Driving change: Australia’s cities need a measured response

10 Oct 2016

Executive summary
Australian governments invest tens of billions in transport infrastructure and undertake a range of policy initiatives every year seeking to improve the functionality of our cities and wider transport systems.

Historically, transport policy has focused on measuring inputs, like the amount of money invested in new road and rail projects, or the Benefit Cost Ratio estimated for these projects.

But the rapid development of technologies across the transport network is generating a wealth of raw data; offering a largely-as-yet-unrealised opportunity to gain a much more sophisticated understanding of how Australia’s transport systems are performing.

Indeed, turning ‘big data’ into ‘useful information’ would allow transport planners, governments and users to better understand how transport is performing – and importantly, to measure how successful we are in addressing transport challenges, as our cities grow.

Currently, even major states use individual paper surveys, to try and understand complex commuter behaviours – or use a range of physical measurement tools, to try and understand user demand. But already, we are measuring much more sophisticated data that describes how, when and where people travel – the challenge is turning this huge quantity of data, into reliable information, that is useful and transparent.

Infrastructure Partnerships Australia and Uber have partnered together to produce Australia’s first regular measurement of road network performance – the IPA Transport Metric – spanning:

  • Sydney;
  • Melbourne;
  • Brisbane; and
  • Perth.

The IPA Transport Metric, released for the first time in this paper, measures travel times across the day – providing new information about how the road network performs in the morning and afternoon peak periods, as well as shoulder and non-peak periods, across three zones:

  • CBD zone;
  • the inner metro zone; and
  • outer metro zone.

Uber’s experience running ridesharing services across Australia has the potential to inform and improve urban planning.The IPA Transport Metric leverages data collected from Uber’s ridesharing network to do just that.

The IPA Transport Metric captures data from Uber trips, through which a network of data is collected. Each trip is a mobile collection point for key traffic metrics such as travel times. This use of on-vehicle measurement systems will provide a wider, more detailed and granular picture of how the use of our cities’ transport systems evolves over time.

In this way, the IPA Transport Metric is a good example of the type of highly valuable information that is already available, at a very low monetary cost – that can be used to improve cities and transport.

IPA and Uber have partnered on this project to provide governments and the community with a new tool, which would allow wide visibility of the transport networks performance – its output – rather than only measuring dollars spent, or estimating potential benefits from individual projects.

Used well, Uber’s underlying data and that of other transport operators, allows us new opportunities to better target infrastructure investment, assess the actual benefits of individual projects – and to understand how Australia is tracking in developing smarter, better cities and solving its mobility issues.

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