How do people get to work in Sydney and Melbourne?

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  • Data from the last two censuses show that the proportion of people travelling to work using public transport has increased both in Sydney and Melbourne.
  • Sydney continues to have a significantly higher proportion of people using public transport during their journey to work than Melbourne.
  • Both cities have similar proportions of people using bicycles or walking on the way to work.




  • The proportion of people using public transport on the way to work has increased both for trains and combined buses, trams and ferries in both cities.
  • Sydney’s rail network is used by a significantly higher proportion of commuters than Melbourne’s rail network.
  • Sydney’s bus, ferry and light rail network is used by a significantly higher proportion of commuters than Melbourne’s bus and tram network.




Source: ABS 2006 & 2011 Censuses.
Figures reflect people travelling to work using each mode of transport at some point during their journey.




11 Responses to “How do people get to work in Sydney and Melbourne?”

  1. Mark Gell

    I use to ride my push bike to work and get in faster than driving which is saying something given I live 35 kms from the city. But I stopped as it was way to dangerous. Sydney is not bike friendly. Having said that given people say Melbourne is bike friendly and it is flatter I am very surprised that more people ride in Sydney compared to Melbourne.

    • Emilio Ferrer

      Actually more people ride bikes on the way to work in Melbourne than Sydney. This however changes when “riders” and “walkers” are combined (these are the commuters that do not pollute on the way to work). From my own experience,I agree with you that riding a bike in Sydney is often dangerous. Cheers

  2. Mel Ronca

    Thanks for sending this out Emilio! It’s changed my perceptions – I always thought Melbournians were more public transport willing that Sydney-siders. It’s sad to see that there hasn’t been much of an increase in the proportion of people riding bikes to work given all the new bike lane infrastructure in Sydney – perhaps a snapshot of the inner city and inner suburbs would show a different picture?

  3. Vivienne Skinner

    Hi – there’s lots of good data in a report released recently by the Federal Department of Infrastructure and Transport – Walking, Riding and Access to Public Transport – see the first chapters on line here:
    The big challenge for transport policy makers is getting people taking short trips (within five kilometres of work/school/university) to leave their car in the garage and walk, cycle or take the train or bus.

  4. Tom Hore

    Surprised by the number of people cycling and walking, very encouraging. As Sydney planning is driven by roads I would have thought Melbourne would have greater public transport usage. Interesting!

  5. Tanz Khan

    In comparison of two data figures 2006 and 2011, no surprises have been observed between the two cities, since Sydney maintained its leading position than Melbourne during those five years. The slight uprising trend in data time series while accessing public transport may be due to several reasons which are directly and indirectly affecting those figures as private parking charges in Sydney CBD has been increased significantly over those five years and possibly expensive than Melbourne, increasing fuel cost limit people to garage their cars and motivate to use public transport, in Sydney than Melbourne, people prefer to live nearby CBD for reducing commuting time and save money in terms of fares .

  6. Alex Gooding

    The figures for Sydney should come as no surprise, as over the last few censuses Sydney, compared to other Australian cities, consistently has had the highest proportion of public transport use for journeys to work.

    The figures also demonstrate the continuation of another trend, however. The rate of growth between the two censuses in public transport mode share is higher in Melbourne (and higher still in Perth) than it is in Sydney, while it was lower in the other capitals. For a more detailed look at this see:

  7. Chris Sprangers

    Hi Emilio.
    Great stats. An interesting comparison would be to overlay where people in both cities work. For example, CBD vs non-CBD. That would obviously influence a workers transport decision. Therefore, a reason for the SYD/MEL skew might be a more decentralised workforce in MEL which has fewer transport options.

  8. Mark Drury

    Hey Emilio, as I sit on a over crowded train into Sydney city I believe you

  9. David

    It might be sad to see that the number of bicycle trips hasn’t increased substantially – i am sadder that there is no plan in the next decade to connect the centres within Western Sydney, nor to grow the employment outside of the Sydney CBD. As Mark Latham said we have the global arc and in Western Sydney we have the wedge of misery.