1. On the Buses
1.1 The ‘On the buses’ project aimed to evaluate the impact of free bus travel for young people on the public health using a mix of reviews of existing evidence, analysis of routine data and qualitative research.
1.2 The qualitative component of the study drew on: individual or group interviews with 118 12-18 year olds and 47 citizens aged over 60 (four London boroughs); interviews and discussions with, and projects conducted by, participants in LSHTM’s work experience programme; and observational data
from London’s buses. The aims were to contribute to our understanding of how the wellbeing of
young people is affected by travel, and by free bus travel in particular. . We also looked at the contribution free bus travel made to wellbeing for older citizens.
1.3 These are summary findings of the qualitative component in response to questions that are often asked about free bus travel and health.
2. How far do issues of health and wellbeing affect young people’s choice of travel mode?
2.1 The key criteria for most young people in choosing how to travel around London was ‘sociability’,
with travel modes that enabled them to travel with friends prized most.
2.2 A few reported enjoying walking as it felt healthier than using public transport. 2.3 Although buses were reported as ‘risky’ at times, for instance in terms of potential harassment,
these risks did not apparently reduce willingness to use the buses,and young people had a
number of strategies for reducing their risks.
3. Does offering bus travel for free reduce the amount of (healthier) walking or cycling that young people do?
3.1 Bus travel has become the ‘default mode’ of transport for many 12-17 year olds for short trips.
Young people reported, and were observed, using buses for very short journeys (one or two
stops) and ‘jumping on and off’ frequently as there was no financial disincentive to doing this.
3.2 Free bus travel also generated trips, with more journeys undertaken, sometimes just to ride the
bus as an end in itself.
3.3 For longer journeys, walking is rarely considered a viable option. For these, and for journeys in
outer London, bus travel has reportedly replaced some car travel, thus generating walking to bus
3.4 Cycling is rarely considered a candidate mode of transport, although many young people
reported enjoying cycling for leisure.
3.5 A ‘bus journey’ could be a highly active journey, involving walking or running to and between
3.6 The provision of free bus travel therefore replaces some physical activity but also generates
new physical activity.
4. Has free bus travel reduced ‘transport exclusion’?
4.1 For a few young people, travelling for free was reported as important for their access to sport or
recreation, and as a significant contribution to family budgets.
4.2 Across the interviews, the only young people who mentioned financial restrictions on their
ability to travel around London were those whose Zip cards had been lost or confiscated. 4.3 With free bus passes , ‘transport poverty’ was not a significant issue for young people in London.
4.4 Crucially, as all young people had access to free bus travel, there was no stigma attached to
using it and whole groups of young people could use it as a socially inclusive way to travel
together. The Zip card thus facilitates inclusive travel in a way that more targeted benefits
5. What other health benefits or disadvantages are related to free bus travel?
5.1 Unlimited free travel provides opportunities for young people to develop skills in navigating their
city, managing independently and interacting with a range of other Londoners. These
experiences are important for young people’s development of independence.
5.2 Having a benefit that applies to all Londoners fostered a sense of belonging to the city. 6. Is there any evidence of reduced future dependence on car travel?
6.1 Many young people still report wanting to learn to drive when older, associating driving with
adulthood, independence and status.
6.2 However, regular use of the bus network in the context of good transport provision, as part of a
diverse travelling public, has ‘normalised’ bus travel such that it did not have negative
connotations as ‘low status’ transport.
7. Does free bus travel for young people result in ‘fear based exclusion’ of older passengers from the bus network?
7.1 Some older citizens reported feeling uncomfortable on buses crowded with young people, but
none reported that they were excluded from travel by young people (or other passengers). 8. Free bus travel for older citizens
8.1 The ‘Freedom Pass’ was widely reported as an essential ‘lifeline’ for almost all older citizens,
providing access to a range of goods and services essential for health, such as medical
appointments, shopping and social amenities.
8.2 For many, the Pass was also described as an indispensible aid to a healthy lifestyle, in that it
provided an accessible way to meet people, interact and feel part of life.
8.3 Because the bus pass was a universal benefit, which offered access to public buses and was
perceived as having been ‘earned’, it was a non-stigmatised way to defend against loneliness
and engage in social life.