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Journal of Transport Geography 19 (2011) 10561058

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Journal of Transport Geography

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Transport geography in Australasia

Transport geographers are few and far between in Australasia, but the issues of transport geography attract the attention of a wide array of researchers. The results of their work can be seen in an annual Australian Transport Research Forum, a biennial State of Australian Cities Conference, strong participation at the annual Transport Research Board meeting in the US, and in the Journal of Transport Geography. Australia and New Zealand share characteristics such as large, low density suburban metropolitan regions, public transport agencies providing a mix of train, tram and bus services, low density rural communities and high levels of car and truck use. These characteristics are reected in the transport geography research agenda. The priorities of national research funding agencies, and the consultancy programmes of State and Federal transport agencies, are also inuential. Over the past decade this set of circumstances generated research on travel behaviour as public transport agencies struggled to understand their eld and the efcacy of their policy interventions. This concern is reected, for instance, in papers on Travelsmart programs, walking school buses (Collins and Kearns, 2010; Lang et al., 2011; Kingham and Ussher, 2008) and workplace interventions to encourage exible workplace travel. At the same time, research exploring the management of population density via urban planning policy, transit-oriented development (TOD) and Smart Growth was substantial (Curtis et al., 2009). Recently, research attention has shifted to some different aspects of public transport. To some extent this follows a recent upsurge in patronage in a number of cities (Currie and Hensher, 2008), so much so it has actually stimulated research into management of congestion on the public transport system. A critical step toward a different agenda has been a challenge to the commonlyheld assumption that large and dispersed urban forms create insurmountable barriers to efcient and integrated public transport systems (Stone and Muhammad, 2010; Curtis and Scheurer, 2010). These approaches have been shaped by the themes explored in Mees (2010) and focus in particular on institutions and network service planning. The Government and Management of Urban Transport (GAMUT) research project at the University of Melbourne (Low and Glover, 2010) explored the institutional dimension, showing path dependency in government funding in favour of roads at the expense of public transport. It has also included an intensive analysis of the efcacy of privatisation of the public transport system (Mees, 2005; Glover, 2010). The other dimension, network service planning, is the target of a recent Australian Research Council grant. These approaches are also based on some new research on journey-to-work. Moriarty and Mees (2006) used data stretching back to 1951 to show how the modal shift toward the car was associated with changes in the location of employment, a theme reiterated by Mees et al. (2008), linking the rise in public transport

noted above to an increase in the number of CBD jobs. Employment location may have a potential role in the future research on public transport network design, especially as Davies (2009) identied a series of suburban clusters with employment numbers equivalent to that of the CBD in Melbourne. The challenge for suburban transport planning will be to reduce the very large number of car based trips between these suburban jobs and suburban houses, a strong dimension in the transport geography of Australian cities (OConnor and Healy, 2004). Another part of the recent research agenda has paid attention to the social inequities in access to transport services (Currie, 2010). These inequities emerge as the public transport networks fail to reach the steadily growing outer fringe populations (Delbosc and Currie, 2011). New methods for examining such low socio-economic status transport disadvantage have been developed at Grifth University and deployed for the Gold Coast City (Dodson et al. (2011). A particular inequity has been identied in the location of the aged population relative to a network of key services, including transport, shown in Engels and Lius (2011) work on a municipality in Melbourne. Looking at different parts of public transport, Quigg and Freeman (2008) consider urban walking environments, how walking has declined as a form of transport, and (with reference to children) how the physical environment can inuence levels of physical activity. These issues were incorporated in a multi-institutional Australian Research Council grant in 2010 exploring built and social environmental inuences on childrens independent mobility, active travel and health (Whitzman et al., 2010). Cycling has expanded considerably in Australia and New Zealand in the last two decades, yet uptake for commuting is limited, partly due to safety concerns (Lindsay et al., 2010). Burke and Bonham (2010) argue that the effect of cycling as an alternative mode in the suburban parts of big cities will require innovative policy. Pucher et al. (2011) showed that Melbourne is signicantly more advanced than Sydney in this regard. Although public transport attracts considerable research attention, the car and the truck remain by far the dominant transport mode in the cities and regions of Australasia. This has been acknowledged in increased research funding on congestion, especially in peak hour, which involves deliberations on road pricing. Large research investments in this eld include the combination of the Queensland Government, a toll-road company and other industry partners to fund a Smart Transport Research Centre launched in 2011. This Centre focuses on intelligent transport systems to improve congestion management, especially with ramp metering and traveller information systems. Car parking policies have been part of this mix, especially as urban planning policy encourages more housing at higher density in the inner city. That too has stimulated interest in the management of pedestrian ows. Safety is an enduring concern and this brings transport geogra-

