In remote Australia overall, transport systems are less safe, less efficient and less reliable than in non-remote Australia. Shortages of transport infrastructures and services are likely to be increasing in the context of demographic, economic and climate changes.
Annual transport costs range from $8,000 to $18,000/person in Australia. In Australia, people pay $600–$7,500 per year as personal transport expenses. These expenses are on average two to three times higher in non-remote Australia than in remote Australia.
For people who have access to a car, combined annual transport costs are relatively comparable between non-remote and remote Australia. For people who regularly use public transport, combined annual costs (personal expenses and externalities) are around $3,000 higher in remote Australia. For people who do not have access to public or private motorised vehicles, combined annual costs are $4,000–$7,000 higher for people living in remote Australia than for people living in non-remote Australia. Ineffective public transport and a lack of appropriate motorised vehicles increase socio-economic exclusion. This is particularly a concern for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people living in very remote communities.
Total transport costs as a proportion of the median income are 20–40% higher in remote Australia. One factor is the lower median incomes; however, transport access is the primary factor, with combined costs of personal expenses and externalities representing 60–80% of the median annual income of people living in very remote communities, who are more susceptible to being left without regular access to motorised transport.
Providing multimodal infrastructure; more affordable, more appropriate and more efficient motorised vehicles, with maintenance facilities; more affordable and regular public transport services; and more affordable and regular community transport services could help to decrease transport personal expenses and transport externalities. In the long term, the use of alternative fuels could enhance the resilience of remote communities and enterprises.
In remote Australia, at a community level, transport costs vary considerably from one person to another and from one community to another. However, several trends can be identified: the fact that people travel more is compensated by the fact that people pay less of their personal money per kilometre to travel around than in non-remote Australia. Non-business trips tend to be undertaken by sharing and more use of the vehicles that are accessible and more reliance on non-motorised transport, which is considerably slower. Furthermore, there are fewer transport services available, and the people who are financially disadvantaged invest less in vehicles and equipment, insurance and administration, operating costs and public transport. Critically low private spending and public investment in terms of the size of the areas covered by the public transport network create in turn significant health, social, productivity and wellbeing externalities.
In a context of population growth and climate change, developing the access to appropriate private motorised transport and efficient public transport as well as opportune policies would help to achieve substantial results.