Note; this is  work in progress with ongoing updates, additions and amendments likely

All over the world cities typically adopt other cities as "sister cities" - often quite exotic or different places, and cities much bigger or smaller than themselves. That's ok from a tourist and goodwill orientation, but real family members  tend to be a bit more similar in nature - in this case cities of kindred size and spirit.

To get a better sense of where Christchurch stands in public transport - what is realistic for a city of our size and nature, what we are doing well or not doing well compared to similar cities elsewhere in NZ and overseas NZ in Tranzit blog identifies and follows transit developments  worldwise with a particular focus on cities seen as our "true sister sisters". 

 Looking for cities that share common demographics [i.e. pertinent to public transport usage] with Christchurch NZ in Tranzit identifies the smaller cities of Canada, Australia and New Zealand (CANZ). Cities having a population half that of greater Christchurch (200,000) through to cities having a population twice that of greater Christchurch (800,000) - 25 in all - are seen as most relevant . These are listed in ascending size below. Noted that public transport is fairly closely linked to population size, growing exponentially as cities grow. This said,  levels of investment or intelligently planning and promotion  can increase or decrease trips per capita.  

The population figures below are from the last census, held in all three countries in 2006, and in every case are for metropolitan area - easy commuting distance - rather than just the named city administration. Many cities consist of several municipal bodies with local body amalgamation usually less advanced outside NZ (an extreme case Edmonton Canada - too big for the list here - has 25 muncipal authorities within its greater urban area!). That the "real city", especially in regard to public transport matters, is the population of the whole metropolitan area (the metropop).

 These CANZ cities are similar in having low density residential patterns with extensive sprawl; low national populations per country size (ie taxpayer base per infrastructure cost); relatively high incomes and relatively even distribution; high levels of car ownership; and similar levels of investment in public transport (albeit Canada is probably largest proportionately).
In a larger picture about 70 smaller cities of the United States might also be included (CANZUS).  However  outside the major cities with rail and subway systems investment in public transport is much lower than in CANZ. Things may change with Obama but generally service quality is often poor, infrequent or limited in hours, and the attitude that public transport is a sort of subsidized social welfare system for the poor is [as cross border surveys with Canada show] far more entrenched. This said the western, northwestern states appear to be closer to NZ or Canada in attitude and style; the southwest and southern states less so. Patronage of even the best systems (and there are some very innovative top quality small city services) rarely achieves figures of over 10 million passenger trips per year.  It is also rare for transit systems in the USA to recover more than 20% of their costs through fares, whereas 50% is seen as an ideal benchmark in CANZ.  A further blow to USA transit systems has been the loss of income, with many systems dependent on local sales or fuel taxes, which have dropped with the recession. This has led to cutbacks even in systems that are innovative successfully growing increased patronage. One can only feel the greatest sympathy for the staff and planners and administrators in this situation.

This list has figures as recent as possible, but a few from as far back as 2006 onwards. While these give an indicative picture, some allowance must be made for increased or decreased population or passenger trips per year. It is the intention to update figures as new ones come to hand, and to create pen portraits of each system, over time.

1. Hobart Tasmania (includes Launceston etc) GMA 203,570 -10.4 million[bus] YTD 1/7/2012
2. Wollongong New South Wales GMA 274,838 [bus, rail] 3.1 million [bus] YTD 1/7/08 

3. Longueil Quebec  229,330 -  30.1 million [bus] 17.2% of population commutes to nearby Montreal
4. Saskatoon Saskatchewan 233,923 - 12 million (2012)
5. Gatineau Quebec  242,000 - 19.1 million (2008) [bus] across river from Ottawa
6. Markham Ontario 261,530 c21 million (2011) (York Region) contingent city with Toronto 

7. Sunshine Coast Queensland - 312,908 An fast growing  area recently consolidated into one city
8.  Windsor Ontario  323,342 GMA - 6 million plus [bus] Across the river (south of!) Detroit, USA
9.  Victoria British Columbia GMA; 335,000 - 22.4 million (2007-08?) [bus]

10. Oshawa Ontario (2008)GMA 330,594 - 8.5 million [bus]
separate city at northern edge of greater Toronto area

11. Canberra Australian Capital Territory  GMA 342,000 - 16.9 million 
12. Halifax Nova Scotia  GMA 372,679 - 22.5  million [bus & ferry]

13  Laval Quebec 376,845 18.7 million Across river from (and de facto suburb of) Montreal
14. Christchurch New Zealand  GMA c390,000 - 13.3 million (note 17.1 million (2008) before earthquakes destroyed a significant portion of central city area and other areas)