TGRG page / Journal of Transport Geography 19 (2011) 10561058


phers into dialogue with injury prevention researchers. For instance, researchers have investigated the social cost of road accidents. The young driver has been a focus of attention in New Zealand due to their high mortality Warne et al. (2001) while Kingham et al. (2011) have explored links between accidents and the trip to school. The vulnerability of residents in car-dependent outer suburban areas to eventual oil scarcity has become a signicant area of research (Dodson and Sipe, 2010). A broader concern with transport and emissions and associated impacts on climate change extend this oil dependency analysis. Legacy et al. (2007) have provided an Australasian perspective on this issue; Low (2007) explores the local government policy dimensions while Stone and Mees (2008) outline some locally successful impacts of policy changes. New methods have also been advanced to evaluate greenhouse gas emissions from passenger transport, most notably by Hensher (2008). Of course, many parts of the transport research agenda have never gone out of fashion. The modelling, economics and road safety streams appear to continue on steadily, with solid representation in the Australian Transport Research Forum (ATRF) and in the journals. The program of any ATRF will regularly include words like stochastic, simulation, geospatial analysis and GIS applied to a wide array of transport research issues. The economic dimension too remains a signicant area of research, especially in the substantial array of publications of Professors David Hensher and Graham Currie and their collaborators. Australian transport geographers have in the past been involved in research on Asia, best seen in the work of Rimmer (1994). That tradition has been maintained in Hans (2010) research on Singapore, a project (led by Han) to investigate greenhouse gas reduction practices in mono-centric and poly-centric cities in China, and the incorporation of Chinese, Japanese and Singaporean collaborators in the GAMUT project identied earlier. Recent inclusion of David Henshers University of Sydney group in a Volvo Centre of Excellence in Bus Rapid Transport research will focus Australian attention across the Pacic to Chile where this project is centred. With that wide array of on-going research it may seem churlish to identify areas that are under researched. There are however some major gaps. In the rural scene, the long distances and small populations mean that the economic and institutional dimensions of the transport system intersect with social and cultural concerns over accessibility to services. Transport geographers were once very active in rural communities, as seen in Parolins (1996) work on highway bypasses, but since then the rural situation has not attracted much attention. Modelling of transport demand in rural NSW by Bain et al. (2011) may open up this area of activity. In New Zealand, Cheyne and Muhammad (2010) suggest that one answer might be shared and exible transport services, which can offer small town, non-metropolitan residents innovative transport solutions and increased choice. Road freight is central to the transport task in Australia, and now has a greater physical presence with near ubiquitous use of double-trailer trucks. Yet it has been under-researched evidenced in the small number of papers at the major annual transport conference. As resident concerns with truck trafc, especially that associated with access to ports, becomes more strident, we may see increased attention to this issue. Here too, interest in inter-urban rail freight is very low, notwithstanding the success achieved by US rail companies, and the environmental benets of long distance inter-city rail freight over truck transport. In most parts of Australia and New Zealand there has been a compete lack of attention in both policy and research to long distance passenger rail services, which in part explains busy intercity air services. For example, the daily rail service between Auckland and Wellington, which was scrapped to considerable protest in 2006,

