Simpler fare structures may help boost the number of bus passengers, according to a new report by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport’s (CILT).
The report, 'Factors affecting local bus demand and potential for increase', acknowledges the decline of bus ridership in recent years but suggests zonal prices, a multi-ride/multi-operator ticket or contactless payments could help increase passenger numbers.
These measures would bring lower operating costs through shorter dwell times at stops, say the report's co-authors Professor Stuart Cole, Emeritus Professor of Transport (Economics and Policy), University of South Wales, and Peter White, Emeritus Professor of Public Transport Systems, University of Westminster.
Regional variations in bus patronage
Between 2004/05 and 2018/19 there were significant passenger number reductions of more than 20% in Wales, Scotland and England’s metropolitan areas, while in London and in the English counties’ passenger numbers had increased.
However, variations exist, with southern England cities such as Brighton, Bournemouth and Bristol, and in Scotland, Edinburgh, seeing growth in bus use. In Wales, the TrawsCymru interurban bus network bucked the overall trend with an increase in its passengers from 0.473 million (2007/8) to 2.033 million (2018/19).
In England, the bus customer base pre-Covid was comprised of education and commuting trips (42%), followed by shopping (20%) though the latter has been falling for some years partly, it is suggested, by increased out of town centres that are not serviced by bus.
Bus demand in Britain has been strongly affected by the pandemic. Service levels are now restored to their March 2020 levels on most routes with government support plugging the financial gap.
The report looks at a wide range of published research on bus demand, including sensitivity to fares and service levels, along with other factors.
Recent surveys have examined the factors that will attract passengers to buses, including improved punctuality and reliability; frequent services; the journey experience linking the bus environment, clean vehicles, driver attitude, on board information; one ticket for all bus, train and tram operators (as London Oyster, Netherlands Chipkaart, concessionary bus pass); integrated timetables particularly where frequencies are low; more frequent evening and weekend services.
Some of these factors also appear in the national bus strategy for England.