15. St Catharines-Niagara Ontario  GMA 390,317
16. Wellington New Zealand GMA 410,000 - 35.1 million [commuter rail 11 million; cable car 1 million,  bus 23 million,  ferry 500,00]
17. Brampton (Peel Region) Ontario 433,806  16.3 million (2011) -  contingent city to Toronto
18. Kitchener (Waterloo) Ontario  451,225 - "nearly 20 million" (2010/11 FY) Three cities Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge in southern Ontario
19. London Ontario  457,456 - 18 million ptpy
20. Newcastle New South Wales  493,466 (Lower Hunter Valley) 12.06 million (2010/11 financial year) also 2.7 million (2008) on commuter rail services, mainly tofro Sydney
21. Gold Coast Queensland  554,000 - 17 million (2008)
22. Mississauga Ontario (Nov 2009) GMA 668,549 - 29.1 million
23. Hamilton Ontario approx only GMA 692,911 - 27 million
24. Winnipeg Manitoba GMA 694,668 - 55.6 million
25. Quebec City Quebec  -  GMA 715,515 38 million (2006)

QUICK PORTRAITS of Each City and its Transit system
(NOTE: as can be best determined from this distance! Open to added info or correction if some situation is misinterpreted) This is an ongoing project as time and information to hand makes possible.

(9) VICTORIA BC Metropop 357,000  Capital city of British Columbia, Canada.  CBD at the apex of an inverted v in geographic footprint and a port and  popular tourist city, notably for the liners cruising Puget Sound and the northern Pacific. The only city in North American which uses double decker buses on conventional routes. British Columbia  (also home to much, much larger Vancouver, 2.1 million)  has a very strong commitment to public transport and Victoria  is probably the most successful small stand alone city in patronage figures in North America (22.4 million passenger trips per year ). A single railway line "the E and N" or "Malahat" line heads north up Vancouver Island carrying one mainly tourist/rural town access re trip each day, As it passes through the greater Victoria area Westshore residental areas, during its first 40 minutes, it has been mooted this section could support a commuter rail system. Not viable reported back an official study, in July 2010, which includes in depth research. It  found the costs of upgrading lines, infrastructure, trains needed and operating a modest commuter rail system  would be unsustainable measured against patronage likely or possible.

11. CANBERRA. Australian Capital Territory (ACT). Metropop 342,000. A purpose built city, founded 1907, for the various states of Australia to be able to meet in federal government on neutral ground. Public transport is owned and operated by local government under the name of ACTION Buses, apart from some regional commuter services by private operator Deane's . Service is entirely by conventional bus system, mediated through a city central and four suburban bus exchanges. Many services run only hourly or half hourly. There is one higher frequency (15 minute headway) express line REDEX - Rapid Express Direct - which has elements of Bus Rapid Transit. Plans to build a busway or light rail corridor to major outlying suburban area Belconnen was dropped, and overspending by local government lead to closing of some schools and other economies, including significant cutbacks in bus services in late 2008. This had a negative effect on patronage which is only slowly being rebuilt as some services are restored. Current proportion of peak hour journeys taken on public transport is 7% but a strategy is being implemented to bring this upto 16%.

(To be continued)

Larger Cities in CANZ

Of less relevance* larger cities (metropolitan area/ public transport ridership, all modes..all very approx) Note; some figures below may incorporate passenger trips per year from separately administrated but associated city figures, as above. (ptpy = xx million passenger trips per year)
Most figures from 2006-08 period, latter ones not yet available, or found)

* particularly as non-subway rail system passengers are typically more likely to transfer to or from bus than other modes, tilting unlinked trip figures upwards in larger metropoli.

Ranked by Population size

Toronto 5.6 million/ 430 ptpy
Sydney 4.5 million/550 ptpy (rail 302 million;
Melbourne 4 million/450 ptpy (rail 214 million; 100 by bus
Montreal; 3.8 million/447 ptpy
Vancouver 2.1 million/294 ptpy
Brisbane 2 million/135 ptpy  (rail 63 million; bus and busway 72 million)  
Perth 1.6million/127 ptpy (rail 54 million; bus 73 million 2008-09)
Auckland 1.4 million/64 million ptpy (2011)
Ottawa 1.3 million/118 ptpy
Adelaide 1.2 million/ ??....(11.5 ptpy on rail system)
Calgary 1.2 million/90 ptpy
Edmonton 1 million/61 ptpy

Ranked by public transport ridership
(all stats metropop area)

Sydney 4.5 million/550 ptpy
Melbourne 4 mllion/480 ptpy
Montreal; 3.8 million/447 ptpy
Toronto 5.6 million/ 430 ptpy
Vancouver 2.1 million/294 ptpy
Brisbane 2 million/126 ptpy
Ottawa 1.1 million/118 ptpy
Perth 1.6million/101 ptpy

Below (sorry I didn't record where this came from but the figures are reasonably recent)