Arup has supported Committee for Melbourne to develop a new report on how reforming the city’s bus network can generate significant sustainable outcomes and ensure Melbourne remains a vibrant and highly liveable global city.

The findings show that a reformed bus system could take 100 million private vehicle trips annually off Melbourne’s road network by 2030, reducing congestion and saving carbon emissions.

Committee for Melbourne’s report Course Correction - Reforming Melbourne’s buses, addresses the challenges of high car ownership by improving public transport links. 

The Committee’s CEO, Mark Melvin, said, if Melbourne wants to retain its status as the most liveable city in Australia as the population grows, then public transport connectivity must be addressed as a matter of urgency. 

“Reforming Melbourne’s bus system requires a plan to invest now, if we are to deliver for all Melburnians,” he said.

“With Melbourne’s population forecast to reach 6 million by 2031, we must ensure the city delivers for all Melburnians, including by offering efficient, effective and reliable public transport options”.

Arup Principal and Chair of the Committee’s Infrastructure and Sustainability Standing Committee, Joseph Correnza, said that an efficient and effective bus system increases choice, reduces congestion and supports a more equitable society by connecting more people to jobs and education.

“If we can get people out of cars and into electric buses, it will have enormous sustainability benefits. 

“Buses contribute 6% of key air pollutants despite comprising just 0.5% of registered vehicles in Australia. A properly reformed system could reduce up to 870,000 metric tonnes of annual transport emissions by 2030 if 25% of new trips are made by bus and the system is electrified.

“An efficient bus network means that many more people can move around the city without a car. This can pay dividends by reducing the cost of living, congestion and travel times, and allowing people to spend more time with their families.”

The report outlines that despite the average annual running cost of cars (around $11,000) compared to public transport usage (around $1,800), 87% of households own a car in Melbourne. Improving the bus network will incentivise people to opt for public transport over private vehicles, as increasing congestion makes it more difficult for Melburnians to commute to work and other important destinations. Reforming Melbourne’s bus system is needed as a matter of urgency to reduce congestion and improve connectivity.   

The significant opportunities of investing in bus reform are indicated by the untapped potential of the network. Bus journeys in Melbourne account for less than 2% of all trips annually. The report recommends improvements to the network through changes to routes, providing more dedicated bus lanes, and increasing service frequency.

The Committee’s CEO, Mark Melvin, said, “It is no wonder that people are forced into cars. According to our Benchmarking Melbourne 2023 report, Melburnians experience the joint second longest commute time out of 15 peer cities and spend longer waiting for public transport and making connections than in other cities.

“Only 27% of journeys to work are being made through public or active transport compared to 49% in peer cities, according to our Benchmarking Melbourne 2022 report. An improved bus network will provide equitable options for more people to choose buses to get to work across the city.” 

The report was launched by Committee for Melbourne in August 2023. To read the report, visit Committee for Melbourne.