Australia’s top worry and commuting habits revealed after Covid impact

The biggest cost of living concern for most Australians is the price of fuel.  Photo: Simon Anders
The biggest cost of living concern for most Australians is the price of fuel. Photo: Simon Anders

New data shows how Australians’ habits and concerns have changed since the coronavirus pandemic hit.

Much has changed in two years and Australians are struggling to get back on their feet amid rising costs of living and the lingering effects of Covid-19.

Research from one of Australia’s largest toll road providers has shown how our spending and commuting habits have changed since the start of the pandemic.

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As restrictions eased, Transurban conducted a survey of thousands of Australians who asked how habits and concerns have shifted around costs, work and commuting.

The Gateway Highway in Brisbane.  According to the data, city residents showed the most enthusiasm for the office by commuting to their workplace on average 3.7 days a week.  Photo: Simon Anders
The Gateway Highway in Brisbane. According to the data, city residents showed the most enthusiasm for the office by commuting to their workplace on average 3.7 days a week. Photo: Simon Anders

The Urban Mobility Trends report shows that the biggest cost of living concern for Australians is fuel.

The price of gasoline was ranked as the top concern for all age groups, followed by groceries, electricity, insurance and rent/mortgage payments.

Interestingly, people aged 18 to 59 view groceries as the second biggest concern, while those over 60 said they were more concerned about electricity costs.

Regardless of age or location, the data confirms that women are more concerned about the rising cost of essential household expenses than men.

Despite the prevailing stress over rising fuel prices, the survey reveals that most Australians don’t pay much attention to the price of fuel when making short trips or commuting.

In fact, the toll road operator found that a quarter of Australians have changed their mode of transport to work, with most switching from public transport to the car.

Commuting Changes

Transurban CEO Scott Charlton said the report provides a clearer picture of how and why people travel as cities become busier.

“With people returning to the workplace in greater numbers and population growth returning, it’s an opportune time to ask ourselves what we want our commute to look like in the future,” he said.

After working remotely or on alert for two years, most people are now back in the office for most of the work week.

Brisbane residents have shown the most enthusiasm for the office, according to the data, commuting to their workplace on average 3.7 days a week.

Workers in Sydney and Melbourne were less enthusiastic, with an average clock speed of 3.4 days.

“It seems a lot of people are planning to stick with their car if they go to work a few days less than they used to,” said Mr Charlton.

“There could be a few reasons for this, including more flexibility and ongoing public health advice around wearing masks on public transport.”

Changes at work

As the CEO of Transurban points out, flexible working arrangements have continued despite nationwide pressure to return to the office.

71 percent of those surveyed said they now had access to varied start and end times at work, which is nearly double the number of people who reported having those benefits in January.

Sydney topped the list of flexible workers, with 73 percent of the city’s residents claiming flexible hours. Melbourne followed with 71 percent of workers, while Brisbane followed with 68 percent.

The M4 tunnel in Sydney, the city that topped the list for flexible workers, with 73 percent of the city's residents claiming flexible hours.  Photo: Simon Anders
The M4 tunnel in Sydney, the city that topped the list for flexible workers, with 73 percent of the city’s residents claiming flexible hours. Photo: Simon Anders

However, Transurban’s traffic data shows that not enough people are taking advantage of those flexible working hours and have instead returned to their pre-pandemic work routines.

As a result, both morning and evening congestion has returned to the cities during rush hour.

Transurban’s CEO said people missed an opportunity to enjoy shorter commutes by adjusting their schedules.

“We are already seeing a return to traditional congestion during peak periods on our network,” said Mr Charlton.

“Transport congestion is a trend we want to put behind us, so as people adopt new routines and adjust their commuting habits, this research shows that flexible working has significant potential to flatten the congestion curve.”

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