How has bus use changed since Covid-19?

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Peter White, Emeritus Professor of Public Transport Systems at the University of Westminster, takes an in-depth look at bus use figures since the pandemic

The publication of more extensive statistics on bus use in England, notably the data released by the Department for Transport (DfT) on 31 January (and then in slightly amended form on 14 March) provides the chance not only to look at total use, but how this has varied by area and type of user, and to consider factors which may explain these variations. Evidence is also drawn from the National Travel Survey (NTS) in England, and other sources as indicated.

Pre-covid pattern and underlying trend

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, three main trip purposes represented approximately equal shares of bus demand over the year as a whole – work, education and shopping. The first two produced much of the peak demand, especially during school term time; the latter helped to sustain demand between peak periods on weekdays. However, ridership boosted by free concessionary travel for older people was already in decline, as the age of entitlement rose and successive waves of older people becoming entitled to free travel were more likely to own cars and posses driving licences. At the same time younger people have lower car availability than in previous decades, a potential growth market.


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