Transportation Planning Casebook/30-Minute City


The 30 minute city is a concept idea in urban planning which aims to improve urban connectivity by providing public and private transport infrastructure and improving service to allow for 30 minute trips (by walking, biking or car) to any point within the network. Historically, it has been observed that people are willing to commute 90 minutes a day, otherwise they will change jobs, move houses or change mode of transport. The 30 minute city claims to improve opportunity for employment and education with the aim of improving economic productivity. Globally, many urban metropolises are 30 minute cities however Sydney still requires extensive action from both public and private stakeholders before it can claim this title.

The current policy is designed with the Smart Cities Plan in mind and the current plan is to have three urban hubs in Sydney, Parramatta and Liverpool which will provide approximately $3.5b dollars in economic growth. Due to the low population density of Sydney, this plan aims to reduce congestion from construction and improve accessibility for all.

Annotated List of ActorsEdit

Stakeholder Groups Members Issue/Interest
Federal Government Department of Finance

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Department of Human Services

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science

Department of Jobs and Small Business

Department of Premier and Cabinet

Investment for infrastructure planning

Provide long-term sustainability through financing

Negotiate and liaison with state and local governments for deals

Negotiate and liaison with private companies to provide key infrastructure in a cost-effective and timely manner

Develop policy in regard to taxation, finance, welfare, superannuation and foreign investment

State Government Agencies NSW Environment Protecting Authority

Ministry of Health

Transport for NSW

Sydney Coordination Office

Infrastructure NSW

National Parks and Wildlife Service

NSW Treasury

Port Authority of New South Wales

UrbanGrowth NSW

Greater Sydney Commission

Sydney Motorways Corporation

Transport Management Centre

Sydney Trains

To comply with legislation

To justify the budget and strategic need

Preparing construction and environment management plan

Communicating with other stakeholder groups to provide information and receive feedback about issues and concerns

Environmental and heritage concerns

Local Councils and Regional Ashfield Council

Auburn Council

Bankstown Council

Blacktown Council

Botany Bay Council

Burwood Council

Camden Council

Campbelltown Council

Canada Bay Council

Canterbury Council

Fairfield Council

Holroyd Council

Hornsby Council

Hunters Hill Council

Ku-ring-gai Council

Inner West Council

Lane Cove Council

Liverpool Council

Manly Council

Mosman Council

North Sydney Council

Parramatta Council

Penrith Council

Pittwater Council

Randwick Council

Rockdale Council

Ryde Council

Strathfield Council

Sutherland Council

Sydney Council

Warringah Council

Waverley Council

Willoughby Council

Wollondilly Council

Woollahra Council

Consultation with communities

Control impact of construction on traffic and road users, public and active transport

Protection of heritage

Property acquisition impacts

Facilitating property value capture

Utility and Service Providers Jemena


Sydney Water Corporation

Vivo Energy

National Broadband Network

Environmental and technical field investigations

Traffic management

Providing utilities to developing regions

Improving digital connectivity to promote Smart Cities Plan

Private Interests Arup

John Holland






Environmental and technical field investigations

Traffic management

Improving access to developing regions

Creating jobs and services in city hubs

Local Communities and Recreation Groups Precinct committees

Community forums Residents groups School representatives

Air quality and pollution control

Noise and vibration control

Local amenities

Pedestrian and student safety

Commuters Road Users



Road safety

Road access

Global workforce Tourists Improving accessibility will encourage immigration and foreign investment

Narrative of the CaseEdit

Since European settlement Australia has been urbanized and today more than 80% of the population reside in urban areas. While regional Australia provides the majority of our exports, more than 80% of economic activity is still in the cities. Consequently due to the process of agglomeration[1], cities have emerged and evolved for a range of economic reasons. Economic advantages include availability of raw resources, strategic landmarks and availability of transport or trade. Thus by improving connectivity in the concentrated areas of economic activity, access can be improved for employees, suppliers and customers to provide economies of agglomeration. Industry has historically fostered growth in suburbs and regional cities while agriculture, mining and tourism have supported rural populations. The transition of our economy beyond the mining investment boom, along with the rise of our knowledge based industries and a growing population present both opportunities and challenges for our cities. Technological progress has driven the growth of urban areas and as a result civil infrastructure must be able to deliver the needs of a growing urbanized workforce.

Timeline of EventsEdit

  • 1974 - Yacov Zahavi travel time budget whereby the average time limit spent commuting is 1 hour.[2]
  • 1994 - Marchetti publishes similar idea which comes to be known as Marchetti's Constant [3]
  • 1995 - Shaping Our Cities released, a government report on Sydney’s development.
  • 2005 - City of Cities released, another government report on Sydney’s civil development.
  • 2010 - Metropolitan Plan for Sydney 2036 [4] released.
  • 2013 - Comparison of Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth in terms of connectivity released.[5]
  • 2014 - A Plan for Growing Sydney[6] released, detailing progression toward a 30 minute city using existing infrastructure..
  • 2014 - Melbourne 2030 released, detailing plans for a 20 minute city.
  • 2016 - Smart Cities Plan[7] proposed.
  • 2017- Malcolm Turnbull announces aspirations to make Sydney a ‘30 minute city’[8]
  • 2017 - NSW Government officially released ‘Metropolis of 3 cities plan’[9] which aims to serve Sydney’s accessibility to that of a 30 minute city.
  • 2018 - Comprehensive analytical studies performed on 30 minute travelling times all around the Sydney region by ARUP[10].

