Some colleagues and I have lately had occasion to compare public transit performance in young metro areas of 1-3 million, across North America and Australasia, and we've been turning up draft charts like this one (click to enlarge):
The x-axis is population, the y-axis is public transit trips per capita, per annum. The red triangles are the Australian cities: Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Sydney. The purple circles are US cities: Honolulu, Portland, and Seattle. The blue dots are Wellington and Auckland in New Zealand.
But we're especially struck by the green dots, which represent Canada. The four dots are Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver, and all are at the top of this heap despite relatively low populations. Even tiny Edmonton and Calgary are outperforming all the other cities studied, including Sydney and Melbourne.
I've been asked to write a few paragraphs about why Canada's cities do so much better than very similar cities in the US or Australia/NZ. I have my own speculations, but anyone with references or insights on this, please comment!
UPDATE: The consultant in charge of this project has reviewed the comments so far (Oct 8 0900 Sydney time) and observes:
Some rapid comments, having skimmed through the blog responses:
- Area boundaries. Always a problem. We have tried to cover the whole metro service areas in each case. For SYD, this has meant including Newcastle and Wollongong etc, given the CityRail services extend to these areas. Similarly we have included Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast in the Brisbane figures.
- ** Linked v unlinked v return trips. I doubt if this is a problem—we have aimed for unlinked trips (boardings) in all cases.
- ** Densities may well be one of the explanators of the differences, and we have estimates of these for the North American metro areas (but not the Aus/NZ areas. I am reluctant to pursue these in more detail—as you well know, this is a minefield.
The whole topic would be good for a PhD—why has no done it already??
Good question! More on this topic here!