Danny Yee >> Travelogues >> Oxford Blog >> Transport
spires from Carfax

Sydney public transport

Transport, , , — February 2024

We used the trains quite a bit on our mid-2023 trip to Sydney, and Helen learned the order of stations on Sydney's North Shore line, from Central to Hornsby (including the three Ws at the end, which surely exist only to make this a challenge).


This was a mnemonic staple of my childhood. We lived a ten minute walk from Roseville station, and my default way to get around Sydney was by train and on foot. My trip to high school involved a train to St Leonards and a bus from there, but I often walked instead of taking the bus. Sydney's train system is far from comprehensive but works pretty well if one is happy to walk three kilometres.

On this trip Helen and I were mostly catching the train between Gordon and Waverton, but we also used Town Hall, Wynyard, Milsons Point, Woolstonecraft, and Chatswood stations, and I went to Redfern and Pymble by myself.

Sydney has underinvested in rail, with the only real addition for half a century being the metro line from Epping to Chatswood, which is now being extended under the harbour to connect to the city centre. But it is making good use of what it has, systematically densifying around key transport hubs.


The other big change I noticed is the light rail line to the eastern suburbs, which I caught once and which seems to work nicely, and the accompanying transformation of George St. The latter has had pretty much all motor traffic (including buses) removed, allowing more space for people not just on George St itself but on now pedestrianised sections of side streets. Another other great improvement is the Opal payment card system, which is ubiquitous and just works.

map showing St Ives to QVB bus route, with major stops

Most of Sydney is still completely car/road-dominated, making buses an essential part of any transition to a sustainable future. I used the buses from St Ives both to Gordon station and directly into the city centre, which was surprisingly easy (I used both Google Maps and a variety of web sites to track buses). But there were really rather small numbers of people using these services, going by service frequencies and how uncrowded the buses were. Sydney needs to stop building new roads, discourage car use (tolls on Spit Bridge, Long Gully Bridge, and Flat Rock Drive would be a start), and put in more bus lanes, with the goal of getting enough patronage to have express bus services like St Ives to the QVB running every 10 minutes.


  1. Planning to selectively build around train stations. But there are problems with strata laws which mean developers don't want to risk invest. It's only medium-height 5-8 story apartment blocks. And you are only building on 5% of the suburb, locking up 95% as low density for the NIMBYs. Councils are now on the warpath and throwing up anything they can to stall or stop development. This approach failed in The Bay Area. It also hard to plan development and transport until WFH has found an equilibrium.

    Epping via Chatswood and Strathfield were running at 110% of capacity before COVID-19. That's why they are duplicating them with Metro lines.

    Auckland on the other hand declared 20 km around the CBD open for development, where people want to work and live, and they reduced housing costs by 13.5%.

    Comment by Pertinax — February 2024
  2. Greetings (Danny,I used to follow your blog in 1994 when we were both at Sydney Uni - I just looked it up because I saw a cyclox article that I thought was likely about you), and lo and behold, it still exists.

    I completely agree with your comments on Sydney transit.

    I spent some time in Sydney over Christmas (visiting some old Sydney Uni friends who now live in Northbridge, and getting depressed about property prices there now). I was very impressed by all the activity around the new Metro stations, especially the new link between Chatswood and Waterloo (I stayed next to the Victoria Cross building site). Finally Sydney is getting into action on transport - yes they should have started this decades ago, but it could really be gamechanging if they can keep the momentum on this in the face of inevitable opposition from NIMBY councillors.

    I just wish Sydney had a better bike path or even bike lane network. I am currently on sabbatical in Tokyo, and it is impressive how huge a fraction of local transit in suburban Tokyo is by bicycle. Supermarkets have far bigger bike parking areas than car parks, and the number of mums on these low electric bikes with child seats is truly impressive. (And they don't actually have many bike lanes, but rather a tacit system of local cycling on relatively wide pavements that seems to work).

    Comment by Simon — April 2024

TrackBack URI

Leave a comment

Transport << Oxford Blog << Travelogues << Danny Yee