Research just published by Greener Journeys reveals compelling new evidence of the value and importance of the bus to its users. These user benefits support much of the existing research on the value of the bus to the wider economy, but also give new depth and insight into the vital role the bus plays.
The picture which emerges is that the bus is a key factor in people's lives.
Strikingly, seven out of ten bus users say that the bus is important to their quality of life, with half saying their lives wouldn't be as rich without the bus. The bus links them with friends and family, employment and social events.
Eight out of ten bus users believe the bus is an essential part of the fabric of UK society, connecting them with British institutions such as the pub and sporting events, in addition to the theatre and shops.
These are important findings. There is a tendency for policymakers to focus on economic measures, but this research suggests that the bus is also a major factor in shaping people's lives and supporting the very fabric of the communities in which they live.
The bus has a major role to play in connecting friends and family, and allows people to care for and spend time with relatives. 57% said that the bus is crucial for their social life and for attending events. Nearly half (47%) of bus passengers said that they would spend less time with friends, and 55% said that the bus is important to their family life.
Greener Journeys' previous analysis of concessionary travel similarly revealed that the bus is important in enabling bus pass holders to look after children and care for others.
We already have a great deal of evidence of the importance of bus services in providing access to employment.
So it is no great surprise that seven out of ten bus users say that the bus helps people find work, while nearly a fifth say the bus allows them to accept work or study in places they wouldn't otherwise get to.
Of the entire sample, a fifth say that the bus helps them to attend job interviews or look for employment, rising to 54% in the unemployed group.
Evidence of how the bus supports the local economy is provided by the 79% of bus users who say that they use the bus to shop locally. This concurs with previous research demonstrating that the bus provides essential access to retail and leisure, and is the predominant mode of access to city centres, facilitating 29% of city centre expenditure.
One of the most interesting findings questions the idea that the car is necessarily more convenient. 78% of bus passengers say it's easier to get to their nearest town or city by bus rather than by car. Nearly half (49%) of bus passengers have the option of using a car but find it easier to get to their local town or city by bus.
By contrast, for non-bus users the convenience of the car is one of the most often cited reasons for choosing the car. In previous research we found that more than half of car drivers would use the bus more if bus routes were more convenient to them.
There seems to be a disparity between the perception and reality of bus travel: in general, bus users tend to have a much more positive view of bus travel than non-users. As Transport Focus research shows, 88% of bus users are satisfied with their bus services.
We timed the publication of the new research to coincide with Catch the Bus Week
2015. Now in its third year, the campaign is steadily gathering momentum, and is an excellent way to galvanise the whole bus sector to promote the benefits of bus travel.
This year more than 160 bus companies, local authorities and passenger groups took part. The week has caught the imagination of parliamentarians, who have supported the campaign on social media, through their local media and even by holding their surgeries on a bus.
Over the coming months it is going to be more important than ever for the bus sector to work together to make the case for the bus. We know that bus revenue funding is set to come under renewed pressure in the spending review 2015. Further cuts would put at risk the demonstrable benefits of buses, such as enabling the labour market to work more efficiently, cutting congestion, and reducing air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions. There could in turn be serious implications for employment and productivity, two of the main aims of the Government's economic strategy. 1,000 adults in the UK who regularly take the bus were surveyed during May. The research was undertaken by MindLab on behalf of Greener Journeys.
Reference: Transport Times, July-Aug 2015 Issue
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