Parenthood dampens the enthusiasm for public transport

TGL News

While an increasing number of people are travelling on public transport, new parents are finding their own cars a better bet.

A study conducted by Monash University has found many first-time parents say the complexity of travel arrangements, a lack of parking, and perceptions that pubic transport isn’t child-friendly are pushing them towards personal car use.

Of the 758 people surveyed for the study, 30 per cent said they used public transport frequently in the year before becoming parents. That fell to 14 per cent after they became parents.

At the same time, the number of respondents claiming to “rarely or never” use a car slumped from about 33 per cent to less than 1 per cent after they had children.

The study found that the needs of new parents and their children were not being met by public transport. It also identified that car ownership rose when public transport failed to reach beyond city centres.

Monash PhD researcher Laura McCarthy said it shouldn’t be difficult or expensive to encourage new parents back onto public transport.

“Even though some parents stop using public transport, they continue to hold positive attitudes towards [it],” McCarthy said.

“Modest changes could be made to better accommodate families with young children using public transport, and potentially retain these users.”

Those changes could include increasing the frequency of off-peak public transport services and setting aside parking spaces for dedicated caregivers at bus and train stations.

In contrast to many first-time parents, around the world an increasing number of people are abandoning cars in favour of public transport in what’s become known as “peak car”.

In an article recently published on The Fifth Estate, transport researchers explained that owning a car was decreasingly linked to a person’s income, particularly among young people who aspire to live in cities where they can easily access jobs, education and lifestyle pursuits. In this context, cars are viewed as a luxury rather than a necessity.

The researches said urban space needed to be used more flexibly and in a way that would bring disaffected users, such as new parent, back to public transport.