assists on not only what we can directly change on our asset but how we can work with our supply chain partners and governments to provide solutions.  Some of these solutions are not necessarily purely infrastructure related, some are operational and supply chain coordination related that impact time or reliability.”

Overall, TraNSIT is in its early stages regarding its possible applications within the rail industry. Nonetheless there are expectations that further opportunities would arise with the continued accumulation of commodity data.

“I think historically we’ve been limited in our ability to rapidly test scenarios and seek a coordinated response to supply chain issues,” Clancy said.

“The relatively long life of rolling stock, and the intergenerational permanency of rail infrastructure projects mean that we can use the tool to make better informed design and purchase decisions.”

Among the benefits of the tool is its ability to definitely demonstrate the benefits of improving road access to modal transfer locations, including the unit cost for stopping multi-combinational vehicles from transiting through built up areas to rail heads.

“We have situations across the country where truck drivers are required to un-hitch trailers on the outskirts of town and make two trips to a transfer goods,” Clancy explained.

“TraNSIT can not only identify unit costs, but the total cost for all product transported through the area, providing valuable information to both industry and councils as to the additional costs being incurred.”

Indeed, recently the TraNSIT has begun to be used by shire councils in northern NSW and southern Queensland to quantify how transport regulatory change and upgrades to roads, rail and other supply-chain infrastructure can boost the efficiency of the transportation of goods.

“Councils often have particular locations that have been earmarked for potential freight hubs,” Higgins said. “For example, the tool can tell us – with given inputs such as location, particular loading facilities and road linkages – what can be benefits of using a potential freight intermodal hub over a road-only system for supply chains of cotton or gains or other commodities,” Higgins said.

The impacts of possible future improvements to rail networks were among the aspects explored by a TraNSIT study conducted by the CSIRO in collaboration with ARTC. It found that some facilities in the southern Queensland and northern NSW regions are limited by train and wagon size.

The study points to improvements that could be made in the future with longer, faster trains with higher capacity and with upgrades to roads that supply grain to these sites, pointing towards better integration between roads and rail. Savings of up to $10 per tonne could be made, it found, by moving from 42-wagon to 76-wagon bulk freight trains with a faster loading time of five hours.

“The TraNSIT tool is being used to look at the areas in which Inland Rail can be beneficial in terms of the overall supply chain versus purely using road,” Higgins said. “We can use it to find out where the biggest benefits will be for industry and supply chains to use the rail corridor.”

Inland Rail

With construction soon to begin on the 1,700-kilometre Inland Rail freight rail line between Brisbane and Melbourne, collaborative work is now underway between the Department of Infrastructure Regional Development and Cities and the CSIRO to explore the use of the TraNSIT model in building an understanding of regional supply chains, helping industry make the most of the project’s opportunities.

Called the Inland Rail Supply Chain Mapping Pilot Project, it will build on previous TraNSIT studies while expanding its application to the future Parkes to Narromine section of the Inland Rail project.

“The Australian government is committed to working with industry and the regions to realise the benefits from the delivery of Inland Rail as it moves towards construction in 2018. This is another step toward delivering this significant investment in Australia’s freight future,” federal transport minister Michael McCormack said.

“The Inland Rail Supply Chain Mapping Pilot Project will be informed by local community leaders and supply chain participants. The Australian government will work closely with state governments and local councils to ensure the project informs planning and freight network strategies.”

The hope is that this application of TraNSIT will further demonstrate how Inland Rail will reduce transportation costs and become a catalyst for further business investment and a subsequent revival in regional rail transport, not only between Melbourne to Brisbane but throughout regional Australia.

“The project will involve taking information about supply chains as they are and mapping them using the future planned Inland Rail corridor,” the CSIRO’s Andrew Higgins said. “It will focus on movements that will use particular parts of the corridor, and it will also look at what the potential is for different types of commodities that currently are transported via road to be put on the rail corridor.”

It will also test the potentials of surrounding, complementary upgrades – such as road improvements – in heightening the benefits of Inland Rail.

A CSIRO/ARTC study into northern NSW’s cotton industry using TraNSIT indicated the enhanced competitiveness of Inland Rail.

The baseline cost of rail transport was calculated at $8.65 million per year or $234/tonne. With the introduction of Inland rail, the rail transport cost reduces to $5.77 million per year or $156/tonne or a potential 33% transport cost reduction.

The ARTC’s Michael Clancy said that TraNSIT could help illuminate the benefits of Inland Rail and the problems it might be able to address via the development of supply chain strategies, especially in a context of continuing difficult climatic conditions throughout regional NSW and Queensland.

