Despite the quarterly increase, public transport usage in the December quarter 2020 was down by almost 4 million people (a decline of 33.5%) on its pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels when 11.8 million people used public transport in the December quarter 2019.
For the first time buses were the most popular form of public transport used by 5.15 million (24%) just ahead of trains used by 5.13 million (24%). Nearly 1.8 million (8%) travelled on trams and just over 880,000 (4%) travelled on ferries or rivercats.
This new data comes from Roy Morgan Single Source, Australia’s most comprehensive consumer survey, derived from in-depth interviews with over 50,000 Australians each year.
Public transport use in Australia from 2016 – 2020
Source: Roy Morgan Single Source, January 2016 – December 2020, quarterly average sample n = 13,143. Base: Australians aged 14+.
Buses leading form of transport in Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane and Hobart
Analysing the results for Australia’s Capital Cities shows that buses were the most popular form of transport in Perth (35% travelled by bus in December quarter 2020) just ahead of Adelaide (33%), Brisbane (32%) and Hobart (24%).
Although over a third of Sydneysiders (36%) travelled by bus this was significantly behind the 44% that travelled by train. Train travel was also the leading form of public transport in Melbourne used by 21% of Melburnians ahead of bus travel (16%).
Another consequence of Melbourne’s long second lockdown was that the city lost its ‘crown’ as the city with the highest level of tram usage to Adelaide. In the December quarter 2020 17% of people in Adelaide travelled by tram compared to only 14% in Melbourne. A year ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic, more than three times as many Melburnians (43%) travelled by tram.
It’s worth noting that for almost the entire month of October Melburnians were heavily restricted due to the city’s long second lockdown and there were considerable restrictions that persisted throughout the remainder of the quarter in the southern capital.
Travelling by ferry/ rivercat is far more popular in Brisbane (9%) and Sydney (7%) than other cities although usage in both was well down on a year earlier when 14% travelled by ferry/ rivercat in Sydney and 12% did so in Brisbane.
Roy Morgan CEO Michele Levine says the December quarter of 2020 marked the first upturn in public transport usage across Australia since the beginning of the pandemic: