New report on how people in the UK feel about bus travel is ‘valuable piece of work’

Cllr Kim Groves, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee has welcomed a new report on how people in the UK feel about bus travel, describing it as ‘a valuable piece of work’

Cllr Kim Groves, Chair of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority Transport Committee has welcomed a new report on how people in the UK feel about bus travel, describing it as ‘a valuable piece of work’.

Cllr Groves, who was instrumental in forming the West Yorkshire Bus Alliance which is committed to putting customers at the heart of improving services, said: “If we are going to encourage more people in West Yorkshire to use the bus, we need to take notice of the information contained in research like this Urban Transport Group report.”

The new report is the result of a literature review of existing research on social and emotional responses to the experience of bus travel, carried out by transport consultants SYSTRA on the Urban Transport Group’s behalf.

Key findings

Key findings of the review, ‘How people respond to the experience of bus travel and the implications for the future of bus services,’ include:

  • Different groups of people having different motivators, barriers and experiences of bus use with users generally being more positive and focussing on practical issues, and non-users generally more negative and focussing more on perceptions.

  • Bus users experiencing a wide spectrum of emotional responses to bus use. These range from a sense of pride and trust in services which are reliable and good value for money, to anxiety and irritation whilst waiting for buses to arrive, or feeling unsafe whilst using a bus, travelling to and from bus stops, or waiting at bus stops.

  • Women generally having more negative views (towards public transport) than men.

  • The role of the driver emerging as a key factor with the potential to address some of the negative emotional responses to bus travel. Improved emotional satisfaction and connection with bus services could be achieved, for example, if drivers are constant on the same route at the same time; acknowledge passengers and provide eye contact; help with passenger queries; keep customers informed; and help customers onto buses, if needed. Last week’s Transport Select Committee report recognised the “vital” role drivers play in local bus services by providing information to passengers.

  • A number of international research studies have addressed bus users’ attitudes, emotions, commitment and trust, but very little attempt has been made to understand these factors in relation to bus travel experiences in the UK.


The bus driver is key

Commenting on the findings, Cllr Groves said, “As members of the West Yorkshire Bus Alliance, we need to make sure we understand and overcome jointly all the barriers and negative perceptions that are preventing non-users from catching the bus as well as building on bus users’ positive experiences.

“It’s also important we minimise any anxiety and irritation people feel while using or waiting for buses as well as challenging the reasons why women view public transport less positively than men.

“I think this report makes clear there is a not a single, easy solution but I do agree with its finding that the role of the bus driver is key. We ask drivers to get people where they want to be on time, to look after their passengers’ safety, to sell them tickets and to be our public ambassadors. It’s a big ask and, through the Bus Alliance, we should ensure that in turn we are valuing them, supporting them and giving them the skills and tools to do a good job.

“This Urban Transport Group report is a valuable piece of work and I look forward to seeing the future findings on how people spend their time during bus journeys and analysis of the common factors in areas with high bus usage.”

Unique social space 

Mick Noone, Director of Integrated Transport at the Liverpool City Region Combined Authority and lead Board member for bus at the Urban Transport Group, said: “Much of the research on why people choose to travel by bus or not focuses on rational decisions around costs, journey times and reliability. But how people feel at a gut level about the experience of bus travel can be just as important in whether they stick with, or abandon, the bus.

“The research also demonstrates that the bus is a unique social space about which different types of people have different positive and negative feelings and perceptions. If, through vehicle design or more support for drivers, we can accentuate what many people like about the bus as a social space, whilst tackling some of the negatives, then we may be able to win more hearts and minds for the bus.’’

As part of the on-going research programme, the Urban Transport Group has commissioned a follow-up report by SYSTRA looking at how people spend their time during bus journeys and the value they place on it and a report by Transport for Quality of Life which will look in detail at common factors in areas with high bus use.

Download the new report,' ‘How people respond to the experience of bus travel and the implications for the future of bus services

Find out more about the West Yorkshire Bus Alliance.

28 May 2019