Sydney city aerial

In 2056, most of Sydney’s 12 million residents should be able to get to their destinations within 30 minutes by public transport, walking or cycling, according to the NSW government’s just-released Future Transport 2056 strategy. They might even be flying around in automated drones.

A main aim of the strategy is to “increase the mode share of public transport services and reduce the use of single occupant vehicles”. The Greater Sydney Commission’s three cities plan, based on the concept of the 30-minute city, where jobs and services can be accessed within 30 minutes, is key to this target.

“Well planned centres and cities, will enable a shift from private cars to public transport and active transport modes such as walking and cycling,” the report says.

NSW transport minister Andrew Constance said the government wanted 70 per cent of people to live within 30 minutes of where they work or study by 2056, by upgrading public transport and roads.

But whether the 30-minute city plan can be realised is another question, with a recent Infrastructure Australia report on Future Cities casting doubt on the goal. Under low, medium and high-density 2046 scenarios IA predicted increased levels of congestion and less than 20 per cent of jobs accessible within 30 minutes by car, and at best four per cent of jobs accessible in 30 minutes during the morning peak.

Sustainability driver

There’s also an environmental sustainability driver for getting people out of cars. This is related to the government’s net zero 2050 goal, as rail and light rail produce 10 times less greenhouse gas emissions than cars, and buses produce 30 times less GHG emissions. Currently transport accounts for 42 per cent of the state’s total energy consumption.

“Moving people from private vehicles to more sustainable transport modes will reduce congestion and the transport sector’s emissions intensity, improve air quality and support better health and wellbeing,” the strategy says.

“There is an opportunity to consider innovative and creative ways to encourage greater use of active and public transport.

“This would reduce the amount of vehicle kilometres travelled per person, which in turn would reduce the carbon intensity of each trip.”

Actions include designing infrastructure that better caters to customer need, improving the amenity of public transport vehicles, providing fast and frequent connections to places people want to go, and creating safe pedestrian and cycling infrastructure.

Driverless cars

The strategy takes on the difficult task of envisaging Sydney’s transport future in a sector set to be heavily disrupted by automated vehicles (AVs) – with the question being when, not if.

Indeed, the strategy says driverless car take-up could range from 30 per cent to 100 per cent by 2036, with most predictions seeing 100 per cent take-up before 2050.

This could, however, conflict with the attempt to shift users towards public transport if not properly managed.

The government has noted that the integration of AVs into a mobility as a service (MaaS) platform with “reliable ‘turn up and go’ mass transit services” could help to strengthen public transport use.


The strategy also predicts drone technology could expand to encompass freight delivery and point-to-point transport for people by 2056.

“Amazon has already proposed how airspace could be segregated to ensure safe and efficient drone use. In this model, the area between 200 and 400 feet is reserved as a ‘drone highway’ where drones operate autonomously and are equipped with ‘sense and avoid’ technologies that allow them to dodge other vehicles and potential hazards like birds and tall buildings,” the strategy says.

“If properly introduced, drones could be used for last mile freight delivery as well as the surveillance and rapid deployment of emergency personnel, maintenance crews or equipment.”

The government said it would develop and review policies around management of air space to enable “a potential future of aerial mobility”.

Launching the strategy along with the Greater Sydney Commission plan and the NSW State Infrastructure Strategy, premier Gladys Berejiklian said it was the first time land-use planning, transport and infrastructure had been planned for at the same time.

“This landmark vision integrates social infrastructure, transport and planning, so we can make the most of this government’s unprecedented investment in communities across our state,” Ms Berejiklian said.

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