2071.0.55.001 - Census of Population and Housing: Commuting to Work - More Stories from the Census, 2016  
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COMMUTING DISTANCE FOR AUSTRALIA

INTRODUCTION

The Place of Usual Residence (the area where a person usually lives) and Place of Work (the area where a person usually works) of employed people over the age of 15 years were collected in the 2016 Census of Population and Housing. The distance between these two locations represents commuting distance on the journey to work. The ABS has calculated data on commuting distances based on the assumption that a person has followed the shortest road network path, or where this was not possible a straight line distance, with no stops when commuting to work. This data can inform policy and research around the commuting behaviours of Australians and highlight differences across the country in the design and sustainability of towns and cities.

Accompanying this data are Interactive Maps that have been created to visualise the commuting distances of employed Australians by Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2s). SA2s are medium-sized general purpose areas, which represent a community that interacts together both socially and economically. The maps can be viewed from Interactive Maps - Commuting Distance, just use a keyword area like ‘Melbourne’ to get started:
  • Commuting Distance from Place of Usual Residence
  • Commuting Distance to Place of Work

This article has focused on the concept of ‘everyday commutes’ and as such data on average commuting distances has only included commutes less than 250 kilometres (km). This threshold is considered a likely maximum distance for a daily commute and has been based on previous analysis conducted by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) in the Australia's commuting distance: cities and regions paper.

More information on the methodology for calculating distance to work can be found in the Explanatory Notes tab at the top of this page.


AVERAGE DISTANCE FROM PLACE OF USUAL RESIDENCE

This section of the article explores the distance people travel to work based on the area where they live. In Australia, the average commuting distance people travelled from their place of usual residence was 16.0 kilometres (km). Around 7.4 million people (or 73% of employed people over the age of 15 years) commuted a distance of less than 20 km to work.

Graph Image for Distribution of persons, distance to work, Australia, 2016(a)

Footnote(s): (a) Includes Other Territories. (b) Nil distance includes some persons who worked from home or did not go to work.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016



Commuting distance from usual residence for states and territories, capital cities and rest of state

Residents in Queensland had the longest average commuting distance (16.6 km), followed by New South Wales (16.3 km). Those in the Australian Capital Territory had the shortest average commute (11.7 km), which is likely due in part to its small land area compared with the other states and territories.

Graph Image for Average distances from usual residence, state and territory(a)(b), 2016

Footnote(s): (a) Excludes Other Territories. (b) Excludes people who travelled 250 km or more.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016



The capital cities with the largest populations generally had longer average commuting distances. Residents in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney all averaged around 15.4 km, while those living in the Australian Capital Territory had the shortest average commutes with 11.7 km.

Residents living outside capital cities (called rest of state) generally had longer average commutes when compared to residents living in their corresponding capital cities, with people outside of Perth in Western Australia commuting the longest average distance in Australia (20.0 km).

Graph Image for Average distances from usual residence, Greater Capital City Statistical Areas (GCCSA), 2016(a)(b)

Footnote(s): (a) Excludes Other Territories. (b) Excludes people who travelled 250 km or more. (c) The Australian Capital Territory does not have a corresponding Rest of State.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016



Graph Image for Distribution of persons in capital cities(a) and rest of state, Greater Capital City Statistical Areas (GCCSA), 2016(b)

Footnote(s): (a) Capital cities includes Australian Capital Territory. (b) Excludes Other Territories. (c) Nil distance includes some persons who worked from home or did not go to work.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016



Commuting distance from usual residence for Statistical Area Level 2

At a SA2 level, the average commuting distance generally increased the further a region was from a central business district or major/regional town hub. Within all Australian capital cities, for example Greater Melbourne shown in Map 1, there is a clear pattern of inner, middle and outer rings of SA2s based on average commuting distance. The inner ring generally had the shortest average distances (less than 10 km), which contain the city centres as well as the surrounding suburbs. This was followed by a middle ring (10 to 15 km) and an outer ring of SA2s (15 to 20 km).


MAP 1 - AVERAGE COMMUTING DISTANCE FROM USUAL RESIDENCE - Greater Melbourne, SA2s, 2016(a)
Map showing the average commuting distance from a persons usual residence in Greater Melbourne SA2s

(a) Excludes people who travelled 250 km or more.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016



The SA2s containing major and regional towns generally had shorter average commuting distances, compared to the surrounding rural and remote SA2s. Map 2, for example, shows several regional towns in the Central Tablelands of New South Wales with average commuting distances of less than 20 km. This contrasts with the surrounding rural and remote SA2s where residents were travelling, on average, between 20 to 40 km.


MAP 2 - AVERAGE COMMUTING DISTANCE FROM USUAL RESIDENCE – Central Tablelands of New South Wales, SA2s, 2016(a)

Map showing the average commuting distance from a persons usual residence in the Central Tablelands of New South Wales SA2s
(a) Excludes people who travelled 250 km or more.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016



The SA2s with an average commuting distance of greater than 40 km were also generally rural and remote, and in some cases contained a large population of workers employed in the Mining industry. For example the Meekatharra SA2 located in Western Australia and Outback SA2 in South Australia both contain a high proportion of persons employed in the Mining industry (16.1% and 12.9% of all employed persons respectively) and average commuting distances of 50.6 km and 50.3 km.