was subsequently reinstated and is now a well-patronised tourist attraction. However the slowness of the 12-h trip, and relatively cheap fares for a 45-min ight, means that air travel endures as the mode of choice for locals. The same can be said for the rail service between Melbourne and Sydney; here a long-held dream of a high speed rail service is once again the subject of a consultants feasibility study. Paradoxically middle-level improvements in speed and service on regional rail services have attracted major patronage, and stimulated commuting into Melbourne and Sydney from regional centres. This outcome deserves closer research attention. Air transport has attracted little attention too, notwithstanding the fact that MelbourneSydney is one of the busiest inter-city air corridors in the world. In many parts of the country, the air service is the only feasible means of access to a metropolitan area. Airports are beginning to emerge as signicant metropolitan transport nodes in their own right (Stevens et al., 2010) but at this scale one of the few transport issues is the level of patronage on the rail service to the CBDs of Sydney and Brisbane, and the absence of this connection in Melbourne. In summary, the city and suburban realm in Australia and New Zealand, with its cars, trucks, trains, trams, buses, cyclists and pedestrians, all seeking origins and destinations in a complex mix, provides a challenging environment in which to explore issues of transport geography. With few remaining geography departments in universities in the region, much will rely on those in related elds to ensure explorations of the spatial components of transport research remain prominent.

Bain, S., Hensher, D.A., Li, Z., 2011. R-Tresis: developing a transport model system for regional New South Wales. Journal of Transport Geography 19 (4), 615 622. Burke, M., Bonham, J., 2010. Rethinking oil depletion: what role can cycling really play in dispersed cities? Australian Planner 47, 272283. Cheyne, C., Muhammad, I., 2010. Attitude and behaviour in relation to public transport in non-metropolitan cities of NZ, NZ Transport Agency Research Report, 419. < 419.pdf>. Collins, D.C.A., Kearns, R.A., 2010. Walking school buses in the Auckland region: a longitudinal assessment. Transport Policy 17, 18. Currie, G., Hensher, D., 2008. Growing Public transport patronage and what has been found to work; an introduction. Journal of Transport Geography 16, 406 407. Currie, G., 2010. Quantifying spatial gaps in public transport supply based on social networks. Journal of Transport Geography 18, 3141. Curtis, C., Renne, J., Bertolini, L., 2009. Transit Oriented Development: Making it Happen. Ashgate, Farnham, Surrey, England. Curtis, C., Scheurer, J., 2010. Planning for sustainable accessibility: developing tools to aid discussion and decision-making. Progress in Planning 74 (2), 53106. Davies, A.K., 2009. The Structure of Suburban Employment in Melbourne. PhD Thesis, University of Melbourne. Delbosc, A., Currie, G., 2011. The spatial context of transport disadvantage, social exclusion and well-being. Journal of Transport Geography, 19(6), doi:10.1016/ j.jtrangeo.2011.04.005. Dodson, J., Sipe, N., 2010. Dark clouds on the urban horizon: petroleum and Australian planning. Australian Planner 47, 226231. Engels, B., Liu, G.-J., 2011. Social Exclusion, Location and Transport Disadvantage Amongst Seniors in a Melbourne Municipality, Australia. Journal of Transport Geography 19 (4), 984996. Glover, L., 2010. Signs of Success or Signals of Failure? Symbolic Politics and Melbournes Public Transport Privatisation GAMUT Research Papers 2010. < mar2011.pdf>. Han, S.S., 2010. Managing motorisation in sustainable transport planning: the Singapore experience. Journal of Transport Geography 18, 314322. Hensher, D.A., 2008. Climate change, enhanced greenhouse gas emissions and passenger transport what can we do to make a difference? Transportation Research Part D: Transport and Environment 13, 95111. Kingham, S., Ussher, S., 2008. Walking school buses in Christchurch do they encourage or discourage independent mobility. World Transport Policy and Practice 14 (1), 2738.


