Hop on the bus, but maybe not in MK?

25 February 2011

Why don’t more people use buses? We don’t do a lot of work on non rail use as the trains are booming and we argue just look at what drives passenger satisfaction, do more of it and more passengers will come.

However, bus use outside of London is patchy. Growing in some places, declining in others, but pretty steady overall. Why is this? Generally people are becoming wealthier so they tend to buy cars. Out of town developments show no sign of abating and increasing important things like hospitals are leaving town centres. However, as we know from our surveys, bus users rate their services quite highly and fuel prices are rising – so, why is bus use static?

Working with Milton Keynes Council (MKC) we set out to find out why more people don’t use the bus. Milton Keynes was an interesting choice. Designed for motor vehicles should it not suit bus use as well? It was recently named as one of Britain’s most car dependent cities, so it was a good test bed.

What we found was interesting. Many folk, when we got them using buses were pleasantly surprised how good they were – more frequent, cleaner and not as expensive as they thought. However, many found it difficult to get going – which route? Which timetable? Which fare? Some had trouble even finding the bus stops where you might expect to get some information.

So, promote bus services, offer free travel as a trial, take a hard look at bus stops and keep them clean. We are now talking to MKC and main operator about all this – let’s see what we can do together.

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