Chloe, 14, travels to and from school using trams and trains, and also uses them on weekends. “I love public transport. It’s so easy to use and I get to be with my friends. I feel safe because there are so many people around, and if I know I’m going to be delayed, I can just text someone,” she says.
Instant communication is a huge benefit of individual smartphone use, but technology can also help with a child’s time management. “My girls use apps which really accurately track trams and train times,” says Michael. “They know the tram is a four-minute walk, so they usually time it down to the very last minute in the morning.”
Regularly using public transport poses some testing realities for all passengers, from young students to experienced adult commuters. Overcrowding, delays and dodgy passengers are just some of the challenges that kids must learn to manage.
“Kids need to learn to be aware of what’s going on around them, without being alarmed,” says Michael. “They should have strategies to use if they run into a situation where they feel uncomfortable.”
It appears the state government agrees. More protective service officers have been deployed recently, especially at train stations after dark. And $16.9 million was pledged for this year’s spend on Victorian public transport safety, with initiatives such as safer stops and improved CCTV across the network.
Of course, sometimes the fastest route to school may not be the most practical one. Looking into alternative options – for example catching an earlier bus rather than a train – can be a useful exercise for families.
“Students often travel in groups and have large bags, so six or seven kids squeezing onto a train at an inner-city station during peak hour can be difficult. Some train lines and tramlines are more capable of accommodating students than others,” explains Michael.
Giving kids the freedom to try different things – and yes, to make mistakes – is essential in building problem-solving skills and preparing them for adulthood.
“Public transport has helped my girls develop a strong sense of independence. It’s been a really positive experience,” says Michael. “They also travel confidently on weekends as well now, and have made some good friendships by not getting picked up and dropped off at the gate every morning.”
Staying safe on public transport
- Use location-tracking services
Set your child’s phone to share its location. Try Family Location Sharing or Find My Friends app.
- Find the best way
RACV’s arevo app integrates Victoria’s public transport networks, giving a range of travel options based on personal preference.
- Use automatic top-ups
Ensure they’re never caught out with an expired or zero-balance Myki card by using Myki Auto Top Up.
- Memorise a phone number
Misplaced phones and dead batteries happen. Knowing a parent’s number means kids can approach shop staff or a friendly passenger to help make a call.
- Ask for help
Teach kids to feel confident asking for assistance, for example from PSO or public transport staff, if they’re feeling uncomfortable or unsafe.
RACV’s new arevo app is a one-stop-shop journey planner integrating Victoria’s public transport networks, myki top-up, a parking locator, bike and car share, Uber, taxis and more. It allows users to set the fastest, cheapest or greenest route, and gives access to transport discounts including RACV Car Share, Ola and SkyBus. Download in the App Store or Google Play Store, or find out more at racv.com.au/arevo