Mil­lions of trips a week in­di­cate pol­icy needs to change re­gard­ing pets and pub­lic trans­port in Australia, ac­cord­ing to lead­ing re­searchers

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Mil­lions of trips a week tell us pol­icy needs to change re­gard­ing pets and pub­lic trans­port, write Univer­sity of Syd­ney Busi­ness School In­sti­tute for Trans­port and Lo­gis­tic Stud­ies pro­fes­sor

and School of Ar­chi­tec­ture, De­sign and Plan­ning’s re­search fel­low about 2.4 mil­lion dog-re­lated trips a week in Syd­ney.

We also found pet own­ers over­whelm­ingly want to be able to travel on pub­lic trans­port with their pets. So why are they still ex­cluded?

Our study, in­volv­ing more than 1250 Syd­ney dog own­ers, looked at pop­u­lar ac­tiv­i­ties own­ers do with their dogs and how of­ten these re­quire a trip by car.

On av­er­age, we found peo­ple walk their dog twice or more a week. While this con­firms ex­ist­ing Our re­sults in­di­cate that en­joy­ing and car­ing for a dog in Aus­tralian cities – which has proven health and so­cial ben­e­fits – is a rel­a­tively car- de­pen­dent af­fair. And car de­pen­dency is some­thing ur­ban plan­ners want us to leave be­hind for many rea­sons, in­clud­ing sus­tain­abil­ity, health and live­abil­ity.

If we are try­ing to re­duce car use, un­der­stand­ing ac­tiv­i­ties that lead to car de­pen­dence is im­por­tant. We are par­tic­u­larly in­ter­ested in the un­in­ten­tional, of­ten neg­a­tive, con­se­quences for in­di­vid­u­als who, by choice or cir­cum­stance, do not have ac­cess to a car. A com­pro­mised abil­ity to en­joy and care for a dog is one such con­se­quence.

A pol­icy so­lu­tion would be to al­low dogs on pub­lic trans­port in Aus­tralian cities. Un­sur­pris­ingly, our sur­vey of dog own­ers found an over­whelm­ing 95 per cent sup­port this.

More than half in­di­cated they would do more ac­tiv­i­ties with their hound if this were al­lowed. And 20 per cent said they would even con­sider get­ting by with­out one of their cars if they could take their dog on pub­lic trans­port.

THE RULES IN OTHER COUN­TRIES

With these find­ings in mind, we in­ves­ti­gated pub­lic trans­port poli­cies on pets in 30 cities across Europe, the United States and Australia. We found all Euro­pean cities al­lowed dogs on pub­lic trans­port. Most cities in the US and Australia did not.

The poli­cies al­low­ing dogs vary. Some ap­ply lim­its on where on the train, tram or bus a dog may travel, on travel dur­ing peak hours, and on the size of dog. In cities such as Paris, dogs must pass a “bas­ket test” for rid­ing in a car­rier or small bag.

Most cities charge a fare for dogs at a con­ces­sion or child price. Zurich has gone a step fur­ther by of­fer­ing an an­nual travel card for dogs.

It is in­ter­est­ing that in cul­tures where pri­vate cars are dom­i­nant – such as Australia and the US – dogs are re­stricted from rid­ing on pub­lic trans­port. In Europe, where car own­er­ship and use are less com­mon and pub­lic trans­port use is more the norm, dogs are wel­come on trains and buses.

This per­haps says some­thing about how we see pub­lic trans­port in Australia: it is for pre­dictable and “clean” trips, such as the jour­ney to work.

In re­al­ity, our lives are made up of messy trips, and to re­duce car de­pen­dence we need to plan for this mess. This might in­clude mea­sures such as changes to timeta­bles, mak­ing the in­te­rior of trains and buses more suit­able for peo­ple car­ry­ing gro­ceries, or al­low­ing peo­ple to use the train to take their dog on an out­ing or to the vet.

If pub­lic trans­port is for travel for all cit­i­zens and dogs are an im­por­tant part of so many peo­ple’s lives, why should dogs be ex­cluded from pub­lic trans­port?

“Euro­pean cities al­lowed dogs on pub­lic trans­port. Most cities in the US and Australia did not”

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