perth train
In September 2020, only 9% of Australians used public transport regularly. Image – Canva.
  • 14% of Australians reported using public transport regularly last month
  • 18% have not used public transport since March 2020
  • Before March 2020, 82% of Australians were 'very comfortable' using public transport

Data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) today has revealed that only one in seven Australians used public transport last month – compared to almost one in four pre-pandemic.

The survey, which was conducted from 12-21 March 2021, shows that while public transport had increased compared to September 2020 when only 9% (one in eleven) reported regular use, normal patterns are yet to return.

Many who regularly used public transport prior to the pandemic haven’t been on a mode of public transport since, says ABS’s Head of Household Surveys, Lisa Scanlon.

“Of the people who reported regularly using public transport before COVID-19 restrictions began, around one in six (18 per cent) reported they had not used public transport since March 2020.

“After the COVID-19 pandemic, three in five people (61 per cent) expect their public transport use will remain the same, while 13 per cent expect their use to increase and 7 per cent expect it will decrease.” 

Lisa Scanlon

In terms of future use of public transport, three in five expect their use in public transport to remain survey, with 13% intending to increase their use. However, 7% expect their use to decrease. 10% were unsure about their usage of public transport in the future while another 10% also said they do not expect to use public transport in the future.

Working-from-home, a trend that has been exacerbated by the pandemic, most likely played a role in the decline. As part of the same survey, 31% of respondents said they stayed at home during the survey period, despite no lockdowns occurring at this time.

Before March 2020, 82% of Australians said they were ‘very comfortable’ using public transport, with this increasing sightly to 83% for taxi and rideshare services. As of March 2021, this figure had dropped to 60% for public transport and 63% for taxi and rideshare services.

The survey found several actions that would make users more comfortable when using public transport. Almost a third said people understanding and visibly following COVID-safe practices – facemasks, social distancing and sanitising hands – would improve their confidence in taking public transport.

15% of respondents said a widespread uptake of vaccine would restore confidence, with  10% of respondents saying receive the vaccine themselves would make them more comfortable.

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