“I am not sure how many people are aware but from 1974 to 1986 South Yorkshire County Council demonstrated that with heavily subsidised fares they could encourage people out of cars and onto buses. At a time when bus usage across the country declined by about 30% it actually increased in Sheffield by 7% making the city one of the least congested in England. I recall visiting and being amazed not only by how cheap the buses were but how frequent and comprehensive the service. Central Government hated what the local authority was doing, and bus deregulation in 1986 killed the experiment. But what it undoubtedly proved was that there is another way of thinking.”
Response from Professor Lesley:
“The argument for lowering public transport fares to increase patronage goes back at least to the 1920’s, when there were few cars to compete. Unfortunately fares constitute only about 25% of passenger decision making process, and historically the fare elasticity of urban bus fares has been about -0.3, meaning a 10% fare decrease leads to a patronage increase of 7%, so revenue declines by 4%.
The South Yorkshire low fares policy was introduced in 1976. Actually fares were frozen, but with inflation the real fare decreased, and the Authority calculated that by 1986 it would cost more to collect than the income from fares would generate. So the intention was to make SY a no fare system. The Transport and Research Laboratory undertook considerable monitoring of this e.g. Report TRL 593. This work showed a small diversion of car trips to bus. (our emphasis – Ed.) The biggest benefit was for low income households who could make more bus journeys. When HMG withdrew the bus grant in 1986 (National total £500million), SY fares rose by 300%. and patronage declined by 90%. Then buses (outside London and N Ireland) were deregulated.Merseyside also had a low fare policy during that time.
Free fares have been instituted in Riga and Luxembourg. In both cases modal shift from car has been small.
To get people to switch from car to public transport needs a significant improvement in both the quality and perception of public transport, since the market research over the last 30 years shows consistently that decisions to use public transport are based in order of priority:
Interestingly the DfT had a survey done in 2019 of tram passenger satisfaction in the UK, showing 90% satisfaction, because of 90% reliability, 73% for getting a seat and 70% fare value for money.
Hope this helps,
From: Martin Garrett . Transport Forum For Greater Bristol
Sent: Wed, 12 Jan 2022 18:30
Subject: Re: Is this an accurate summary ( not by me) of the effects of the Sheffield policy of low bus fares and its effect on car useage?
Effects of Deregulation on Service Co-Ordination in the Metropolitan Areas
On Fri, 14 Jan 2022, 16:00 , <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Low fares – or reasonable fares; an important public judgement – are not as important as simple fares within a ticketing system that encompasses all modes.
To use a car we need only one key. If PT use requires more than one “key” we’ll never get people out of cars.
This was the basis for the Swiss & German thinking in the 1960s which led to “Verkehrsverbunde” (traffic/tariff partnerships) with one ticket, time- rather than distance-based, covering all modes.
The famous visit of Barbara Castle to Boston USA should have been a visit to Hamburg where the first “Verkehrsverbund” was being established.
The result: British PTEs modelled on the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority which was set up to take over failed private sector operation and build a unified publicly-owned system. So all the municipal operators in (eg: Greater Manchester) were merged and little or nothing was done to integrate fares cross-modally. In Hamburg it didn’t matter who ran the buses and trains (and ferries) – public or private – it was simply a case of HVV determining fares and timetables to ensure real competition for the car.
Bus deregulation effectively destroyed what little had been done (notably in Tyne & Wear) to create an integrated network.
From Mike Ballinger:
(the immediate past Chairman and a Vice-President of the Light Rail Transit Association (LRTA), and Chairman of the Promotions Group of industry body UKTram, as well as being Vice-Chairman of the UK Bus Driver of the Year Competition and a member of the Bus & Coach Forum of the Chartered Ins titute of Logistics & Transport (CILT).)
So why didn’t it survive? Having a national system which applied to a large number of operators is on the face of it great and obviously makes moving around easy. However it was not long before the operators got rid of their revenue protection squads. Amsterdam had a particularly effective one until the introduction of the strippenkaart but soon got rid of it after. Soon the Rough Guide was reporting that the trams in Amsterdam were free.
So the government found it was having to pay out heavy subsidies and an alternative was found. When I was there last you had a card like the London Travel card which you had to sign in and out with. Andrew Braddock might know more. I haven’t been to the Nederlands for about 7 or so years.
But the point about having a system of revenue collection is a very valid one and many people in my generation abandoned using buses in the late 1960’s as one-man operation was introduced and in many cases the exact fare was needed. Quite a few of them, certainly in metropolitan areas, came back to using public transport on reaching 60 or so when they were given a free bus (and in some areas rail and tram) pass. Being retired meant they probably had more time to make journeys.
The LRTA always had members who looked at revenue collection seriously and we were aware of the Dutch system . With the late Jack Wyse as editor of the then Modern Tramway there were many articles on fare collection.
Yes it would be great to offer free public transport but you need a national economy that can support such a project.
transport has been introduced, and the effects are more evident after several years.
Research has also found that when fares are removed, only a small number of people who previously traveled by car make the switch. New passengers attracted by it tend to be pedestrians and cyclists rather than car drivers. The picture from most cities where free public transport has been introduced is that the increased passenger numbers overwhelmingly come from people who might have walked, cycled or not traveled otherwise.
Three years after fares were abolished in Estonia’s capital, Tallinn, the number of bus passengers increased from 55% to 63%, while car journeys decreased only slightly (from 31% to 28%), together with walking (from 12% to 7%). Cycling (1%) and others (1%) remained the same.===================================================================
” But the results on pushing people to switch modes and in particular to get them out of private cars are not as impressive.In 2014, a year into the experiment, the use of public transport had increased by 14 percent, but car use had only declined by 5 percent. And this was despite a policy of raising on-street parking fees to €6 per hour—almost twice the hourly minimum wage.
And although car use decreased marginally, the average distance travelled by car actually went up.
A further negative is that people have switched from walking to taking transport. Because trips were free, pedestrians began hopping on buses, and the number of trips made on foot dropped by 40 percent, according to a 2016 study by Dr. Oded Cats, Associate Professor at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands.
A similar unwanted shift occurred in Hasselt, a town of 70,000 residents in Belgium which introduced fare-free transport in 1997. While public ridership increased tenfold, half of the new users were walkers or cyclists and the market share of buses, even after 15 years of the scheme, remained at just 5 percent. Consequently, in the same year Tallinn launched its scheme, Hasselt was forced to reintroduce fares for all passengers over 20 years old because the costs of running the free network had grown fourfold to €3.5 million in the first seven years of operation—an unsustainable increase.”
And this: https://theconversation.com/would-you-ditch-your-car-if-public-transport-was-free-heres-what-researchers-have-found-133001
Research has also found that when fares are removed, only a small number of people who previously travelled by car make the switch. New passengers attracted by it tend to be pedestrians and cyclists rather than car drivers. The picture from most cities where free public transport has been introduced is that the increased passenger numbers overwhelmingly come from people who might have walked, cycled or not travelled otherwise.
And this: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2016/oct/11/tallinn-experiment-estonia-public-transport-free-cities
Dr Cats, who is based at Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, found that the number of people in Tallinn using public transport instead of cars was up by 8%, but at the same time the average length of a car journey had gone up by 31%, which he said meant there were more, not fewer, cars on the road in the time they tested.
Just in from Martin Garret – TFGB
I know a bit about the Dutch Strippenkart. It was a prepaid card with 20 (?) segments. I used them in the early 1990’s when I was managing international work experience swaps for Further Education students. As far as I recall, one segment could be cancelled by a machine on a tram (or at the tram stop?). They were also used on all the buses where they would be stamped by the driver. For longer interurban bus journeys more than one strip was cancelled.It would almost certainly be replaced by a digital system now.But the point was that the same card was usable anywhere in the Netherlands, as far as I recall. It certainly made paying for travel straightforward (no waiting for change etc) and reduced boarding times of buses, and no familiarising oneself with the different fare systems in different cities.I also recall the disapproval expressed by Dutch teenagers when they had to struggle to get about when they came over for their work experience here, even though it was around Nottingham. Despite the fact that it was Nottigham there was still the impact of deregulation at that time and a few bus companies were chancing their arm, even competing on the same routes. The Orientation sessions that I did for Dutch students were much needed because they were seriously Disorientated by our buses, (even though they knew the plot lines of East Enders and followed our football). By then Nottingham City buses had an exact fare policy, but the competitors didn’t, and the confusion was compounded by charging different fares, and of course weekly tickets were not usable on another company’s services for the same journey.(There are now basically 2 companies operating in Nottingham, and a tacit allocation of routes. Ticketing is still not generally interchangeable, but there is a premium card that you can get that covers both companies. )For those of you who might be wondering how we could arrange work experience in the Netherlands. when virtually no English youngsters speak a word of Dutch, the answer is simple. In many organizations in the Netherlands, especially the multinationals, all business is conducted in English. The UK has a lot to learn from our European friends, and not just about transport.Martin