Research uncovers valuable insights into how bus passengers spend their time


New research has uncovered valuable insights into how passengers spend their time while travelling by bus, and sets out the implications for future bus design and promotion.

The research - conducted by transport consultancy SYSTRA on behalf of the Urban Transport Group - found that the most popular on-board activity (undertaken by 45% of people) was window gazing/people watching, followed by using the internet for leisure (27%) and phoning/texting (24%).

21% of passengers said they listened to music/podcasts and 20% said they socialised with a companion.

Those aged 16-24 and those aged 65 years and over were more likely to spend their time on the bus socialising, than those aged 25-64 years. The younger the respondent, the more likely they were to use the internet (67% of 16-24 year olds compared with 30% of those over 65 years).

The research was based on surveys of over 1,100 people on two different bus routes in Leeds and Nottingham.

The report found that one in five of those surveyed on the Leeds route gave one of the reasons why they chose to make their journey by bus because it gave them the ability to do other things while travelling, maximising their use of time.

The report also showed that the vast majority of passengers were satisfied, or very satisfied, with how they spent their time on the bus (83% on the Nottingham route and 89% on the Leeds route). Satisfaction with the bus service overall also varied by whether a not a person spent their time as expected, with 90% of those who spent their time as expected being satisfied with the bus service overall, compared with 80% of those who did not spend their time as expected.

Jonathan Bray, Director of the Urban Transport Group, said:

“The research is important as it suggests that bus passengers really do place value on the way they spend their time during their journey. This has implications for the way buses are designed - from clean windows and on-board WiFi to seating layouts that better enable socialising. It also has implications for the way in which bus travel is marketed by highlighting the range of activities that can be engaged in, many of which are not possible when travelling by car. This kind of marketing may be particularly effective on corridors when the bus already enjoys other advantages over the car in terms of speed and cost.

“This is the latest research in our on-going programme looking at what’s really driving bus patronage. Our research has had a particular focus on social and behavioural responses to bus travel given this is where the evidence base is weakest. If we want to understand why people do and don’t use buses then we need to understand how people feel about bus travel as well as how they think about bus travel. This report shows that people like the time they spend on the bus – with the right bus design and marketing we can further accentuate that positive for the bus.”