Daily commute gets longer, and most prefer the car

22 May 2018

Fewer commuters are working in the same area as they live, and most continue to drive to work rather than use public transport, according to a study based on the 2016 Australian census.

University of Queensland population geographer Professor Jonathan Corcoran said the proportion of Australian workers who lived and worked in the same geographical areas – referred to as “self-containment” – had decreased since 2011.

This had important social, economic and environmental consequences.

Professor Corcoran, of the Queensland Centre for Population Research in UQ’s School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, said Adelaide, the Australian Capital Territory and Sydney reported the largest declines in self-containment, with Darwin returning a small increase in commuters living close to their workplace.

“In Sydney’s inner west, just 26 per cent of respondents lived and worked in the same area.

“In Melbourne’s inner east it was 35 per cent, and there were comparatively low rates of self-containment in Brisbane’s west (31 per cent), Adelaide’s west (49 per cent) and Perth’s north east (41 per cent),” he said.

“For 60 per cent of employed Australians, work was reported to be in the same labour market region as their residence, and most still used private vehicles to get there.”

Of the 9.2 million commuters on Census day, 79 per cent travelled to work by private vehicle, 14 per cent took public transport and 5.2 per cent cycled or walked.

Of Australia’s 10.7 million employed, just five per cent worked from home.

Professor Corcoran said the strong preference for driving to work echoed similar patterns in other Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development nations, and the proportions had changed little since 2011.

The only exceptions were in New South Wales and Victoria, where public transport use had increased and car use declined slightly.

The study: Journey to Work in Australia, by Jim Cooper and Professor Jonathan Corcoran, has been released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Media: Professor Jonathan Corcoran, jjcorcoran@uq.edu.au, +61 7 336 56517, mobile +61 (0)432 335 666.