Working paper

Transport systems in remote Australia: transport costs in remote communities

30 Jun 2014

This report assesses transport costs in remote Australia at a community level and is aimed at community stakeholders and people involved in planning and operational community development activities. Travellers themselves do not have always clear knowledge of transport costs and may find useful information to better understand some of the main economic parameters of transport activities. In remote Australia overall, transport systems are less safe, less efficient and less reliable than in nonremote Australia.

There is a shortage of transport infrastructures and services. These shortages 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. The externalities associated with ineffective transport activities range between $6,500 and $17,000 per person per year. These costs are much higher (average of two times higher) in remote Australia than in non-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 socioeconomic 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.

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