AVERAGE DISTANCE TO PLACE OF WORK

The first part of this article has explored the distance people travel to work by analysing the journey from their place of usual residence. However a different picture emerges when considering the commuting distances of people who work in an area, rather than where they usually live. The differences can be significant depending on which way we look at the origin and destination of workers. Through the lens of people travelling from a usual residence, we generally see commuters heading towards a central location (such as central business districts or regional hub), while through the lens of people travelling to a place of work we can see the dispersion of where people live. For example persons who lived in Melbourne SA2 travelled on average 5.1 km to work. In contrast the average commuting distance of people working in Melbourne was 18.6 km. This high average is a result of the working population for Melbourne being drawn from people living in more dispersed locations.

For comparison, Map 3 and 4 illustrate examples of the flow of commutes based on where people live (Place of Usual Residence) and where people work (Place of Work) respectively.


MAP 3 - FLOW OF COMMUTES FROM USUAL RESIDENCE – Melbourne, SA2s, 2016(a)

Map showing the flow of commutes from a persons usual residence in Melbourne SA2
(a) This map has been created for visualising the flow of commuters only, and is not representative of the commuting distance data.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


MAP 4 - FLOW OF COMMUTES TO PLACE OF WORK – Melbourne, SA2s, 2016(a)

Map showing the flow of commutes to a persons place of work in Melbourne SA2
(a) This map has been created for visualising the flow of commuters only, and is not representative of the commuting distance data.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


Commuting distance to place of work for Australia, states and territories, capital cities and rest of state

When analysing the data based on where people work, as opposed to where they live, different commuting distances were observed in states and territories, capital cities and SA2s.

These differences for states and territories, for example, are due to persons crossing borders when commuting to work, such as those living in Queanbeyan, New South Wales commuting to the Australian Capital Territory for work. Across states and territories, people in Queensland had the longest average commute to their place of work (16.7 km), followed by Victoria and Western Australia (16.2 km). People in South Australia and Northern Territory commuted the shortest average distance (13.8 km and 14.0 km respectively).

Graph Image for Average distances to place of work, state and territory, 2016(a)(b)

Footnote(s): (a) Excludes Other Territories. (b) Excludes people who travelled 250km or more.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016



Of workers in capital cities, people in Brisbane (16.7 km) and Melbourne (16.2 km) had the longest average distances to their place of work, while those in Darwin and Adelaide had the shortest (12.8 km and 13.1 km respectively). People working outside of Perth in Western Australia had the longest average commuting distance across the whole of Australia (20.4 km).

Graph Image for Average distances to place of work, Greater Capital City Statistical Areas (GCCSA), 2016(a)(b)

Footnote(s): (a) Excludes Other Territories. (b) Excludes people who travelled 250km or more. (c) The Australian Capital Territory does not have a corresponding Rest of State.

Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016



Commuting distance to place of work for Statistical Area Level 2

The SA2s with the top 10 highest number of workers (based on the count of employed persons over the age of 15 years) have the following corresponding average commuting distances:
  1. Sydney - Haymarket - The Rocks: 18.9 km
  2. Melbourne: 18.6 km
  3. Perth City: 16.8 km
  4. Brisbane City: 17.2 km
  5. Adelaide: 13.4 km
  6. Dandenong: 19.1 km
  7. Docklands: 21.1 km
  8. Parramatta: Rose Hill - 19.1 km
  9. North Sydney - Lavender Bay: 19.5 km
  10. Macquarie Park - Marsfield: 19.0 km

    From the communities listed above, people working in Adelaide had the shortest average commuting distance (13.4 km) to their place of work, while those working in Docklands, in the inner-west of Melbourne, had the longest (21.1 km). In Adelaide, people were most commonly commuting from their residences in Unley-Parkside (around 2.9% of all commutes from Adelaide), while people were most commonly commuting to Docklands from their residences in Melbourne (around 2.0% of all travel to Docklands).

    Maps 5 and 6 show the average commuting distance to place of work and the counts of employed persons working there per square kilometre, for SA2s within Sydney. The SA2s with the largest count of employed persons all averaged similar distances to place of work (e.g. Sydney - Haymarket - The Rocks, 18.9 km, North Sydney - Lavender Bay, 19.5 km, Macquarie Park – Marsfield, 19.0 km, Pyrmont – Ultimo, 17.0 km and Surry Hills, 16.9 km). This was common across all capital cities in Australia.


    MAP 5 - AVERAGE COMMUTING DISTANCE TO PLACE OF WORK – Sydney, SA2s, 2016(a)

    Map showing the average commuting distance to place of work in Sydney SA2s

    (a) Excludes people who travelled 250 km or more.
    Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016


    MAP 6 - COUNTS OF EMPLOYED PERSONS PER SQUARE KILOMETRE - Sydney, SA2s, 2016(a)

    Map showing counts of employed persons per square kilometre in Sydney SA2s

    (a) Excludes people who travelled 250 km or more.
    Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016