A University of Adelaide study – which it says is the first of its kind in Australia – examined Seniors Cards data, a survey of more than 1300 people and travel diaries to arrive at the figure.
Dr Helen Feist, of the university’s Australian Population and Migration Research Centre, said the research showed the importance of free public transport for reducing congestion on Adelaide’s roads and maintaining older people’s sense of independence.
“We’re talking about an extraordinary number of (public transport) trips by people who could have used a car,” Feist told InDaily.
“[It is] similar to taking all of the cars off Portrush Road for two days every week.
“It certainly makes a huge difference.”
Feist said that seniors’ public transport use in Adelaide, by those who had a licence to drive, was equivalent to a reduction of 60,000 – 70,000 trips by car each week.
She said that public transport gives older people “autonomy, as well as feelings of active citizenship and belonging”.
“These issues are critical to people’s wellbeing in later life,” she said.
“As Australia’s population ages, the ability to engage independently with the community through adequate and reliable transport is becoming more imperative.
“On average, we found that Seniors Card holders are making more than 150,000 rides on public transport in the Adelaide metropolitan area every week.
“It means that our public transport system is being well utilised during off-peak periods.
“It also means that tens of thousands of cars are off the roads each week.”
Feist said that while many daily activities conducted by older people – including shopping and paying bills – often involve other forms of transport, public transport is often used for “life-enriching activities, such as volunteering, or civic and social engagements, going to the movies, visiting friends, or travelling to the city for a day out”.
Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan said the study was a “resounding vote of support for the provision of free public transport to Seniors Card holders”.
“More than 350,000 South Australians are Seniors Card members and all are entitled to free public transport,” Mullighan said.
“Free public transport means that it is cheaper for our seniors to move around our communities and get into the city and it reduces congestion on our roads.”
We value local independent journalism. We hope you do too.
InDaily provides valuable, local independent journalism in South Australia. As a news organisation it offers an alternative to The Advertiser, a different voice and a closer look at what is happening in our city and state for free. Any contribution to help fund our work is appreciated. Please click below to become an InDaily supporter.