TGRG page / Journal of Transport Geography 19 (2011) 10561058 Rimmer, P., 1994. Regional economic integration in Pacic Asia. Environment and Planning A 26, 17311759. Stevens, N., Baker, D., Freestone, R., 2010. Airports in their urban settings: towards a conceptual model of interfaces in the Australian context. Journal of transport geography 18, 276284. Stone, J.M.P., Mees, P., 2008. Success stories: greenhouse reductions from transport policy change/ GAMUT Research Papers 2008. <http://>. Stone, J.M.P., Muhammad, I., 2010. Network planning for more effective public transport in New Zealand cities. In: 12th World Conference on Transport Research, 1115 July, Lisbon, Portugal. Warne, J., Tranter, P., Kingham, S., 2004. Fast and furious 3: illegalstreet racing, sensation seeking and risky driving behaviours in New Zealand. Papers of the 27th Australasian Transport Research Forum, 29 September1 October 2004. Paper 41. Whitzman, C., Romero, V., Duncan, M., Curtis, C., Tranter, P., Burke, M., 2010. From battery-reared to free range children: the links between childrens independent mobility, active transport, physical activity, and obesity. In: Waters, E., Swinburn, B., Seidell, J., Uauy, R. (Eds.), Preventing Childhood Obesity: Evidence, Policy, and Practice, Chichester, England, Wiley-Blackwell.

Kingham, S., Sabel, C., Bartie, P., 2011. The impact of the school run onroad trafc accidents. Journal of Transport Geography 19 (4), 705711. Lang, D., Collins, D.C.A., Kearns, R.A., in press. Understanding modal choice for the trip to school. Journal of Transport Geography. Lindsay, K., Macmillan, G., Woodward, A., 2010. Moving urban car trips to bicycles: impact on health and emissions, Australian and New Zealand. Journal of Public Health. doi:10.1111/j.1753-6405.2010.00621.x. Legacy, C., Glover, L., Low, N., 2007. Australasian Investigation of the Greenhouse Impacts of Different Transport Modes in Australian Cities. GAMUT Research Papers 2007. <http://>. Low, N., Glover, L., 2010. Integrated Management of Sustainable Urban Passenger Transport Systems in Dispersed Cities: A Review of Successful Institutional Interventions. <>. Low, N., 2007. Climate change, transport and land use: local challenges of governance. GAMUT Research Papers 2007. < gamut/pdf/climate-change-transport.pdf>. Mees, P., 2010. Transport for Suburbia: Beyond the Automobile Age. Sterling, Va. Earthscan., London. Mees, P., 2005. Privatization of Rail and Tram Services in Melbourne: what went wrong? Transport Reviews 25 (4), 433449. Mees, P., OConnell, G., Stone, J., 2008. Travel to Work in Australian Capital Cities, 19762006. Urban Policy and Research 26, 363378. Moriarty P., Mees. P., 2006. The Journey to Work in Melbourne GAMUT Research Papers 2006. <>. OConnor, K., Healy, E., 2004. Suburban development in Australia: a Melbourne case study. Journal of European Planning Studies 12, 2740. Parolin, B., 1996. Evaluation of the economic impacts of bypass roads on country towns. R&D Project TEP/93/6. Sydney, NSW Road Transport Authority. Pucher, J., Garrard, J., Geaves, S., 2011. Cycling down under: a comparative analysis of bicycling trends and policies in Sydney and Melbourne. Journal of Transport Geography, forthcoming. Quigg, R., Freeman, C., 2008. Do children like walking? Children in the city of Dunedin New Zealand, Children Australia 33 (3), 1321.

Kevin OConnor Urban Planning, University of Melbourne, Australia E-mail address: Matt Burke Urban Research Program, Grifth University, Australia E-mail address: Robin Kearns Geography, University of Auckland, New Zealand E-mail address: