Andrews, G., Parkhurst, G., Shaw, J. and Susilo, Y.
The grey escape: How and why are older people really using their free bus pass?
43rd Universities Transport Study Group Conference, Milton Keynes, UK, 5th-7th January 2011.
Since 2008 those aged sixty and above have benefitted from unlimited area-wide free travel by bus after 09:30. The official policy rhetoric supporting implementation of the measure drew significantly upon the need to reduce social exclusion amongst older people. However, despite a substantial increase in the number of concessionary journeys in England and the associated cost liabilities for local authorities and possibly also operators, there is currently only limited understanding of the wide-ranging effects of providing a free pass on bus use, and in particular to whom benefits from the policy accrue. In part this circumstance results from a methodological focus by evaluation studies hitherto that has favoured aggregate-level data, often at the expense of the very rich contextual information that helps us understand how the individual benefits from using the pass. With this in mind, this paper seeks to understand more about the effects (both intended and unintended) of providing a free bus pass to older people. The paper specifically explores how pass users currently use the bus and how this has changed since the provision of free area-wide travel, highlighting the existence of both tangible and intangible benefits arising from the way pass holders use the bus. Second, it examines what the data can tell us about the benefits of the pass to the individual, leading to the finding that the nature and extent of benefits can vary between different groups of pass holders. The paper offers a fresh insight into previously unexplored uses and benefits of the concessionary bus pass. The paper concludes by exploring possible policy implications of the research in the context of the UK‟s ageing and growing population.
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