Getting from A to B – a commuter’s tale

Getting from A to B – a commuter’s tale The Australian Commuting Survey explores the modern Australian commute. Learn more.

2 Dec 2016

When getting to work feels too much like hard work

There will always be those of us who bounce out of bed each morning, eagerly awaiting the challenges and rewards that the new working day holds. But for many, the demands of their jobs are made all the more tiring and difficult thanks to a stressful work commute.

The added pressure of the work commute, among several other findings, is at the centre of the Australian Commuting Survey, the fifth instalment in a series of national studies by Real Insurance. This particular chapter investigates the habits of, and challenges faced by, those travelling to work by car and on public transport.

Fortunately, the report also explores methods used by regular commuters to turn the daily grind into a productive and enjoyable experience that adds to the quality of life, rather than detracting from it, for many Aussies.

australian commuter survey infographic

Feeling annoyed behind the wheel

For over four out of five Australians, the car is the primary mode of transport when heading to work, with an average of seven hours each week spent behind the wheel. While at first glance, spending a little over an hour each day in the car may seem reasonable, it actually adds up to almost 400 hours per year – a huge chunk of time – which, with the help of technology, has the potential to be put to great use.

For example, it is estimated on average that you can achieve basic fluency in most languages with only 500 hours practice, meaning those with only a slightly longer than average commute could pick up a new language each year. What’s Italian for “Indicate before you change lanes!”?

Of course, it may not be realistic to suggest drivers learn a new language on their drive to work – which is rarely a peaceful, stress-free journey conducive to learning – but there is opportunity to increase productivity on the road. Seven in 10 drivers admit to thinking about their current work and domestic duties and over eight in ten drivers admit to listening to the radio during their commute, both activities that still allow for direct concentration on the road. Most drivers, of course, suggest this concentration is required mainly due to the behaviour of others.

It seems that commuters are spending plenty of time thinking negatively about their fellow motorists with 92 per cent of car commuters identifying a lack of knowledge regarding road rules as a major source of frustration. A large majority also agree that too many drivers and road users are not courteous or safe (86%) with the study revealing substantial support for fines or bans for road users who behave poorly (85%).

Public transport woes

At the other end of the transportation spectrum are public transport users, who sacrifice convenience (and often time), for the relatively hands-off appeal of having someone else take responsibility on the ‘road’ for them.

For these people, their preferred ways to pass the time include listening to music (67%), checking social media (61%) or reading the news on a tablet/phone (58%).

Despite this relatively relaxing start to the day (as compared to motorists), the typical public transport user is also likely to have a series of gripes and criticisms concerning their fellow commuters.

Of all the categories of commuters that are cause for concern, the ‘germ sharer’, ‘seat hogger’ and ‘loudmouth’ are identified as those that cause the most discomfort during trips on public transport, with each polling above 90% on the scale of pet peeves.

Interestingly, while 65% of respondents nominated ‘chatty strangers’ as a source of frustration, somewhat paradoxically, more than four in five state that their trip would be improved if commuters were friendlier to each other.

Is ridesharing the answer?

So how can people take advantage of the speed and convenience of using a car, while also enjoying the ‘switch-off’ appeal of public transport? The answer seems to be in ridesharing which, while still in its infancy, seems to offer the best of both worlds to users.

At this stage, just under a quarter of commuters identified ridesharing as a method they use to get to work. A similar number, however, revealed that while they don’t ride-share now, they do intend to in the future, indicating that it’s a trend set to take off.

In fact, 78% of respondents believe that ridesharing will become more widespread in Australia, demonstrating the fact that the vast majority of Australians recognise its appeal but perhaps lack the knowledge or means to make the necessary arrangements.

You have reached your destination

It is clear from the survey that there is no perfect means of getting to and from work each day, with both private and public transport coming with a list of advantages and disadvantages.

The decision to go with either method usually comes down to the personal preference and circumstances of the individual, and with the majority of us spending around an hour commuting each day, this decision is one that can really influence overall quality of life.

Fortunately, new technology should only improve the efficiency and convenience of ridesharing with new apps popping up all the time. And even if this isn’t something you’re necessarily interested in, having an additional commuting alternative can only be a good thing.

Download full research report