«Authors: Emily Hirst and Bill Harrop July 2011 Getting out and about: Investigating the impact of concessionary fares on older people’s lives A ...»
Getting out and about:
Investigating the impact of
concessionary fares on
older people’s lives
A study by the Transport Action Group – Manchester
Authors: Emily Hirst and Bill Harrop
Getting out and about: Investigating the impact of concessionary fares on
older people’s lives
A study by the Transport Action Group – Manchester
Authors: Emily Hirst and Bill Harrop.
The Transport Action Group
This study was initiated through the Transport Action Group – Manchester (TAG). TAG was a collection of voluntary and community group members with an interest in, or an issue relating to, transport in the City of Manchester. Covering all modes of transport, TAG aimed to work with local authorities and transport providers to try and address transport related issues and provide a channel for the public to contribute to transport related planning, provision and policy issues.
The Transport Action Group provided a strategic engagement function for the Community Network for Manchester (CN4M), which is the voluntary and community sector partner in the Manchester (Local Strategic) Partnership. Following recent changes in funding allocation, the TAG post was made redundant in April 2011.
Origins of study A selection of individuals and organisations independently approached TAG in autumn 2010 with concerns about potential withdrawal of the National Concessionary Travel Scheme for older people.
The 2011 Local Transport White Paper confirms the Government’s commitment to retaining the national scheme for at least until the end of the current spending review period to 2014-15.
However, given that concerns had been raised, both now and in previous years, TAG considered it an appropriate time to conduct a study to investigate the benefits of concessionary travel in the Manchester area.
This research project was initiated before funding cuts were confirmed. It has been continued by the former TAG strategic engagement worker Bill Harrop, with assistance from Emily Hirst on a voluntary basis, with support from the organisation that hosted the project; MERCi, the Manchester Environmental Resource Centre initiative.
Acknowledgements The authors would like to thank the following people for their support and encouragement, feedback and contributions to this study: Caroline Downey and colleagues at MERCi; Kevin Healey and users of the Heathfield Community Centre; Tracey Emmett, Rebecca Bromley and other members of the VOP team at Manchester City Council; David Campbell, Transport Resource Unit at Greater Manchester Centre for Voluntary Organisation (GMCVO); Mary Duncan, Manchester Alliance for Community Care (MACC); Pia Feig, Manchester Mental Health and Social Care Trust;
Beverley Gallier and Stuart Murray, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM); Viv Gee, 5050 Vision.
Abstract This study uses questionnaire responses to find out how older people in Manchester are participating in the national concessionary travel scheme and how this impacts on their quality of life. Responses indicate that the ‘bus pass’ is a key tool for enabling older people to engage in a wide range of pursuits, demonstrating that concessionary travel supports transport and health policies of promoting active travel and improving well-being. Further study could examine how pass use could be increased, given the benefits, and its potential to meet policy objectives.
1 Introduction1.1 Study Aims
1.1.1 This study has been conducted to identify the positive impact that concessionary travel has on older people’s lives, and illustrate how these benefits contribute to meeting local, regional and national health and transport policy objectives, in addition to supporting Manchester’s ambition to become a great place to grow older (Valuing Older People Partnership, 2009).
1.1.2 This study aims to canvass the views and opinions of concessionary pass holders through informal meetings, consultation, and responses to a questionnaire, to find out how older people are using their passes, their reasons for travelling, and how this has affected their lives.
1.1.3 The findings of this study are based on qualitative data. Qualitative research is effective when exploring complex issues such as experiences and opinions; it cannot provide statistical evidence that is representative of all older people holding passes. However, the opinions expressed are no less valid and yield an indication of the range of views held. The results provide an insight into some of the key issues regarding concessionary travel for older people, and are a starting point for conducting further research in the future.
1.2 Geographical scope of study
1.2.1 This study is focussed on the metropolitan district of Manchester, since this is the area within which TAG worked. Some questionnaire responses were also received from other metropolitan districts within Greater Manchester and these have also been included in the analysis.
