Public Transport

Public Transport

Long exposure photo of a bus driving away

Public transport research at ITS (Monash) is focussed on a cross University/cross faculty unit called the Public Transport Research Group or PTRG.

Research interests of the group are cross disciplinary and varied but loosely focus on research associated with public transport and strategic planning, travel demand management, travel behaviour, transit safety, transit design, transport economics, land use and transit, travel modelling, operations modelling and planning for major special events. An independent review of global public transport research in 2015 found that Monash University was the top research group in public transport in Australia and in the top 3 of the worlds leading Universities internationally.

PTRG research is primarily focussed on advancing major challenges in the worlds public transport industry. A major recent initiative has been the formation of the worlds first joint public transport authority-University research centre in public transport which was formed with Public Transport Victoria in 2015.

PTRG is also managing one of the worlds largest clusters of PhD students working together with industry in ‘SEPT-GRIP’ The ‘Sustainable and Effective Public Transport - Graduate Research Interdisciplinary Program’ which includes 18 students working on 18 projects with industry including PTV, Metro Trains, Yarra Trams, Transdev, BusVic and VicRoads.

ITS Staff Contacts

PTRG includes over 50 associate staff from other Faculties/research groups at Monash University and National and International Associates in other leading Universities and Industry groups.

More information on PTRG can be found at

Public Transport Logo

Current Research Activities

Optimising the Design of Public Transport Priority

PTRG researchers have developed and implemented a research program around optimisation of the design and implementation of on-road priority initiatives for public transport exploring the performance of bus and tram lanes and new technologies such as traffic signal priority. The program is funded by the Australian Research Council as part of their Industry Linkage program in association with VicRoads and Public Transport Victoria. It has compiled evidence of before/after impacts, modelled in-depth design implications of individual initiatives and combinations of these initiatives and developed new tools to better design and implement priority programs. Key discoveries resulting from the program have included the concept of the ‘multiplier effect’ where combinations of lanes generate higher net benefits, new models for understanding the wider benefits resulting from priority such as transit fleet size impacts and new approaches to the visualisation of network performance issues for on-road public transport. The program has also made a range of discoveries in relation to the impact of priority road designs on road safety; significant improvements in road safety have been documented including a range of studies identifying why road treatments for bus and tram priority create safer roads.

Contact: Professor Graham Currie

Crossmodal - urban passenger mode shift and cross modal demand effects

This project is funded by the National Research Council of Norway and is undertaken by PTRG in association with The Institute of Transport Economics, Oslo (lead Partner), The Institute of Transport Studies, Leeds UK, Dr Joyce Dargay and Dr Maria Börjesson.

The project concerns the sensitivity of travel by modes which may encourage shift of travel mode to public transport. Its main focus is the cross elasticity of demand from private travel to public transport travel and the diversion factors that influence mode shift. It includes an international scan, meta study and synthesis of evidence and the use of available transport models to theorise the scale of ‘cross modal’ effects from transport modelling. The project runs between 2015 and 2018.

Contact: Professor Graham Currie

Public Transport Market Organisation and Innovation Working Group 2015-16 International Transport Forum (OECD)

PTRG is the nominated Australian representative by Australian Federal Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development on a major international project run by the International Transport Forum, the Joint Transport Research Centre of the Organisation for Economic Development and Co-operation (OECD) based in Paris France. The project ‘Public Transport Market Organisation and Innovation’ covers three 2014-16 Program of Work priorities (see ITF/OECD/JTRC (2014)1):

  • Market regulations and the role of government in PT
  • Tender of public bus and rail operation
  • New modes for organising public transit contracts.

To meet these research priorities the working group of the project will review the ability of different models of urban public transport market tendering and organisation to deal with the diverse structural challenges facing member countries, such as jurisdictional coordination, powerful incumbent operators, new mobility options and evolving travel patterns.

In addition to PTRG’s representation for Australia, leading researchers and policy advisors from Japan, Korea, Chile France, UK, Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Spain, Russia, India and Mexico are represented in the working group.

PTRG was the first keynote presenter at the inaugural meeting of the research team in Paris in November 2015 and has submitted a working paper collating and synthesising key lessons from world experience on regulatory reform in public transport.

Contact: Professor Graham Currie

Past Research Activities

Benchmarking the Quality of Public Transport for International Tourists in Queensland Cities

PTRG were commissioned by the Queensland Department of Tourism, Major Events, Small Business and the Commonwealth Games to benchmark the quality of public transport in five Queensland cities and compare it to international cities including London and Paris. The method, developed by PTRG researchers, measures the quality of Information, Cost/Ticketing, the Level of Service and the provision of specialist Tourist Only services using an objective rating scale for a series of 24 separate criteria which can be determined for each city. Measures consider these elements from the perspective of international visitors and are based on research analysis of their perceptions of these aspects of service provision. The results identified strengths and weakness in each city that might be targeted to improve service provision for international tourists. Results were presented at Queenslands’ premier tourism management and planning forum ‘Destination Q’ and were used to develop a strategic plan to improve the tourism product in Queensland. The research also sought to highlight opportunities for urban public transport to encourage wider market development in areas other than conventional commuter travel.

Contact: Professor Graham Currie

Optimising Responses to Unplanned Rail Disruptions

PTRG have undertaken a long term program of research exploring how urban railways might best plan and respond to unexpected failures in passenger services. Commencing as a PhD program the research developed into a series of client research engagements including a joint program of research with Melbournes’ rail operator, Metro Melbourne to best develop and plan for responses to urban rail disruptions. The research has surveyed international practices to existing responses to disruptions in over 100 railways in Europe, North America, Asia and Australasia. It has also developed a strategy framework for railways to pro-actively plan for disruptions including approaches to maximise benefits for measures such as bus replacement. It has also explored how social media might be best used to communicate with and manage passengers. The Metro Melbourne research also surveyed rail users to better understand their perceptions and responses to unexpected events and included front line staff engagement in the research to develop ‘buy in’ for optimal strategies which they would then have to implement.

Contact: Professor Graham Currie

Reliable service network design problem (SNDP) with stochastic demand

Transit network design problem with stochastic demand is investigated by considering two types of services, rapid transit services, such as rail, and flexible services, such as dial-a-ride shuttles. Rapid transit services operate on fixed routes and dedicated lanes, and with fixed schedules, whereas dial-a-ride services can make use of the existing road network, hence are much more economical to implement. We integrate these two service networks into one multi-modal network and then determines the optimal combination of these two service types. Two approaches are used to address the stochastic demand, one is robust optimization, the other is stochastic programming. Robust optimization approach assumes the stochastic demand is captured in a polyhedral uncertainty set, which is then reformulated into a mixed integer program by its dual problem. Stochastic programing approach assumes the distribution of the stochastic demand is give. A service reliability (SR) based two-phase stochastic program is formulated. The transit line alignment and frequencies are determined in phase-1 for a specified SR. The flexible services are determined in phase-2 depending on the demand realization to capture the cost of demand overflow beyond this specified SR. The objective is to optimize SR so as to balance the trade-off between the ability of the transit services to carry the demand and the resultant system cost. This approach is able to protect certain nodes through providing guaranteed SR levels (e.g. SR>0.8). The proposed model is applied in an illustrative network to demonstrate their applicability and compare the solution performances of the two approaches.

Contact: Dr Kun An