graphic of the title page of sustainable ways report

Sustainable Ways: getting young people in Wales onto sustainable transport

Barclay Davies, Bus Users UK Director for Wales, takes a deep dive into a report from the Welsh Youth Parliament on what young people really think of public transport

It’s a widely recognised truth that we need to get more young people using public transport. Given the climate change emergency, the cost-of-living crisis and car insurance premium quotes in the thousands of pounds for young drivers, why don’t we see more young people taking the bus?

A group of 11 representatives of the Welsh Youth Parliament’s Climate and Environment Committee recently published a report ‘‘Sustainable Ways’. The report examines young people’s attitudes towards different modes of transport and the barriers that stop them from travelling more sustainably.

It found that levels of awareness and understanding of the benefits of sustainable travel were mixed. 46% of young people felt that places of learning were either good or very good at raising awareness and understanding, but just 28% of young people were actually aware of schemes such as MyTravelPass which allows one third off bus travel for those aged between 16 and 21.

“I don’t feel that ways to save money are displayed effectively enough, we need more ways to save money but also make sure that these are promoted further”.

According to the report, one of the biggest barriers to young people using public transport is the cost with only 22% believing bus fares were good or very good. 74% of young people said they would use public transport more if it was free, which seems to reinforce calls made by Sophie Howe, the Future Generations Commissioner, for public transport to be free for all under-25s.

“I find the fares really high which often stops me from taking the bus”.

Many young people felt that frequency and availability of public transport were barriers to travel. Only 30% felt that frequency of bus services was good with some referencing reduced services in their communities.

“I live in quite a rural area and bus services have been cut down quite considerably”.

When it came to reliability, 30% said services were good or very good, 30% neither good nor bad and 24% bad or very bad.

“I think people would be happy to catch the bus if it actually shows up when it’s supposed to and you’re not waiting there for half an hour in the rain wondering if your bus will actually show up or if it will be another no show”.

There was a significant difference in how young people perceived safety on public transport services in comparison to travelling by car. 79% felt very or fairly safe travelling by car compared to travelling by bus (43%) and train (41%). The on-board experience for young people was poor, with only 31% rating availability and comfort of seating as very good or good, 22% rating Wi-Fi and phone charging features as very good or good, and 18% rating quality and cleanliness as very good or good.

Disabled and neurodiverse young people reported that they faced a variety of challenges in attempting to use public transport. These ranged from accessing buses whilst using wheelchairs to being triggered by other passengers making loud noises. Others voiced frustration at having to pre book travel ahead of time to obtain assistance.

“Sensory overload on buses is hard to deal with”.

Ticketing and timetable information was raised as a barrier to travel. Some young people called for more convenient, flexible ticketing that would allow them to use the same ticket across modes without having to purchase multiple tickets.

“Making the process of buying public transport tickets/getting onto public transport smoother and less ambiguous. Convenience is the key.”

Many young people said that it was difficult to access the information they needed when it came to travel routes, how trains and buses connect and timings of services.

“Doesn’t seem connected and requires a lot of planning to work out how to get to places. Easier to jump in the car.”

Quite a number of young people raised discrimination and abuse as barriers to using public transport. Some reported being singled out because of their ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity. 25% of young people from ethnic minorities said they felt very unsafe while 34% said they felt safe or very safe.

“I don’t want to get on the bus because there is a lot of racism, and I am scared of it.”

“I’ve had aggression from people saying comments because I look alternative and “gay/trans” so it makes me a target”

In its summary, the report highlights that young people are conscious of the impact that different modes of transport have on the environment with 69% saying this influences their travel decisions. The report also noted that Welsh Government’s target of increasing the number of journeys made by sustainable travel from current levels of 32% to 45% by 2040 was broadly correct. The focus was more on implementing the steps to make it a reality.

“This target needs to be met with a serious commitment to an affordable and more regular and reliable public transport (network) through serious investment”.

‘Sustainable Ways’ makes a series of recommendations for improving sustainable travel, including:

  • Greater efforts by places of learning to improve understanding of the practicalities of how young people can travel sustainably in their local area
  • Greater efforts to promote sustainable travel and schemes like Mytravelpass
  • Free public transport for the under 25s
  • Greater Investment in public transport services, with a focus on expanding public transport routes; increasing the frequency of services; ensuring that services are reliable; reducing journey times
  • Improved connectivity between different modes of sustainable travel
  • The removal of barriers facing different groups including those who are neurodiverse or disabled
  • Improved information on public and active travel to make it easier to compare different modes
  • Improved and accurate real-time information when there are delays
  • A ticketing option for young people that can be used across multiple modes
  • A co-ordinated campaign to reduce anti-social behaviour and discrimination against marginalised groups, supported by places of learning within the Curriculum for Wales.

None of the findings in this report should come as any great surprise to the industry and the recommendations it makes would benefit all of our communities, not just young people.

As is so often the case it comes down to cost, particularly in the midst of a cost-of-living-crisis. But the question isn’t whether we can afford to invest in improving sustainable transport but whether we can afford not to. To paraphrase Whitney Houston, young people are the future and we owe it to them to do all we can to make sustainable travel the best and easiest choice so they can lead the way for future generations.

Read the report in full

Bus Users 2024-02-15T14:09:30+00:00