|dc.description.abstract||Background: Public transport has health benefits for the environment and individuals. People walk to access public transport and there are proportionately fewer crashes and less pollution than with private cars. Yet transport planning rests on assumptions that privilege speed and private cars over other modes. This study, set at a crossroads between public health and transport studies, questioned adult passengers in two New Zealand cities about their public transport travel time use and experiences. Theories about social contact informed the study.
Research questions and methods: The main research question was: How do passengers use and value their public transport travel time and what is its value for wellbeing? Sub-questions addressed variations between population groups and different transport modes (bus and train), and how passengers felt travel time use affects their health and wellbeing.
A sequential mixed methods research design and abductive approach within the pragmatist paradigm were used. Three phases of data collection with adult passengers were: (1) structured observations of 812 passengers in Wellington; (2) telephone interviews with 48 passengers in Auckland and Wellington, and (3) a survey distributed to 2000 passengers in Auckland and Wellington (responses=1039).
Results: Structured observations showed frequent travel time activities were looking ahead or out the window; reading; listening on headphones and talking. There were differences among activities according to transport mode, gender and age-group.
Interviews found positive health/ wellbeing impacts from the ‘down time’, or ‘time out’ experienced during travel time, and also from the activities passengers undertook while waiting and travelling.
The survey (response rate: 52%) found the most common waiting time activities were: people-watching; watching for the public transport service to arrive (especially buses); thinking, and day-dreaming. Frequent in-vehicle activities for both modes were window-gazing and thinking; over half of the sample did these. Over a third also did people-watching, day-dreaming and relaxing, and over a quarter reported reading for leisure and making personal texts/phone calls. Differences by mode, gender and age are reported. While nearly 38% of survey respondents found waiting a waste of time, only half that proportion found their in-vehicle travel time a waste. Nearly half (47.8%) of the respondents thought their travel time use had no effect either way on their health/ wellbeing; 46.7% thought it had a positive effect. Very few identified a negative impact.
Discussion: The mixed methods design worked well in answering the research questions. Bus and train passenger participants were actively doing something while travelling. Their activities and inactivities had meanings for them. Many considered that how they spent their travel time affected their health and wellbeing. More felt that they made use of their travel time than considered it wasted. Results contributed to new theories of the ‘public transport neighbourhood’ and the possibilities of public transport places as public places rich in human interaction and personal meaning. There are implications for further research, and for improvements supporting positive travel time use at both the structural and service levels. Transport policy needs to take better account of travel time use.||