This research - conducted by transport consultancy SYSTRA on behalf of the Urban Transport Group - uncovers valuable insights into how passengers spend their time while travelling by bus, and sets out the implications for future bus design and promotion.
The research was based on surveys of over 1,100 people on two different bus routes in Leeds and Nottingham. The two routes both provide a high frequency service and operate with double decker buses with leather seats, WiFi and USB ports - some of the best on-board facilities available. However, the profile of passengers between the two routes was somewhat different, with passengers in Leeds tending to be older, working or retired, whilst a higher proportion of respondents in Nottingham were students, due to the bus route travelling along the university corridor.
This research, by Transport for Quality of Life, identifies the underlying conditions that best predict levels of bus use in local areas. It points to six conditions which, when combined, are used to define the ‘Intrinsic Bus Potential’ (IBP) of a local authority area. These include the Index of Multiple Deprivation, the proportion of students, and rush-hour traffic travel times.
The report also identifies additional factors which may explain why some areas exceed expectations with higher levels of bus use than predicted, such as a pre-existing culture of bus use, high levels of bus provision, and local factors such as poor rail connectivity.
The research has a number of important implications, including the need for radical change on bus policy to enable more areas to do significantly better on bus patronage.
This literature review - carried out by SYSTRA for the Urban Transport Group - aims to appraise the existing evidence base on the range of factors that influence how people respond to the experience of bus travel, with a focus on the social-emotional experience of bus travel and on the experiences of different socio-demographic groups.
The review does not aim to act as a ‘to-do’ list to complete in order to improve bus travel experiences. Any learnings taken should acknowledge that the bus services assessed in the literature are often hyper-local and therefore are experienced in a very individual market.
This report explores a range of factors relevant to bus patronage decline, under the themes of social and economic change; alternatives to the bus; and public attitudes to bus travel.
It finds that changing travel habits as a result of different lifestyles and working patterns, wider demographic and economic shifts, the rise of on-demand services, exemplified by runaway growth in Private Hire Vehicles, are amongst the many background factors affecting patronage.
The report also looks at areas where bus use is high or is growing and seeks to draw some initial conclusions about common denominators.