Revealing Seniors' Travel Patterns and Concerns Using Public Transport - a Case Study in Wollongong
Background: Evidences show that active and proper transport services play an important role in increasing both physical and social wellbeing in older populations and enabling them to maintain social networks, which positively impacts their mental and physical health. It is difficult to design proper and tailored transport services for seniors without understanding their travel patterns and concerns, and this research aims to fill this gap. Methods: Both quantitative (data analysis and visualization) and qualitative (semi-structured interview) methods are employed in this research. Smart card (Opal card in NSW) data offers a window to understand seniors’ within-day and day-to-day travel patterns (like origin-destination distribution, travel frequency, travel demand) with comparison with other types of users (like adult and youth) in both temporal and spatial dimensions. Semi-structured interview with seniors serves as a complementarity to data analysis to gather the information not available from the data, for instance the major concerns for seniors to take public transport, like poor connectivity to public transport facilities, low flexibility and frequency, high cost of alternative transport services such as point to point transport providers, and safety issue. Results: A preliminary study in Wollongong has been done. The smart card data analysis showed that seniors travelled much more during weekdays than weekends; different from adult and youth traveling much more during peak hours in weekdays, seniors travelled more during inter peak; a lot of trips between Wollongong and Sydney were identified for seniors; seniors used train more often in Wollongong compared with paid buses (free Gong shuttle services were available in Wollongong). The interview revealed that most trips to Sydney during morning peak by seniors were for medical appointments; many seniors complained that poor accessibility to public transport facilities near their houses, especially in suburb area; seniors had safety concerns especially during boarding and alighting due to the gap between the train/bus and platform; many other issues like lacking of enough parking slots at train stations, lacking of flexible transport services and so on were identified as well. Conclusions: Although most seniors in Wollongong could maintain trip activities, they showed serious concerns especially when they are getting older. The research outcomes are expected to assist relevant government sectors in better understanding seniors’ needs and concerns, and then improving transport facilities and developing tailored transport services for seniors to enhance their social activities rather than social isolation, and furthermore to maintain their physical and mental health.