“We are currently experiencing one of the worst droughts in history within NSW and Queensland and seeing grain transported from South Australia to Northern NSW in 3000t payloads,” Clancy said.

“Inland Rail will enable +6000t payloads on 1:100 grades. In a normal season where will feed grain be sourced from? Will high grade, high protein, high value wheat still be trucked from the Golden Triangle between Northstar & Weemalah or will it be railed from Victoria direct to feedlots or distribution hubs?

“These are some of the questions that TraNSIT can assist in providing key understandings and with cooperation across industry drive solutions.”

Shipping containers. Photo: Shutterstock

Common data set could save Australian supply chain $1bn a year

A new discussion paper from the Australian Logistics Council calls for a common data set for Australia’s supply chains.

The paper, released on October 23, examines how the power of technology and data can best be harnessed to enhance supply chain efficiency for businesses and consumers.

It cites an industry pilot study which estimated the overall economic benefit to Australia through the widespread adoption of Global Data Standards (GDS) at a billion dollars per annum.

“Plainly, technology and data will play a pivotal role in in the future operation of Australia’s supply chains, allowing Australia to meet its rapidly growing freight task more safely and efficiently,” ALC interim chief Lachlan Benson said.

“However, to make certain that happens, there is a significant amount of work to be done to improve the quality and availability of data available to policy makers and industry participants regarding the operation and performance of our supply chains.”

The ALC developed the discussion paper with input from its Technology Committee.

Benson said the paper sets out a practical pathway to achieve a common data set, via a series of recommendations to address crucial issues.

“Actions include improving supply chain visibility, developing a common data standard for Australia’s logistics industry, enhancing confidence regarding the privacy and ownership of data, and aligning international data standards to boost efficiency in global trade,” Benson said.

“There are substantial economic benefits to be realised by focussing on these issues, as was clearly recognised by the ALC Board when it endorsed the adoption of GDS by logistics industry participants earlier this year.”

AutoHaul moving almost half of Rio’s iron ore

Rio Tinto is averaging 34 autonomous trains every day on its Pilbara network, and AutoHaul trains now make up 45 percent of daily rail kilometres for the miner’s iron ore operations.

Rio revealed the figures in its September quarterly report, released on October 16.

“The automation of the Pilbara train system (AutoHaul) is in ramp-up, with a steady increase in the number of trains in autonomous mode over the third quarter,” the miner told the ASX.

“Autonomous mode operations have increased to an average of 34 trains per day, equating to 290,000 kilometres (or 45 percent of daily kilometres) completed in this mode.”

The ramp-up is significant, considering the first AutoHaul train ran in mid-July.

Rio said it expects to fully implement the AutoHaul program by the end of 2018.

The mining company’s Pilbara iron ore operation produced 82.5 million tonnes in the third quarter, down 3 percent year-on-year and 3 percent compared to quarter two.

Rio said the production dip was due to “planned maintenance cycles,” as well as safety pauses across the entire operation after a truck operator was fatally injured at the Paraburdoo mine on August 15.

ARA to develop partnership with British rail association

The Australasian Railway Association and the UK’s Railway Industry Association have agreed to work more closely together to benefit rail supply industries in both companies.

The ARA and RIA announced their new Memorandum of Understanding at InnoTrans in Berlin on September 19.

Together, the associations represent roughly 360 members. The sides said they share many common interests and deliver common services in their markets, which face similar opportunities and challenges.

“Both the UK and Australian rail sectors are expected to see continued significant investment in rail, but face issues recruiting new entrants into the rail industry, upskilling those already in the sector, smoothing out rail funding pipelines, and promoting the benefits of rail as a key driver of economic growth,” the associations said in a joint statement.

Chief executive Danny Broad said the new allegiance would provide benefits to all members of the ARA.

“It’s an extremely exciting time to be in the rail industry in Australia and New Zealand with investment in new rail infrastructure and rollingstock over the next fifteen years forecast to be around $100 billion,” Broad said.

“Working and collaborating with the RIA on common industry challenges will provide consolidation of ideas for possible suitable outcomes for the rail sectors covered by both the ARA and RIA.”

RIA chief executive Darren Caplan said the partnership would help members develop new trade links and cooperation, “which is especially important as the UK prepares to leave the EU”.

“I see lots of common ground to form this working relationship, for the benefit of both RIA, ARA and our respective members – and we look forward to collaborating in the very near future!”

Tunnelling Centre to be built in Melbourne

Australia’s first tunnelling training centre will be established in Melbourne to provide the skills necessary to deliver the city’s transport projects, including the potential Suburban Rail Loop promised by the state government.

