The State of Australian Cities 2013 report details changes in urban population and settlement and examines indicators relating to productivity, sustainability and livability for the nation’s 18 biggest cities.

The massive report was launched by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Anthony Albanese and compiled by the Major Cities Unit within his department.

“While Australia’s major cities remain among the world’s most liveable with bicycle use at the highest level in 40 years, changing work-force patterns pose future challenges for transport infrastructure planning,” Albanese said.

Australia’s population growth rate was one of the highest amongst OECD nations between 2000 and 2010. Since capital cities grew faster than the national average, this suggests that Australia’s capital cities are some of the fastest growing in the developed world.

Productivity, economic value, and – by extension – high-paying jobs, are increasingly concentrated in city centres. Net private sector job growth is low in the outer suburbs of Australia’s larger cities, which have been particularly affected by a fall in manufacturing jobs. A high proportion of the workforce in the outer suburbs works in the construction sector and is consequently vulnerable to slowdowns in building activity.

Areas with dense mass transit networks and residents with high income often coincide. Thus, those using rail and ferry services in particular have higher average incomes than those using other transport modes.

From an energy perspective, residential energy use accounts for 12 per cent of national energy use, while transport accounts for 40 per cent. Energy use in light passenger vehicles is relatively well documented. There is less publicly available information for average occupancy rates and vehicle energy use for mass transit systems and this makes it difficult to compare energy efficiency across modes.

The potential energy efficiency savings of urban mass transit systems are considerable but more detailed information in this area is still needed to inform public policy decisions.

A Cities Group has been established under the Transport and Infrastructure Senior Officials Committee to expedite the progress of intergovernmental collaboration on cities through the COAG Standing Council on Transport and Infrastructure.

“As well as giving us a better understanding of how our cities work, the report also identifies the specific initiatives of local councils and state planning authorities which are proving effective at promoting more productive, sustainable and liveable urban communities,” said Albanese.

In tandem with this report, Albanese also launched Walking, Riding and Access to Public Transport, which sets out the simple steps that governments and employers can take to increase the proportion of people walking and riding for short trips, and to connect to public transport hubs.

For its part, the Federal Government has agreed that all future urban road projects must include a safe, separated cycle way, where practical.

“As one of the most urbanised societies in the world, and with our cities generating 80 per cent of our national income, our continuing prosperity largely depends on the productivity, sustainability and livability of our cities,” Albanese said.

“Federal Labor has a plan to keep our cities moving, one that involves investing in both road AND rail infrastructure. That’s why we’ve doubled the roads budget and committed more to urban public transport infrastructure than all our predecessors since Federation combined. Right now, major projects are underway in Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane, Sydney and on the Gold Coast.”

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