The study used Greater Sydney Census data and found the transition away from a central CBD was largely based on how attractive suburbs where to residents, with populations potentially aggregating around major urban areas of Parramatta, Campbelltown, Penrith and Gosford.
It also found that a transition to a three-city urban structure is likely to be volatile and needs to be approached carefully.
Travel times were not as influential a factor for a changing residential model and instead found suburb attractiveness as a key factor, according to the research.
Suburb attractiveness was determined by available services and size of the population, with incomes offset by rent. When deciding where to live, residents considered the utility of living in attractive suburbs as well as the cost of commuting to work.
Director of the Complex Systems Research Group Mikhail Prokopenko said the transition of cities between different patterns of urban settlement has become a problem in urban planning.
“The model showed that social cohesion is often more important to Sydney residents than transportation costs, and that changes in social attitudes can bring about more abrupt shifts in urban structure, than changes in travel budget,” Prof Prokopenko said.
“Recently, the Greater Sydney Commission revealed a plan to transform Greater Sydney into a tripartite metropolitan area: a western parkland city, a central river city around greater Parramatta, and an eastern harbour city.
“Urban planners informed by quantitative models may succeed in steering this transformation and exploiting the resultant gain in efficiency,” he said.