Wednesday, January 1, 2014

2014 World Fare Comparison - Part 3

Tokyo - high income and cheap fares
BrizCommuter has been running the world fare comparison for quite a few years now, and has often been asked by readers to publish a comparison showing public transport fares vs average income. Now, this is no mean feat. Average income is somewhat difficult information to compare. The most reliable source was from the following, which uses average per capita income per year in GBP:
This is a UK comparison, with source information spread from 2007 until 2011, and published in 2013. It is unknown of the average income has been adjusted due to these time factors. Exchange rates were likely to have been applied earlier in 2013, and are thus different to the exchange rates used to calculate the fares with a falling Australian Dollar value. In cases where there is no city specific data, then country specific data has been used (this has been used for all Australian cities except for Sydney). Thus it should be taken into account that the methodology is far from perfect and this comparison should only be seen as a rough guide only.

Fares are based on the cost of an adult weekly ticket, weekly cap, or 12 single tickets (10 peak, 2 off-peak) - whichever is cheapest. The journeys are 5km train journeys from inner-suburb to CBD. Fares are as of 6th January 2014, and exchange rates for fares are as of the 26th or 27th December 2013.  This cost (in AUD) has been divided by the average income per capita per year/52 weeks in a year (in GBP). The resulting score is just a ratio figure. In the results, a higher number show a higher cost of public transport vs average income. The list has been ordered with the most expensive city at the top, and least expensive at the bottom.

Most expensive
Berlin  44.14/279.69=0.158
London  57.90/388.12=0.149 (0.083 if bus only)
Brisbane*  37.26/570.06=0.065
Adelaide*  36.50/570.06=0.064
Shanghai  6.60/105.23=0.063 (0.021 if bus only)
Melbourne*  35.80/570.06=0.062
New York  33.75/586.5=0.058
Toronto  37.92/697.87=0.054
Paris  24.62/509.56=0.048
Perth*  25.20/570.06=0.044
Sydney  28.00/640.10=0.044  (0.071 if other modes used)
Sao Paulo  14.61/340.54=0.043
Los Angeles  20.16/575.29=0.035
Hong Kong  10.44/553.19=0.019
Tokyo  19.32/1072.42=0.018
Singapore  10.92/907.31=0.012
Least expensive

At the most expensive end of the table is Berlin at 0.158 and London at 0.149 with very high public transport fares vs income. However both cities (especially London) have very frequent and integrated public transport systems, so could be seen as still having good value for money. Sadly income figures were not available for Stockholm and Oslo.

Of the sampled cities, Brisbane came in 3rd with a figure of 0.065, closely followed by Adelaide and Melbourne. Sydney fares quite well for train only fares at 0.044, but terribly at 0.071 if you want to use more than one mode of transport. This situation may improve with the Opal Card. Perth is the cheapest of the Australian cities at 0.044, with public transport costing approx. 32% less than Brisbane assuming similar income. How does Perth manage public transport fares so well when SE Queensland doesn't? With Brisbane and Adelaide having the worst train frequencies of all of the cities listed, they could be seen as being the worst value for money train networks vs average income.

Shanghai has relatively expensive train fares vs income at 0.063, similar to Australian cities, but bus fares are considerably cheaper. Is using the metro a more premium method of public transport in Shanghai?

New York and Toronto are interestingly mid-table at 0.058 and 0.054 respectively, with Paris slightly cheaper at 0.048. Paris is well known for having very affordable public transport, although this may change with future price hikes planned to build multiple new metro lines.

The only developing city (apart from Brisbane) in the list is Sao Paulo at 0.043. This is interesting as there were huge riots due to a planned fare increase recently. It is unknown which demographics use public transport in Sao Paulo, which has a huge rich/poor divide. This fares may been cheap for those in higher demographics, public transport may still be difficult to afford for those in lower demographics. Whilst on the subject of demographics, Los Angeles comes in as a relatively affordable system at 0.035. However, Los Angeles is well know for public transport only being for the poor. For example BrizCommuter travels in a stretched Hummer whenever he is in LA.  Thus whilst LA comes across as having very affordable public transport, it may be relatively expensive for the demographic that uses public transport.

At the most affordable end of the table is Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Singapore at 0.019, 0.18, and 0.012 respectively. These cities have a few things in common. They all have a high population density that allows for efficient public transport, and this they all have excellent and frequent public transport systems. This makes for extremely good value for money public transport system. Interestingly despite these three cities having a very high cost of living, they all have very low fares. Tokyo and Singapore also have very high average incomes, yet the fares are kept very low and affordable. Singapore even goes one stage further towards sustainable public transport by making car registration extremely expensive. On the down side, all of these cities charge per trip, and transfers between modes (such as train to bus) often charge an extra fare (although at least using the same smart card). Even taking this into account, the systems are still very good value for money in relation to income.

Of the 16 cities sampled, Brisbane has the 3rd most expensive public transport fares vs average income. This confirms what we already know, that TransLink's fare system has abysmal affordability and is poor value for money. It is thus no surprise that patronage has stagnated, resulting in no reductions to taxpayer subsidy. A thorough review of public transport fares and fare structure is required in SE Queensland, as is a further review of operating efficiencies, notably Brisbane City Council's (Brisbane Transport) highly inefficient, confusing, and ineffective bus network.

BrizCommuter world fare comparison - part 1:
BrizCommuter world fare comparison - part 2:
The Awful Truth:


  1. Regarding Sydney's interchange penalty on Opal, you are already able to board a 333 at Bondi Beach, interchange at Bondi Junction for the train and head to the city. If you do so, you will pay for both boardings separately but only get credit for one for the purposes of their 8-then-free system. Nothing prevents them from improving the fare structure later, but so far they have shown every intention of not doing so.

  2. Pay for public transport workers and staff ratios probably differ too. Singapore imports its bus drivers from China and Malaysia and pays them very low wages relative to the average Singapore income. Even a Singaporean citizen bus driver earns around SG$1300 per month (around A$1100), while I am sure the Chinese citizen bus drivers in Singapore earn much less. This is in addition to the efficiencies of the Singapore public transport system

  3. Just wondering, have you taken into account the absolute size of each rail network ?? Perth for instance has only 173 km of track to deal with. Do you have any idea how many km's are in the Brisbane network ??

  4. One thing that seems to be missed in this fare review is a discussion on subsidy levels provided to each public transport network. For instance, in many of the Asian countries with higher patonaged/cheaper public transport, the governments are barely subsidizing public transport (compared to SEQ where govt subsidizes 70%), but this is due to other related revenue steams; i.e. the government owns a below-ground station and a shopping centre above it, earns rent money from the shops above, and then channels that revenue back into the public transport system. If SEQ is going to benefit from cheaper services, it will need to look at innovative revenue solutions like this.


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