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