Public transport has been an essential service

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Bus, Train

What does this image show?

Many public transport users during the pandemic had no other option than to continue using the services. This varied more for train users, between 41% in Aberdeen and nearly 70% in London than it did for bus. Overall, bus users were slightly more likely to agree that they could not have made their journey without using the bus than rail users. The second image below shows that 60% of non-bus users and nearly 50% of non-rail users during the pandemic had other ways of getting around.

Why is this important?

In understanding how quickly public transport use will return, it is essential to know who is using public transport because they have to and for whom is it more of a choice. It is expected that it will be harder to win back ‘choosers’ to public transport because of the health related messaging to “Avoid Public Transport”. This matters for two reasons. First, if patronage is lower than before the pandemic then either more subsidy is required or services will likely need to be cut. Second, to make progress towards carbon reduction goals there is a need to get people switching from the car, which currently looks more difficult than before the pandemic.

Figure: Assessment of the extent to which public transport users were captive users during the pandemic. Users were asked to agree / disagree with “I do not need to use the bus / train as I have other ways to get around”. (Survey data, Wave 2) Weighted: non-bus users N=4,521 and non-train users N=5,355.