Maps of LocationsEdit

30-Minute City (Source: A Metropolis of Three Cities)

Policy IssuesEdit

To inevitably achieve a 30 minute city, all levels of the government need to contribute to the development of the city.[11] It is important to realise that to achieve the 30 minute city, it is not as simple as just investing in transport infrastructure, but requires making cities more liveable and productive. To achieve this vision, the “Smart Policy” was adopted by the Australian government which consists of three elements: Delivering City Deals, Leading Regulatory Reform and Measure Success.

Delivering City DealsEdit

City Deals harmonises the government, industry and community agendas to develop collective plans for city growth and commit to actions, investments and reforms to implement these plans. Main City plans include (as stated in the Australian government website):

  • Targeted initiatives to strengthen existing or emerging economic hubs - This includes transport industry, defence, health, education and etc
  • Transport infrastructure funding or financing - This helps with improving the connectivity and increase access to job locations.
  • Housing supply and planning changes – increasing property development and implementing affordable housing
  • Changes to regulatory and zoning arrangements
  • Investments that improve environmental outcomes – enhancing public spaces such as parks, reducing pollution and in general implementing sustainability in performance of buildings and infrastructure.
  • Maximising benefits from underutilised state and Commonwealth land - repurposing land to be used for affordable housing
  • Integrating environmental criteria into decision making– reducing the footprint from investments in infrastructure.

Leading Regulatory ReformEdit

The regulatory reform is derived from the Australian Infrastructure Plan which emphasises the need for reform to increase liveability and productivity of a city. Regulatory and policy reforms include (as stated from the Australian government website):

  • Reduce development assessment processing time and inconsistencies – finding the balance between quality, sustainability and safety standards to housing supply and affordability.
  • Subject planning and zoning rules to a public interest test – ensuring that the benefits to restriction policies outweigh the costs.
  • Align transport and metropolitan level planning - long term approach to infrastructure planning
  • Review tenancy and tenure rules – ensuring that renters or new home buyers have better access to affordable housing and more certainty in living arrangements
  • Investigate innovative models for financing affordable housing

Cost and financingEdit

The NSW Government aims to “prioritise projects that meet broader economic and city objectives such as accessibility, jobs, affordable housing and healthy environments.” Innovative financing approaches—including value capture—we will leverage the balance sheet and deliver more essential infrastructure sooner.

Case study: Macquarie ParkEdit

Macquarie Park is one of the largest business precincts outside the Sydney and North Sydney CBDs while also being an education hub with the nearby Macquarie University. The implementation of critical rail infrastructure and services was a tremendous boon on improving the local economy. Following the establishment of the Chatswood to Epping rail link in 2009, the total economic output of Macquarie Park rose from $4.68 billion in 2002 to $9.11 billion in 2013. As a result, Macquarie Park has built a reputation as a technology, communications and biomedical hub and is an important employment generating area. This previously semi-rural area has the advantages of proximity to the CBD, the size of the former greenfield site, the association with Macquarie University, and three train stations in the area, which provide connections to the Sydney CBD and airport. Several large international organisations, such as Deloitte, have relocated their offices to Macquarie Park in recognition of its cost effectiveness and potential develop into a new urban hub.


Overall, the 30-minute target for accessibility all around Sydney has been brought to light in recent years via a myriad of plans and research papers performed by various private institutions and organizations. All aim to serve a better Sydney through mitigating congestion issues and opening up more transportation channels through further construction of adjoining infrastructure lines.

Main Issue with 30-Minute ProposalEdit

If Sydney was to be considered as one city as located in the Harbour CBD district, then those living in Western Sydney are at a clear disadvantage due to the great distance. David M. Levinson in a recent blog cited on ‘The Transportist’ Moving the Capital of NSW to the West pointed out how the success of the Sydney CBD in attracting government workers poses as a threat for the evolution of cities in Sydney’s West[12]. It was stated that even a few thousand workers could be all the difference in success for the growth of new city prospects, which highlights the significance of translating jobs from the Harbour CBD towards the west.

The imbalance of concentration of jobs in the city CBD is relatively high compared to the rest of Sydney at a high of approximately 500,000 and is backed through the radial rail network constructed just for the city line. However, in recent years higher property prices have been driving commuters and workers away from the Harbour CBD in conjunction with the addition of major industrial work hubs such as Macquarie Park and the North-west business park. Therefore, major high-paying technical jobs are seeing greater availability away from the Sydney CBD and hence planning and transportation organisations aim for a long-term plan to structure Sydney as a metropolis of 3 cities by 2056.

