Honestly, it was great. We had everything we needed.

COVID restrictions and lockdowns, with the accompanying video calls and together-remote activities, has introduced an unexpected benefit to pandemic living and home working – a greater insight into the home lives of our colleagues. 

At Passenger, we now know more about what our colleagues are up to and into outside of work than perhaps we did when we spent time sat together in our office. People’s pets, families and home decor have become part of our working background – a culture shift widely dissected in LinkedIn posts and articles during 2020. 

Passenger’s CEO, Tom, has two (lovely) kids. We’ve now met them (virtually) many more times than we might have if we had worked the last year in our Bournemouth office. His children have joined us for our weekly Cookery Club and we heard from his daughter when she learned to ride her bike last summer. 

Recently, Tom’s son decided to undertake a popular YouTube challenge and live for 24 hours in the family bathroom. Despite his initial enthusiasm, he soon realised this was going to be an uncomfortable and rather dull weekend. Tom’s daughter wanted to get involved, but sensibly declared a bathroom ‘too scary’ to spend a night in alone, and it was decided that Tom and his daughter would challenge themselves to spend “24 hours in the Attic”. A much less terrifying prospect once you realise the attic in question is a home office (a lockdown DIY project) equipped with sofas, TVs, computers and facilities. 

I can’t say it was that much of a challenge.  I even got some work done. Honestly, it was great. We had everything we needed.

When Tom relayed the tale of the cosy 24 hours in the attic with his daughter, with meals brought up from downstairs and an array of entertainment on hand, two things seemed apparent.

The first was that the experience would probably become a treasured and significant memory for them both, and the second was how much of a fitting metaphor it was for the importance of creating vital transport connections in and around communities. Tom and his daughter were separated from the rest of the family but had easy access to what they needed and didn’t undergo any significant hardship. While a fun family challenge is in no way comparable to the difficulties people can face when they can’t easily access the services they need, it does illustrate how much easier it is when you can. 

Communities need to be well-connected with good public transport to thrive, and research such as the CPRE Transport Desert Report shows that some areas of England are already, or are at risk of becoming, ‘transport deserts’, with wildly insufficient local transport provision.

A key determinant of a city’s livability index is the quality of its transit infrastructure – precisely because it allows people the opportunity and ability to live healthy, fulfilling lives with access to recreation, healthcare, education, opportunities, social circles and services. Lack of transport infrastructure has been identified as one of four main barriers to achieving the recovery and growth required to close the gap between economically underperforming regions and the rest of the country. Connectivity, journey time and reliability improvements enabled by transport investment can drive productivity improvements by providing access to supply chains and expanding customer and labour markets.

Tom and his daughter’s 24-hour challenge was stress-free, comfortable and enjoyable. This represents how life should be for everybody, not just those with the resources to own private vehicles. Being able to easily to get to and from work, access necessities, attend to health/personal needs and participate in recreation and activities. The value of public transport access in building healthy, happy communities must not be overlooked – until we have no-one spending a miserable time in a bathroom, and everyone enjoying life in an attic. 

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