This working paper explores the long-term future of public transport in New Zealand’s cities, in a world where transport technologies and services are rapidly evolving. It is intended to provoke dialogue, and to challenge the assumptions that public transport in thirty years’ time will look only slightly different from what we are familiar with today—or alternatively, that it has to look completely different in every way.

This working paper includes the following.

  • Views on public transport: A summary of prevailing views on the future of public transport in New Zealand, based on interviews with transport experts and stakeholders.
  • Four future scenarios: These scenarios do not describe what the future will be like. Instead, they envision how automation and urbanisation could affect urban transport in the future. We used these scenarios to explore implications for public transport and our cities.
  • Insights from the futures: Implications of increasing automation and shared mobility for our public transport systems.

Key insights from the project

Our main message from this working paper is that public transport needs to be at the core of a shared mobility future. Otherwise, we risk facing higher levels of motorised traffic and congestion in our cities.   

In high-density urban areas, we envisage a greater need for rapid transit systems – high frequency buses, light rail, and trains travelling on dedicated corridors – to move large volumes of people quickly, safely, and cleanly.

There are opportunities to connect rapid transit services with other parts of a shared mobility system. People could travel the first and last legs to/from public transport stations by shared shuttles, bikes, and scooters, with people seamlessly planning and paying for travel via personalised mobility apps. High quality infrastructure for walking and cycling to/from public transport stations could encourage more active travel, benefiting public health.

In low-density suburban areas, we envisage demand-responsive buses and shuttles replacing many scheduled bus services and routes. These could lead to better services for passengers, and a more efficient system.   

Although this working paper focuses on ways that new technologies and services could affect transport and our cities, an underlying message is that our future should not simply be technology-led. We need to be discerning about new technologies, and shape them in ways that improve urban liveability and people’s wellbeing far into the future.

Download the working paper