This is why Sydney and Melbourne offer far, far nicer commutes than London

A tram on Melbourne's Swanston Street. Image: Zed Fitzhume/Flickr.

Everyone has good days and bad days on their commute. I’ve had days where a crazy woman has abused the people in front of and around her, as well as the ones inside her head, all the while gesturing for me to get out of her way (excuse me, but we’ve all been waiting).

That’s in London, though. And there are some cities where your probability of experiencing a pleasant ride to work on a regular basis is a bit higher.

For a Sydney slicker, the daily commute can include not only bus or train, but also skimming through crisp blue waters on the morning ferry to your workplace, or strolling across the Sydney Harbour Bridge (bucket list anyone?). If everyone started their workday with a sea breeze, I think we’d be a lot more Zen and a lot less hateful.

That pleasant ferry journey, favoured by my friends living on Sydney’s north shore costs you A$5.20. In all, you can spent as little as $50AUD (roughly £25) per week on travel costs. (In London, a zone one and two monthly travel card costs £123.) All in all, not too shabby for a commute where you can almost always find a seat.

 Sydneysiders have pretty good “commutiquette”, too, particularly on the buses, which account for approximately half of the public transport commutes. They’ll form an orderly queue, and then as many people will board as possible; once the buses are full, they'll fast track straight to the city centre. This doesn’t alarm city goers, as the congested buses are both frequent and a bargain at $2.70 (£1.35). I’ve heard gallantry may still be alive down there as men often allow women to board before them.

Melbourne is more hit and miss when it comes to the daily commute. The trains will fill up, so your best chance of grabbing a seat is if you live a little further out. As far as physical discomfort goes, Melbournians are generally very conscious of others around them and will try as hard as possible not to knock into you, get into your personal space, and be apologetic if they do.

A map of Melbourne's extensive tram network. Image: JohnnoShadbol/LiamDavies/Wikimedia Commons.

Nonetheless, Melbourne’s train, tram and bus frequency is nowhere near at the level of other major cities such as London. Imagine waiting between seven and fifteen minutes for the next train during peak hour (in London, anything more than a two minute gap is considered poor service). Melbourne has the largest tram network in the world, with 250k of double track; but the trams and buses are often held up by traffic including the two in three people who choose to drive over public transport.

Sydney and Melbourne may offer more enjoyable commutes than London, but they do have an advantage. They’re vastly less densely populated: there are simply fewer people along each major transport route. At the very least we can rely on commutiquette to stay sane during those mind numbing journeys.

Kat Houston is web editor at Design Curial.


Coming soon: CityMetric will relaunch as City Monitor, a new publication dedicated to the future of cities

Coming soon!

Later this month, CityMetric will be relaunching with an entirely new look and identity, as well as an expanded editorial mission. We’ll become City Monitor, a name that reflects both a ramping up of our ambitions as well as our membership in a network of like-minded publications coming soon from New Statesman Media Group. We can’t wait to share the new website with you, but in the meantime, here’s what CityMetric readers should know about what to expect from this exciting transition.  

Regular CityMetric readers may have already noticed a few changes around here since the spring. CityMetric’s beloved founding editor, Jonn Elledge, has moved on to some new adventures, and a new team has formed to take the site into the future. It’s led by yours truly – I’m Sommer Mathis, the editor-in-chief of City Monitor. Hello!

My background includes having served as the founding editor of CityLab, editor-in-chief of Atlas Obscura, and editor-in-chief of DCist, a local news publication in the District of Columbia. I’ve been reporting on and writing about cities in one way or another for the past 15 years. To me, there is no more important story in the world right now than how cities are changing and adapting to an increasingly challenging global landscape. The majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and if we’re ever going to be able to tackle the most pressing issues currently facing our planet – the climate emergency, rising inequality, the Covid-19 pandemic ­­­– cities are going to have to lead the way.

That’s why City Monitor is going to be a global publication dedicated to the future of cities everywhere – not just in the UK (nor for that matter just in the US, where I live). Our mission will be to help our readers, many of whom are in leadership positions around the globe, navigate how cities are changing and discover what’s next in the world of urban policy. We’ll do that through original reporting, expert opinion and most crucially, a data-driven approach that emphasises evidence and rigorous analysis. We want to arm local decision-makers and those they work in concert with – whether that’s elected officials, bureaucratic leaders, policy advocates, neighbourhood activists, academics and researchers, entrepreneurs, or plain-old engaged citizens – with real insights and potential answers to tough problems. Subjects we’ll cover include transportation, infrastructure, housing, urban design, public safety, the environment, the economy, and much more.

The City Monitor team is made up of some of the most experienced urban policy journalists in the world. Our managing editor is Adam Sneed, also a CityLab alum where he served as a senior associate editor. Before that he was a technology reporter at Politico. Allison Arieff is City Monitor’s senior editor. She was previously editorial director of the urban planning and policy think tank SPUR, as well as a contributing columnist for The New York Times. Staff writer Jake Blumgart most recently covered development, housing, and politics for WHYY, the local public radio station in Philadelphia. And our data reporter is Alexandra Kanik, whose previous roles include data reporting for Louisville Public Media in Kentucky and PublicSource in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Our team will continue to grow in the coming weeks, and we’ll also be collaborating closely with our editorial colleagues across New Statesman Media Group. In fact, we’re launching a whole network of new publications this fall, covering topics such as the clean energy transition, foreign direct investment, technology, banks and more. Many of these sectors will frequently overlap with our cities coverage, and a key part of our plan is make the most of the expertise that all of these newsrooms combined will bring to bear on our journalism.

City Monitor will go live later this month. In the meantime, please visit to sign up for our forthcoming email newsletter.

As for CityMetric, some of its archives have already been moved over to the new website, and the rest will follow not long after. If you’re looking for a favourite piece from CityMetric’s past, for a time you’ll still be able to find it here, but before long the whole archive will move over to City Monitor.

On behalf of the City Monitor team, I’m thrilled to invite you to come along for the ride at our forthcoming digs. You can already follow City Monitor on LinkedIn, and on Twitter, sign up or keep following our existing account, which will switch over to our new name shortly. If you’re interested in learning more about the potential for a commercial partnership with City Monitor, please get in touch with our director of partnerships, Joe Maughan.

I want to thank and congratulate Jonn Elledge on a brilliant run. Everything we do from here on out will be building on the legacy of his work, and the community that he built here at CityMetric. Cheers, Jonn!

In the meantime, stay tuned, and thank you from all of us for being a loyal CityMetric reader. We couldn’t have done any of this without you.

Sommer Mathis is editor-in-chief of City Monitor.