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Number crunch - a decade of transport trends defining our cities

By Jonathan Bray

09 May 2018/Categories: PTRC News

A lot has changed in the last decade. And nowhere is this more apparent than in urban transport. From rapid bus passenger decline to the huge growth in private hire vehicles, dramatic shifts are changing the face of our cities.

Our recent report Number crunch reveals some of these trends. So what’s going on, and how might this affect the future of urban transport? 

Firstly, there have been clear winners and losers. 

The steel wheel has seen solid success. With more people opting for the rapid access into and between cities that only rail can provide, regional rail patronage grew by 36% over the past 10 years, with rail patronage in London and the South East growing by 44% over the same period. And the UK’s expanding urban tram and light rail networks have also boomed with patronage growth of 44% over the last decade. 

While rail’s fortunes have fared well, the bus continues to fall out of favour. Although nationally the bus still accounts for 70% of all public transport journeys, it is in decline across the city regions, including London. Bus patronage in the city regions outside of London fell by 11% from 1.1 billion in 2009/10 to 937 million in 2016/17.

One of the potential reasons behind this bad decade for the bus, could be that the impacts of transformative technological change and new business models are now being felt at scale. The number of Private Hire Vehicles, for example, soared nationally by 41% between 2007 and 2017, and grew faster still in cities like London where PHV numbers have almost doubled since 2007. There is now one PHV for every 100 people in the capital! 

Cities are becoming bigger but also older. The number of people over 75 in city regions is expected to grow by 80% between 2014 and 2039, from 1.3 million people to 2.4 million. This is against the overall population growth of 19% in city regions in England over the same period. The projected rise could have major implications for urban transport, such as concessionary travel budgets and the accessibility of transport networks. 

Across the country we’re also seeing that people are travelling less often. The National Travel Survey (the ‘shipping forecast’ of transport planning) shows that people have been making less trips every year since the seventies, including for shopping, commuting and business. And levels of cycling remain low in our cities. 

All of this information has been drawn from the Urban Transport Group’s Data Hub. This online, interactive tool allows users to generate bespoke analysis, graphics and charts of transport, economic and population data. So whether you’re interested in trams or trains, buses or bikes, you can take the raw data, set your own parameters and transform this into meaningful visuals. What’s more, it’s free! Give it a go, and crunch the numbers for yourself. 

Jonathan Bray is Director at the Urban Transport Group


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