Public transport: Trips not made

It’s easy to measure the trips made on public transport and produce statistics as a guide to transport planning. But what do you do about trips not made – how do you measure them? The only way is to ask people for their public transport stories about trips made or foregone. Qualitative research is as valid as any other method, but it doesn’t give simple answers in the form of statistics.

Iutruwita/Tasmania has no passenger rail services apart from scenic train trips for tourists. The bus is the main public transport service. Otherwise it is taxis or rides from friends and family.

Two yellow buses.

A qualitative study of 30 young people with disability in Tasmania reveals the importance of public transport in everyday life. Without access to it, people with disability are unable to work, get an education, and choose where to shop. Getting to medical appointments are difficult or missed unless someone drives them.

The researchers used community chats, World Café methods, and individual chats to gain information from participants. The research team recruited young people with disability as researchers as well as participants.

The verbatim accounts provide good insights into the importance of public transport in everyday living. This was especially the case for people who do not drive or own a car. And of course, if it is difficult for people with disability, it is likely difficult for many other people. For example parents with young children and older people.

Key points from the study

People with disability find using public transport difficult. Across the system there were tension points in physical, cognitive, digital accessibility, reliability and affordability. Briefly, the themes emerging from the study were:

– Difficulty planning the trip – confusing and poor access to information.

– Difficulty getting to the bus – unsafe surface, poor lighting, long distances.

– Nervous/uncomfortable wait for the bus – lack of real time information, no shelters or seats.

– Being vigilant on the bus – crowding, bullying, driver-passenger interactions, not knowing whereto get off.

– Stuck getting home – unpredictability of services and lack of real time information.

The sum total of the stories resulted in a refrain of “I can’t do anything”. There was a sense of restriction and missing out. “Unless you have someone to take you, you can’t go.”

The article is titled, “I have mentally cancelled a lot of trips”: Trips not made by disabled people due to public transport inequity in lutruwita/Tasmania.

There is a summary report on the Anglicare Tasmania website.

From the abstract

People with disability of all ages continue to experience transport disadvantage. Barriers to transport have been well documented. However, less is known about the consequences of journeys not made because of these barriers.

In this article, we share the trips not made and their impact on the everyday lives of 30 disabled people. The participants were disabled young people, from lutruwita/Tasmania, Australia.

Health, work, education, seeing friends/family and leisure trips are forgone due to public transport not being inclusive of disabled persons. Their stories suggest public transport use is still dependent on who you are, where you live and the complexity of the journey.

For transport equity, substantial change is needed in how the transport user is considered in transport planning and network delivery.

And even if you have access to a car…

Isolation due to private transport is also an issue if you don’t have a driver’s licence. A study by Monash University found that mental health, self-doubt and physical disability are reasons people opt not to drive. When you live in a regional area not being able to drive leads to greater isolation and barriers to work. A magazine article has more.

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