Since 2008, older people in England have been provided with nationwide zero-fare travel by bus as part of the Government’s wider social inclusion agenda. In common with other international zero-fare transportation measures, the scheme has stimulated a substantial increase in demand for bus travel, yet relatively little is known about how pass holders are using their passes. This is characterised by a lack of in-depth statistical analyses of pass holders’ usage trends. Through analysis of an on-board bus survey of 487 pass holders conducted in Southwest England, this paper explores the relationship between pass holders’ characteristics and their propensity to increase their travel by bus, and ultimately report an improvement in their quality of life as a result of the policy. The results confirm that the pass is mainly being used for shopping and social reasons, with evidence that the zero-fare pass has led to some modal substitution from the car, but also has facilitated trips that would not have taken place in the absence of the scheme. Multivariate analysis reveals that those pass holders who are older (75+), would have travelled as a car passenger, or used the bus anyway in the absence of a pass, are the ones least likely to report increased bus use since obtaining a pass. Interestingly, two of these variables (being older, and being a car passenger in the absence of a pass) simultaneously increase pass holders’ propensity to report an improvement in their quality of life, leading to the conclusion that zero-fare policy has the potential to improve quality of later life above and beyond changes in pass holder bus trip frequency. In other words, the traditionally assumed link between increase in bus trips and derived benefit is not supported in all cases by this research.
Washington DC, 2012.
TSC import 957 2012-01-30. QC 20121213