RT8 – Dr Laura McCarthy – Public transport use among new parents

RT8 – Dr Laura McCarthy – Public transport use among new parents

Researching Transit – Episode 8

Published: July 2020

Keywords: public transport, transit, travel behaviour, parenthood, life events, life transitions, mobility biographies, car orientation, children’s travel

In this episode of Researching Transit, Dr Laura McCarthy from Monash University highlights the need to design public transport services that are convenient and safe for new parents.  Her research uses a life course approach to understand the mobility changes that occur during the transition to parenthood.

Dr McCarthy’s research, including qualitative interviews and a survey of new parents, aimed to explore the factors influencing mobility choices following parenthood.

While there is much anecdotal understanding of the challenges faced by new parents in terms of the increasing complexity of travel with children, Laura’s research sought to build an evidence base in the empirical literature.  A number of studies have shown that, overall, households with children are more car dependent than other household groups.  Laura’s research identifies different groups of transport users’, or ‘mobility trajectories’, based on their pre and post parenthood mode use.  This approach revealed that, while car use did increase for most groups overall, other groups displayed more sustainable travel patterns following parenthood.

Despite having positive attitudes towards public transport, the largest group (so called ‘Transit Leavers’), experienced the greatest decline in transit use. Frequent public transit use declined from 50 per cent pre-parenthood to 10 per cent post-parenthood. This group was most likely to include females and primary caregivers.

Each of the five groups shared different characteristics and attitudes towards travel modes.  This suggests a one-size-fits-all policy-making approach may need to be abandoned in favour of a more nuanced consideration of the public transport needs of new parents.  However, the findings suggest that potential policy changes don’t necessarily need to be extensive or expensive to get new parents using public transport.  Even though some parents stop using public transport, they continue to hold positive attitudes towards this mode.  Modest changes could be made to better accommodate families with young children using public transport and potentially retain these users.

Laura’s publications can be accessed at the links below

Music from this episode is from https://www.purple-planet.com

Featured image source: Public Transport Victoria 2020, https://www.ptv.vic.gov.au/tickets/myki/concessions-and-free-travel/children-and-students/children/

  • Date July 5, 2020
  • Tags Podcast