The Greater Sydney Region PlanEdit

This plan seeks to meet the 30-minute vision through the creation of 3 major cities in the Greater Sydney region. This includes access to jobs, schools, public facilities, hospitals, shopping centres and any great places that are points of interests for all local residents within 30 minutes.

In order for a plan like this to work, it must be stressed that infrastructure & transport be put in before people & businesses move in. An example of the chaos this can cause is Wentworth Point being the most-dense suburb in NSW yet having one road (Hill Road) in & out of the suburb where only recently was the Bennelong Bridge opened, however, the point stands that infrastructure services & transport must be put in before any major developments & population spikes occur.


Adding value to the transportation network enhances the value of all nearby infrastructure, as businesses are incentivized to locate themselves in high-traffic areas both for increased accessibility and brand visibility. Similarly, it can be generalized that people are attracted to convenience and thus locations where they can access the greatest amount of employment, goods and services. “The idea behind the 30-minute city is, if jobs are evenly dispersed across the city, most residents will have access to employment and services within 30 minutes using public transport,”[13] said Paul Walker, a development director at GPT a company working on catalysing access to the west.

Conceptually, a 30 minute city will improve the knowledge economy the most strongly. With the high rates of job growth present in Sydney’s city centre, the improvement of transport corridors and interchanges is essential in order to sustain economic growth and productivity. While growth in regional areas is also important for Australia, ‘job clusters’ are not as dense as urban regions and thus providing highly specialized transport corridors may provide as much benefit.


High economic growth creates increased demand for housing in Australia’s cities especially in —Sydney, Melbourne and Perth—rapid house price growth in inner city areas has made living near work unaffordable for many. In consequence, residents have been forced to move further away from work or to take on large debts to live closer to work. The 30 minute city aims to resolve these issues by providing:

  • Increased housing supply near job opportunities and transport connections—so more people can live closer to their work, with easy access to transport and services, and the opportunity to choose active transport such as walking and cycling
  • Increased number of jobs closer to where people already live
  • Improving connectivity between housing and job centres

The state governments have a high degree of economic control on real estate through stamp duty, land tax, zoning and development approvals. As a result, coordination between all levels of government is integral in the development of the 30 minute city[14].


Urban congestion is estimated to cost over $16.5 billion per year and these losses are forecast to increase to around $30 billion by 2030. Countries such as the UK, US, China, Japan, Spain and France have already implemented or are in the process of developing fast, efficient transit systems. Pricing signals have been used to affect the routes taken by motorists to alleviate pressure on highly trafficked roads. Regional Australia also benefits from the implementation of fast, efficient transport networks. Due to Australia’s geographical characteristics, transportation of freight is integrated into our daily lives and it is essential not only for economic prosperity but the livelihood of Australian citizens that transportation of goods is also fast and efficient. Improved accessibility to regional areas will increase access to jobs and access to the labour force. Also providing people more choices in their daily life as well as increasing job opportunity. Improving network connectivity will allow for more incentive for businesses to expand and create jobs in smaller city centres. Improvement of transport infrastructure will also benefit the National Broadband Network by further connecting regional communities to new markets and information.

Human capitalEdit

Due to Australia’s international position as leader in liveability, it must meet not only the needs of its citizens but meet the global benchmark for key amenities such as transportation. The Australian Government has a vested interest in preserving its highly educated workforce and attracting skilled, talented workers from overseas. Whilst no country has eliminated congestion, most world-class cities have invested in fast, high-capacity transit systems.


  1. Deloitte (2018). ImagineSydney. [online] Available at:
  2. Zahavi, Yavov (1974) Traveltime Budgets and Mobility in Urban Areas - May 1974
  3. Marchetti, C., 1994: Anthropological Invariants in Travel Behavior, Technological Forecasting and Social Change , 47 :75–88, Internal Publication, International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, Laxenburg, Austria
  4. Victorian Government for Environment, Land, Water and Planning (2014). Melbourne 2030. [online] Available at:
  5. Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development (2013). Population growth, jobs growth and commuting flows—a comparison of Australia’s four largest cities. [online] Available at:
  6. Department of Planning and Environment (2014). A Plan for Growing Sydney. [online] Available at:
  7. Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities (2016). Smart Cities Plan. [online] Available at:
  8. TheAustralian (2017). Malcolm Turnbull follows up on 30 minute cities aspiration. [online] Available at:
  9. Greater Sydney Commission (2018). A Metropolis of Three Cities. [online] Available at:
  10. Arup Digital (2018). Arup | 30 minute city. [online] Available at:
  11. Deloitte (2018). ImagineSydney: a more accessible, more liveable 30-minute city could deliver around $10 billion in economic benefits. [online] Available at:
  12. Levinson. D (2018). Moving the Capital of NSW to the West. [online] Available at:
  13. Western Sydney University (2018). CatalystWest: Can Sydney become a 30-minute city?. [online] Available at:
  14. Sydney Morning Herald (2018). Do you live in one of Sydney’s ‘30 minute neighbourhoods’?. [online] Available at: