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Dr Michelle Zeibots


Michelle Zeibots is a transport planner, specialising in the analysis of sustainable urban passenger transport systems. Her research and consultancy work draws together operational, behavioural and governance features relating to multi-modal urban transport networks. Michelle has a continuing split appointment at UTS between the Institute for Sustainable Futures where she is a Research Director responsible for strategic oversight within the transport area, and a Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Engineering & Information Technology in the School of Civil Engineering where she lectures in transportation engineering.

Michelle combines her knowledge of more sustainable public and active (walking and cycling) transport models as a means of reducing road traffic congestion through her specialisation in induced traffic growth, having completed a PhD at ISF/UTS on urban motorway development, induced traffic growth and its implications for sustainable urban development. Michelle has since acted as an expert witness and expert referee, carried out empirical analysis and joint-authored reports for several Australian State and New Zealand Government agencies on this aspect of transport science.

Michelle is regularly approached by television, newsprint and radio journalists to comment on transport policy and projects in NSW and other Australian states. She has been interviewed by high profile media interviewers and is often asked by journalists to explain technical concepts and assist them with background information on stories. She has a particular gift for translating technical concepts into relatable language and stories. She is mindful of the political context in which public discussion takes place — another reason journalists like to work with her — and this has enabled her to assist communities and local governments to make a case for sustainable active and public transport projects. 


Planning Institute for Australia (Member)

Chartered Institute for Transport & Logistics (Member)

Image of Michelle Zeibots
Research Director, Institute for Sustainable Futures
Core Member, ISF - Institute for Sustainable Futures
Doctor of Philosophy
Download CV  (PDF, 398KB)
+61 2 9514 4900
Can supervise: Yes

48370 Road & Transportation Engineering

Continuing Professional Development in Travel Planning

Continuing Professional Development short course in Integrated Transport & Land-use


Al Widyan, F., Al-Ani, A., Kirchner, N. & Zeibots, M. 2016, 'A Bottleneck Investigation at Escalator Entry at the Brisbane Central Train Station', Australasian Transport Research Forum 2016 Proceedings, Australian Transportation Research Forum, ATRF, Melbourne, Australia, pp. 1-9.
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Escalators are an essential for passenger's movements through multi-level rail station concourse environments. Despite the access benefits that escalators provide, they can make travel time longer and pose some challenges when bottlenecks appear at entry. Studying the passenger behaviour of bottlenecks at escalator entrances is essential for planning, designing and control of engineering transportation systems. In this paper we investigate passenger route choice behaviour while approaching an escalator-stair infrastructure set at Brisbane Central train station. A model of an escalator entry bottleneck is formulated. The developed model can explain the queuing characteristics of the bottlenecks and can be readily used to predict congested state occurrence at escalator entry bottleneck. Accurate prediction of bottlenecks occurring around escalators and the estimation of escalator capacity are obtained based on real field data collected from Brisbane Central train station. Results have provided significant insights and computational tools for understanding many features of escalator bottlenecks. Remarkably, escalator capacity at bottleneck points affects the duration and severity of the congested period.
Al-widyan, F.S., Kirchner, N. & Zeibots, M. 2015, 'An empirically verified Passenger Route Selection Model based on the principle of least effort for monitoring and predicting passenger walking paths through congested rail station environments', Australasian Transport Research Forum 2015 Proceedings, Australasian Transport Research Forum, Sydney, Australia.
Crowding at egress points and waiting areas in public transport environments during peak periods can potentially impede passenger movements, causing delays to scheduled services. Passenger modelling is a complex task. There are relatively few models able to simulate the complex behavioural characteristics of large volumes of people walking through confined public transport environments such as rail station concourse and platform areas. With the aid of robotic sensing technology however, rich data can be acquired to provide high quality inputs on which passenger behaviour models can be based. This paper presents a methodology for predicting the preferred route selected by passengers during their egress. Proposed in this paper are a basic principle and a methodology for route choice based on the least effort that a passenger may consume during their travel between destinations. The methodology proposed takes into consideration the movement based passenger and congestion state. We employ the principle of least effort, formulated in terms of a metabolic energy, and congestion states. Our approach uses a new mathematical model for representing effort expended for each path, based on a formulation that minimizes the total amount of metabolic energy used when moving on a trajectory. Using results from an empirical study at Brisbane Central rail station, we show our approach collates well with real patterns of passenger egress. Our discussion concludes with an overview of how our approach could be used by rail service providers to optimise operations and improve customer experience.
Kirchner, N.G., Caraian, S., Colborne-Veel, P. & Zeibots, M. 2015, 'Influencing Passenger Egress to Reduce Congestion at Rail Stations', Online Proceedings of the Australasian Transport Research Forum 2015, Australasian Transport Research Forum 2015, ATRF, Sydney, Australia.
As rail station patronage levels increase, so too does the load on the entire railway system. The higher passenger densities exacerbate local egress issues and thus adversely affect dwell time and subsequently punctuality, along with the passenger experience. Devices such as barriers are regularly used to influence passenger egress. However, their use is typically limited to special events; where perhaps a single influence-objective is intended on a relatively uniform passenger demographic. This limitation precludes such devices usefulness for daily operations; where potentially multiple influence-objectives, which potentially change regularly, exists. Furthermore, it is reasonable to expect a considerably less uniform passenger demographic which perhaps includes passengers that are less receptive to particular influence strategies. This paper presents an exploration of components of a robotic system that is responsive to real time person behaviours and operator's needs. Specifically, details of our methods for identification of the passenger demographic groups and passenger egress influencing are presented along with results from two studies. The first study was conducted at Townhall Station Sydney and explored our robotic system's ability to reliably identify the passenger demographic of individual passengers in real time. The ability of our robotic system to influence real time egress of real in-transit passengers in situ, and the ability to responsively moderate influence-objective based on observed characteristics was explored in the second study which was co-located at Perth Station Perth and the University of Technology Sydney. Finally, this paper discusses how this predictable influence of passenger egress can potentially be leveraged to benefit operations.
Collart, J., Alempijevic, A., Kirchner, N. & Zeibots, M. 2015, 'Foundation technology for developing an autonomous Complex Dwell-time Diagnostics (CDD) Tool', Australasian Transport Research Forum 2015 Proceedings, Australasian Transport Research Forum, ATRF, Sydney, Australia, pp. 1-13.
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As the demand for rail services grows, intense pressure is placed on stations at the centre of rail networks where large crowds of rail passengers alight and board trains during peak periods. The time it takes for this to occur — the dwell-time — can become extended when high numbers of people congest and cross paths. Where a track section is operating at short headways, extended dwell-times can cause delays to scheduled services that can in turn cause a cascade of delays that eventually affect entire networks. Where networks are operating at close to their ceiling capacity, dwell-time management is essential and in most cases requires the introduction of special operating procedures. This paper details our work towards developing an autonomous Complex Dwell-time Diagnostics (CDD) Tool — a low cost technology, capable of providing information on multiple dwell events in real time. At present, rail operators are not able to access reliable and detailed enough data on train dwell operations and passenger behaviour. This is because much of the necessary data has to be collected manually. The lack of rich data means train crews and platform staff are not empowered to do all they could to potentially stabilise and reduce dwell-times. By better supporting service providers with high quality data analysis, the number of viable train paths can be increased, potentially delaying the need to invest in high cost hard infrastructures such as additional tracks. The foundation technology needed to create CDD discussed in this paper comprises a 3D image data based autonomous system capable of detecting dwell events during operations and then create business information that can be accessed by service providers in real time during rail operations. Initial tests of the technology have been carried out at Brisbane Central rail station. A discussion of the results to date is provided and their implications for next steps.
Zeibots, M.E. 2009, 'Do people really love their cars or do governments just love road building ... and what are the implications for sustainability?', Society for Sustainability and Environmental Engineering Program, International Conference: Solutions for a Sustainable Planet, Society for Sustainability and Environmental Engineering, Melbourne, Australia, pp. 1-11.
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The paper examines the difference between the attitudes of decision makers and the general community in relation to transport development and finds that decision makers believe the general community want more roads built whereas surveys show the majority of people in the general community would prefer to see more investment in public transport. The paper then examines actual travel behaviour responses to the opening of new roads, exploring a phenomenon known as induced traffic growth, noting that the increase in traffic volumes that occurs is due to changes in travel speeds. The paper concludes that people respond to changes in travel time and that speeds can also be increased on public transport. This is a decision arising from the transport decision making process however and not the actions of individuals who simply respond positively to increases in speed, irrespective of the mode.
Boydell, S., Giurco, D., Rickwood, P., Glazebrook, G.J., Zeibots, M.E. & White, S. 2009, 'Using an integrated assessment model for urban development to respond to climate change in cities', Energy Efficient Cities: Assessment tools and benchmarking practices, Urban Research Symposium, The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development / The World Bank, Marseille, France, pp. 65-91.
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This chapter describes an integrated assessment model for city-scale urban development that links the energy used in passenger transport (public and private) and residential in-house energy use. The model divides the urban region into disjoint subregions, the core of the model being centered on residential location choice, which is calibrated by population, demographic characteristics, and building types, leading to preferences for each subregion based on household type. Submodels are subsequently used to calibrate different rates of energy in accordance with household and demographic factors.THis generates a picture of consumption patterns across the metropolitan area, enabling an appreciation of spatially heterogenous factors such as differing levels of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, alongside variations in the distribution of infrastructures that can create considerable variation in energy consumption between districts within cities. The energy impacts of policy decisions that affect, by way of example, where new housing is to be built and of what type, can then be simulated. The workings of the model are demonstrated in the chapter using data on Sydney, Australia, as a case study, with the research offering a policy scenario to city officials to monitor its progress towards a 2030 vision for a sustainable Sydney.
Baumann, C. & Zeibots, M.E. 2010, 'Urban transport systems and their place in macroeconomic conceptions of sustainability', Proceedings of the 3rd Kuhmo-Nectar Transport Economics Conference, 3rd Kuhmo-Nectar Transport Economics Conference, University of Valencia of Spain, Valencia, Spain.
Boydell, S., Giurco, D., Rickwood, P., Glazebrook, G.J., Zeibots, M.E., White, S. & Thomas, L.E. 2009, 'Using integrated urban models to respond to climate change in cities', Fifth Urban Research Symposium on Cities and Climate Change Website: Responding to an Urgent Agenda, Urban Research Symposium on Cities and Climate Change: Responding to an Urgent Agenda, Urban Research Symposium, World Bank, Marseille, France, pp. 1-33.
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This paper presents a single, integrated urban model that focuses on the key areas of transport, domestic energy-use, and domestic water use and how these relate to urban planning and other policies. The model structure is spatial ½ requiring a sub-division of the urban region into disjoint sub-regions. Such a sub-division is necessary, not only because spatial information is essential to any transport model, but also because climatic and demographic factors are common to all resource models, and are spatially heterogeneous. The model is intended for use by local, regional, and state authorities, government departments, energy, and utility service companies as a modelling and decision support tool for analysing the impact on cities of a range of energy, water, transport, and land use related policies. In particular, it seeks to understand the impact - reductions possible at household and city scales. Growing awareness of the threats from climate change has focused attention on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and the need to reduce them. Using a sample analysis of Sydney, our on-going research collaboration seeks to examine the working relationships between multiple infrastructure sectors through a single analysis platform. The need to integrate policy for multiple infrastructures is critical given the multiple fronts on which the sustainability of urban systems are now jeopardised.
Baumann, C. & Zeibots, M.E. 2009, 'Beyond tradition: a systems-based definition of sustainable transport development', 2009 SSEE International Conference - Solutions for a Sustainable Planet Website, Society for Sustainability and Environmental Engineering International Conference, Society for Sustainability & Environmental Engineering, Melbourne, Australia, pp. 1-11.
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This paper attempts to provide a definition of sustainable urban transport development. As will be shown, while the need to develop transport in a sustainable way has been widely accepted by many governments and transport practitioners, a consistent view on what is meant by sustainable transport is yet to develop. In an effort to address this, this paper begins by providing a systematic overview of the problems that the urban transport sector faces. It highlights shortcomings in the traditional ways that transport practitioners have approached the issue of sustainable transport development. In response, it proposes a different way of conceptualising the role of urban transport as a provider of access to services and facilitator of interaction and exchange in the urban system. In so doing it provides a new understanding and definition of what sustainable transport development could be in practice.
Rickwood, P., Giurco, D., Glazebrook, G.J., Kazaglis, A., Thomas, L.E., Zeibots, M.E., Boydell, S., White, S., Caprarelli, G. & McDougall, J. 2007, 'Integrating population, land-use, transport, water and energy-use models to improve the sustainability of urban systems', State of Australian Cities (SOAC) Conference, State of Australian Cities Conference, SOAC, Adelaide, pp. 314-324.
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Zeibots, M.E. & Petocz, P. 2005, 'The relationship between increases in motorway capacity and declines in urban rail passenger journeys: a case study of Sydney's M4 Motorway and Western Sydney Rail Lines', Australasian Transport Research Forum - Transporting the Future: Transport in a Changing Environment, Australasian Transport Research Forum, Planning and Transport Research Centre, Sydney, NSW, pp. 1-14.
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This paper examines the relationship between the addition of urban motorway capacity and declines in rail passenger journeys on parallel alignments. The research presented here forms part of a wider study that investigates outcomes from the expansion of urban motorway capacity in Sydney and the phenomenon of induced traffic growth. I nduced traffic growth is defined as new and additional road traffic movements that occur in response to increases in road capacity. By increasing road capacity, congestion and travel times are reduced, making travel by car more attractive. This generates a rapid succession of changes in travel behaviour across the surrounding network including traffic reassignment, traffic redistribution, generated traffic and passengers switching from parallel rail and public transport services, or mode shifting. This last response is the focus of this paper. Together, all form part of the composite effect called induced traffic growth (SACTRA 1994, p.53). The effects of mode shifting and other travel behaviour responses are significant because they potentially undermine the primary benefit of supplying additional urban motorway capacity which is to reduce travel times (Thomson 1977; Downs 1992; Mogridge 1997). If road traffic volumes increase, travel time savings are quickly eroded and congestion returns. If public transport patronage falls and services sustain revenue losses, service levels may be cut, imposing additional costs on public transport users and operators (SACTRA 1994, pp.128129). Investigating responses to urban motorway development, such as mode shifting, is therefore important as it assists in gauging whether or not additional motorway capacity has been an effective policy response for reducing congestion.
Zeibots, M.E. 2003, 'Before and after Sydney's M4 motorway: did it make the city more sustainable?', State of Australian Cities (SOAC) Conference, State of Australian Cities (SOAC) Conference, University of Western Sydney, Parramatta, Australia, pp. 1-33.
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Zeibots, M.E. 2004, 'Re-thinking transport evaluation methods: do we have the best tools to help us make cities more sustainable?', Challenge and Opportunity-delivering sustainable development-Summary of Proceedings, Conference of the network of regional governments for sustainable development, NRG4SD, Cardiff, UK, pp. 1-28.
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Most planning and evaluation tools are derived from a theory that attempts to describe how the system in question works. The tools currently used to assess the relative merits of urban transport options are based on the logic of mainstream economic theory. But this theory is essentially a-spatial and therefore poor at describing all the changes that take place in an urban system once a new motorway or public transport link is opened. This paper investigates the way two different theories can be used to explain the phenomenon known as induced traffic growth - the sharp increase in road traffic that occurs after the opening of a new urban motorway. First, an explanation using standard supply and demand theory is used to explain the cause and consequences of the effect. Then, General Systems Theory is used to explain the same process. The first explanation renders the outcome in a way that is physically abstract, providing a number value. The second articulates the outcome using spatial data, illustrating both positive and negative changes to land use sectors and patronage on more sustainable transport modes. It is argued that the latter method provides greater insights into the real consequences of motorway building and induced traffic growth, and with it the basis for more useful transport planning and evaluation tools. The challenge for regional government is to recognize the shortcomings of current evaluation methods and reform them so that economic and environmental outcomes are more sustainable. This paper seeks to demonstrate the need for that reform and the direction it might take.
Zeibots, M.E. 2003, 'How do cities work and why is transport so significant: regional sustainability and the search for new evaluation tools', International Sustainability Conference: Regional Governance for Sustainability, Proceedings, International Sustainability Conference: Regional Governance for Sustainability, Department of the Premier and Cabinet, WA, Fremantle, Australia, pp. 2-28.
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Zeibots, M.E. 2002, 'The macroeconomic structure of cities: indicators for sustainable urban infrastructure development', Regional Cycles: Regional Economy Towards Sustainability, Regional Cycles: Regional Economy Towards Sustainability, Leipzig, Germany, pp. 1-10.

Journal articles

Mason, L.M., Mohr, S.H., Zeibots, M.E. & Giurco, D. 2011, 'Limits to cheap oil - impact on mining', The AusIMM Bulletin: Journal of the Australian institute of Mining and Metallurgy, vol. 4, no. August 2011, pp. 40-42.
Zeibots, M.E. 2010, 'The travel plan revolution?', Indesign, vol. 43, pp. 226-227.
Zeibots, M.E. & Bell, D.R. 2010, 'Peak oil and the advent of demand destruction: implications for transport and access in Australian cities', Australian Planner, vol. 47, no. 4, pp. 253-262.
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This article examines the implications of peak oil on the physical and money systems of the Australian economy, describinghow over-reliance on private motor vehicles can expose the economy to the risks of demand destruction.


Wynne, L.E. & Zeibots, M.E. 2014, Guidelines for travel planning: A resource for the City of Sydney.
Baumann, C., Brennan, T. & Zeibots, M.E. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2012, Bike rider and bus driver interaction study - Draft report, pp. 1-23, Sydney, Australia.
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Zeibots, M.E., Baumann, C., Brennan, T. & Besh, N. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2012, Intersection interactions: cyclist behaviour at Sydney CBD cycleway intersections, pp. 1-26, Sydney, Australia.
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Zeibots, M.E., Brennan, T. & Rickwood, P. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2011, Rhodes West Travel Plan (preliminary investigation), Sydney.
Mason, L.M., Boyle, T.M., Brennan, T. & Zeibots, M.E. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2011, Travel and Access Guide for residents at Rhodes Peninsula, Sydney.
Zeibots, M.E. & Brennan, T. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2011, Implications of induced traffic reduction for the implementation of dedicated bus lanes on Hoddle Street and Victoria Parade, Melbourne, Sydney.
Kuruppu, N., McGee, C.M., Murta, J., Prendergast, J., Prior, J.H., Prior, T.D., Retamal, M.L., Usher, J. & Zeibots, M.E. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2011, Sustainability strategy for the North Ryde Station Precinct Project: Infrastructure and subdivision, Sydney, Australia.
Zeibots, M.E. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2009, Expert witness report to the Frankston Bypass Panel: supplementary report, Sydney, Australia.
Zeibots, M.E. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2009, Expert witness report to the Frankston bypass panel: main report, Sydney, Australia.
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Zeibots, M.E. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2007, Before and after the motorway: A review of methodologies used to investigate the occurrence of induced traffic growth in international and Australian cities, pp. 1-65, Sydney.
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Zeibots, M.E. Institute for Sustainable Futures, UTS 2003, Before and after opening of the M4 motorway from Mays Hill to Prospect: Sydney case studies in induced traffic growth, pp. 1-52, Sydney, Australia.
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