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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Towards A Sustainable Transport Sector: A Case Study Of Melbourne, Australia

Sophie Atkinson
Towards A Sustainable Transport Sector: A Case Study Of Melbourne, Australia

More than half of the world’s population live in cities and urban environments. This figure is increasing at a rapid rate. Growing populations place increasing strain on all urban systems, including transportation. For cities to meet the needs of their residents today and in the future, urban systems must become sustainable. Towards this goal, governments around the world implement a variety of transport policy interventions. Sustainable systems seek to optimise system efficiency while minimising resource consumption.  An evaluation method is required to assist decision makers to prioritise transport policy interventions in a systematic and transparent manner.
This research uses multi-criteria decision analysis in the form of an Analytical Hierarchy Procedure (AHP) to prioritise transport policy interventions, by considering a case study of Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. Analysis of the most recent Australian (Victorian Government’s Integrated Survey of Travel and Activity (VISTA)) data (2009/10), reveals that the Melbourne transport system is car dependent. The Melbourne transport system is assessed against an identified set of six sustainability criteria, and it is found to be unsustainable. It is argued that in order to break the cycle of car dependency facing major cities, intervention is required; either to encourage modal shift to more sustainable transport modes, or to reduce the need to travel. Three international case studies of successful interventions, namely, congestion charging, urban development policies, and sustainable transport mode incentive / car disincentive policies, are evaluated against the six sustainability criteria. AHP is used to prioritise the transport interventions considered to make policy recommendations for Melbourne. The analysis identifies ‘urban development policies’ as the preferred intervention for reducing car dependency in Melbourne.
Sensitivity analysis was conducted using the AHP to ensure the resilience of the decision given a change in social, economic or environmental conditions. By altering weightings for specific criteria, the AHP was used to evaluate the transport interventions for two additional scenarios. The sensitivity analysis demonstrated that urban development policies remained the preferred solution.
This research seeks to benefit decision makers by providing a systematic, comprehensive and transparent framework for evaluating transport interventions. The method used in this paper is designed to be flexible and could be applied to a wide range of issues to assist decision makers to prioritise a series of alternatives against multiple criteria.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.