I’ve done a quick comparison of the main airport to CBD public transport in Australia’s biggest cities.
Brisbane and Sydney have trains at premium fares. Perth and Adelaide have normal route buses. Melbourne has a premium bus.
|Adult one way (peak)||$16.00||$15.80||$15.00||$4.70||$3.80|
|Child one way (peak)||$6.00||$10.40||$0.00||$2.30||$1.50|
*Update: Brisbane Air-train now runs to 10pm. Some prices have changed.
I’ve used all but Perth’s — which is worth noting serves the domestic airport, but not the international one.
Melbourne’s Skybus is the most expensive, but is also by far the longest distance, and is also the trip that runs at the highest speed, with the second-shortest travel time. It’s also the most frequent, apart from during peak hours when Sydney beats it. Skybus does get overcrowded at peak times, too.
Sydney’s works well, being frequent and quick, but the price makes it an extremely expensive 10ish minute journey, and the highest per kilometre cost.
Adelaide’s per kilometre price is higher than Melbourne’s because Adelaide has flat fares. People who want Melbourne to have a single zone might do well to note that upwards pressure has put the single trip $4.70 ticket is above the $3.80 cost of Melbourne’s zone 1, 2-hour ticket (though Adelaide also has an off-peak ticket at $2.90 which would also be valid for this trip between 9am and 3pm).
One thing Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide’s airport services have that the others don’t is good frequencies. We timed our trip on Brisbane’s train well going from the airport to the City, but that was luck more than anything else, and it’s difficult to control. We could just as easily have had to wait half-an-hour. Landing back in Melbourne, we just missed a Skybus, but it didn’t matter because of the ten minute service.
So which is best?
That’s a hard question to answer.
I wonder if for occasional travellers (including visitors to our cities) the distance and the speed isn’t really something they think about too much; it’s more about the frequency, cost and travel time… though leisure travellers sometimes don’t even worry about those — I remember the slow infrequent expensive Rome airport train (circa 1999) was packed full of us tourists.
Of course, trains have qualities that make people prefer them to buses. Something about prominence, (perceived) permanence, space, freedom to move, and ride quality.
For frequency, Melbourne and Sydney clearly win out, with Adelaide not far behind. But I’m amused that (despite the high price) Melbourne is per kilometre cheaper than any of them except Perth.
They’ve all got good points really. Ideally, like any other public transport, you’d want high frequency and speed, good comfort levels, and low cost. And ideally to make it usable you want it serving tourists, business travellers and airport workers (of which there are thousands every day).
The important thing for Melbourne, if airport rail ever gets the go-ahead, is to ensure the service quality (particularly frequency) remains high — otherwise you won’t get locals and regular/business travellers to use it.
Thoughts? What do you use? Did I mess up anything in the table?