Australians’ size variation and implications for transport design – Scott Fitzgerald – iMOVE Australia

Although there have been past attempts there is no up-to-date database of Australian anthropometric data and its applicability to the Australian Transport industry, informing the layout and design of train carriages, bus interiors, transport hubs, and the like. The iMOVE project Human size variation in design of Australian transport systems has filled this data void, and the final report for the project is available below.

With iMOVE on this project were the Australasian Centre for Railway Innovation, Department of Transport and Planning Victoria, Transport for NSW, and the University of South Australia.

What is anthropometry, and why does it matter?

Anthropometry is the scientific study of the measurements and proportions of the human body. It involves the systematic measurement of various physical characteristics and dimensions of the human body, such as height, weight, body mass index (BMI), limb lengths, girths, and other relevant parameters. These measurements are used to assess and describe the size, shape, and physical characteristics of individuals or populations.

Anthropometry matters in the design of transport systems because it directly impacts passenger comfort, safety, accessibility, and overall user experience. By incorporating anthropometric data into the design process, we can create systems that are not only more efficient but also more accommodating and inclusive for a wide range of passengers.

In regard to transport, anthropometry can provide guidance in areas such as:

  • Handrail placement
  • Cabin limits (standing and sitting)
  • Seating size and placement
  • Cabin design (both passenger and driver/pilot)
  • Cabin and station/transport hub entry and exit
  • Influence of passenger use of laptops, smartphones, etc.

Anthropometric data informs design guidelines and standards,  and supplements the use of mock-ups, prototypes, and user testing to validate and optimise those designs for the full size range of users.


This project used a multi-phased approach.

In the scoping phases, researchers conducted interviews with key personnel in the Human Factors area of the Australian transport industry, in order to identify current approaches employed by designers and end users to assess space requirements and population accommodation. They also researched the available anthropometric datasets that are used in the absence of a dedicated Australian dataset.

In later phases, the research team gained access to representative data about user size from Australian Bureau of Statistics Health Surveys and used these data along with recently published statistical techniques to create a dedicated Australian dataset of 105 individual anthropometric measures. These data are published in guidance along with other factors relevant to their applied use in the transport industry.

Report findings

The outcome of this project is the compilation of summary results for Australian body sizes, by age group and sex. Additionally, a comparison is made of these summary results with data in the commonly-used, PeopleSize anthropometry software. This comparison identified two issues with the PeopleSize data:

  1. An absence of data for children
  2. Underestimation of larger and smaller body sizes for adults

The work presented here represents the first publication of a reference dataset of detailed anthropometry for Australian adults. In this regard, the dataset can serve as a base for Human Factors considerations within the Australian transport industry, but also has potential uses in other industries.

Future research

The researchers recommended the following areas for more work in the area:

  • Exploration of techniques to generate boundary users cases for design.
  • Options to provide representative anthropometric data for specific ethnicities within the Australian population.
  • Addressing the general lack of detailed anthropometric data specific for children..
  • A further focus on improving techniques and understanding about how to use anthropometric data by novice users to improve design outcomes.

Download the final report documents

There are two final report documents available for download. Click the links below to download the reports.

WEBINAR – 28 September 2023

iMOVE held a webinar on 28 September 2023 to discuss the findings and outcomes from thIs project. Please find below a recording of the webinar.


This article is the property of iMOVE Australia. To view more information about iMOVE Australia click here.

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