The $16 million Victorian Tunnelling Centre will be built at Holmesglen Institute’s Chadstone campus in Melbourne’s south-east. It will train workers in underground in construction and tunnelling techniques. It is planned to open next year.

“The Victorian Tunnelling Centre will train and upskill thousands of local workers, so they can play their part in building the rail and road projects people need,” state transport minister Jacinta Allan said.

The centre will include a replica tunnel with a full-height entrance, three multi-purpose engineering workrooms and training facilities including tunnel shaft and concrete lining spray simulators, as well as virtual reality experiences.

Herrenknecht, the German tunnel boring machine (TBM) manufacturer (and who is delivering the TBMs for Melbourne’s Metro Tunnel project), has also announced that it will establish Melbourne office and maintenance facility. The company will investigate potential redeployment of these machines in future Victorian infrastructure projects.

Premier Daniel Andrews said the developments would support the governments planned infrastructure projects over the coming decades, including the massive Suburban Rail Loop announced recently.

“This is the biggest-ever pipeline of transport projects in Victoria’s history,” Andrews said. We’re not only creating thousands of jobs as we deliver these vital projects – we’re making sure local workers have the skills they need to build them.”

New and existing Holmesglen Insitute courses will be offered at the new tunnelling centre, including certificate and diploma qualifications as well as safety-based training for working underground. By 2021, it is estimated up to 5,000 students will participate in training courses at the centre each year.

Pacific National - Creative Commons Marcus Wong

PN spends $2.4m on prototype wagons

Advanced materials developer Matrix Composites & Engineering has announced a $2.4 million deal to develop four protype wagons for Pacific National.

Matrix told the ASX on August 6 it had been awarded the contract, and revealed Pacific National was its customer on August 8.

Matrix describes the contract: “to develop and manufacture four prototype composite bulk transport systems”.

The work aims to develop wagons that can handle larger capacities thanks to the unique capabilities of the composite materials developed by Matrix.

The WA-based firm said Pacific National is planning to order 110 units subject to the commercial testing of the prototypes.

Matrix will build the four prototypes at its Henderson facility in WA, and expects to have them ready by the second half of 2019.

“We have been working with our client on the final stage of the design phase and are delighted to have now secured the manufacturing contract to build the prototypes,” Matrix chief executive Aaron Begley said.

“The composite materials being used to manufacture the product are lightweight, rigid, and have fabrication advantages compared to traditional materials such as steel, resulting in structures that significantly increase freight load capacity of bulk transportation.”

Matrix said it is pursuing other opportunities for “lightweight transportation structures,” with discussions commenced with other major bulk transport and freight transport companies looking to upgrade their fleet.

Understanding fare evasion: New research suggests combined approach

A new Australian study has looked into the complex nature of fare evasion on passenger rail networks, classifying fare evaders into three distinct categories.

New research from Dr Alexa Delbosc and Professor Graham Currie from Monash University’s Department of Civil Engineering responds to a perspective shift toward profiling the fare evader, or understanding the customer motivations to fare evade.

Reviewing past studies from around the globe, and conducting a study of their own on Melbourne’s public transport networks, Delbosc and Currie’s research found that while 20% to 40% of city residents admit to fare evading at some point, their motivations are varied.

The researchers categorised fare evaders into three distinct categories: deliberate, unintentional, and accidental.

Deliberate fare evaders are those who will avoid paying their fare when they view the benefits outweigh the risks.

“Despite making up the lowest percentage of the market, our study in Melbourne found that ‘deliberate’ fare evaders are responsible for the majority fare evasion trips and, by extension, foregone revenue,” Delbosc said.

Unintentional fare evaders are a larger group, but offend less frequently, doing so when they believe their capacity to pay has been made too difficult. Faulty ticket machines and difficult-to-use ticketing systems are examples of the sorts of excuses used by this group.

“We found that ‘unintentional’ evaders are on the fence,” Delbosc explained.

“They want to pay their way but are relatively quick to fare evade if ticketing is made too difficult. Every barrier to easy ticketing – such as complex fare structures, long ticket queues or difficulty ‘topping up’ their smartcard – provides a potential excuse to fare evade in the minds of this group of people.”

Delbosc and Currie’s work looked at creating a demographic profile of those most likely to fare evade, but the researchers point out “this perspective has little use beyond profiling and is ethically questionable”.

Instead, the researchers suggest a combined approach of increased fines for fare evasion – to target the more frequent, deliberate offenders – and new ticketing infrastructure and marketing campaigns – to reduce the amount of unintentional evasion taking place.

The full paper is available here.