1.3.1 Following this opening introductory section, the report is structured as follows;
Section 2 provides some background on demography, national and local concessionary fare policy, and characteristics of older people which may impact upon their travel behaviour;
Section 3 provides a brief description of the methodological approach to the study;
Section 4 presents the study findings, and discusses them in context of relevant national, regional and local policies relating to health and transport;
Section 5 presents the key conclusions to this study and Section 6 suggests avenues for further research.
2 Background context2.1 An ageing population
2.1.1 The UK’s population is ageing: life expectancy at birth in the UK has reached its highest level on record, at 77.7 years for males and 81.9 years for females (ONS, 2010) and by 2024, it is predicted that 50% of the population will be over the age of 50 (Department of Health, 2010). This demographic trend is set to put increasing pressure on the quality and delivery of certain services such as those related to health and transport. There has been widespread debate in both mainstream and transport industry media about the costs associated with providing concessionary travel (Forster, 2010).
2.1.2 Most age-specific research tends to focus on older people as welfare and benefit recipients, or health and social care users (Hayden et al, 1999), rather than socially, physically and politically active participants in society: 75% of those aged 65 years and above voted in the 2005 parliamentary elections, compared to only 48% of 25-34 year olds (Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, 2006). To date, there has been very little research into the benefits that concessionary travel brings to the older population (Last, 2010) and how this might, in turn, benefit society.
2.2 National and Local Concessionary Fare Policy and Uptake
2.2.1 Over 65’s have been entitled to free off-peak travel on local buses since 2006. This was extended to those aged 60 and over in 2008. Within Greater Manchester, pass-holders are also entitled to free off-peak travel on the Metrolink and heavy rail services. Prior to 3rd April 2011, concessionary pass-holders were able to travel on all public transport modes before 9.30 am on weekdays, for a flat fare of 80p. Full fare is now payable before 9.30 am, on all modes.
2.2.2 Based on data provided by Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), there are currently 54,740 over 60’s concessionary passes described as ‘active’ in the metropolitan district of Manchester. According to 2010 mid-year population estimates from the ONS, the population of Manchester aged 60 and above is 68,000. 80% of over 60’s within Manchester are making use of their passes, although this will also include infrequent pass-users.
2.3 Characteristics of Older Travellers
2.3.1 Organisations advocating for the older population warn against the risk of stereotyping older people into one homogenous group (5050 Vision, 2009); pass-holders will typically span at least two generations, with differing characteristics. Some academics have used these characteristics to divide older people into 'younger' old, aged around 65-75, and 'older' old, aged over 75 (Alsnih and Hensher, 2003). The two tables below illustrate how ageing might impact upon travel behaviour and therefore provide a context in which concessionary passes might be used.
Table 2.1: Characteristics and travel behaviour of ‘Younger Old’
3.1 The findings presented in this study are based on the results of a short questionnaire, completed by existing pass-holders, focussing on the use of passes on local buses.
3.2 The questionnaire was compiled based on informal discussions held with two groups of
older people, with different characteristics:
an older person’s walking group: active, mobile older people, making use of their passes for leisure pursuits, at the beginning and end of each outing;
residents at a sheltered housing development – including some infrequent and less confident pass-users, and those experiencing physical barriers to public transport use.
Some quotations from these groups are also used in the discussion of results.
3.3 The questionnaire was piloted by the user’s committee at a community centre in North Manchester and adjusted based on their feedback. Opportunities to complete the questionnaire were the provided at;
a community centre in North Manchester;
Manchester City Council’s ‘Valuing Older People’ (VOP) monthly forum;
an informal drop-in session at the Friends Meeting House, Manchester;
the ‘Herbie’ van (a mobile greengrocer, serving communities in north and east Manchester);
online, over a period of a month, advertised via the Manchester VOP newsletter, MACC, MERCi, CN4M, and other member organisation distribution lists.
3.4 The questionnaire was designed to provide as much opportunity as possible for respondents to express their views and share their experiences, avoiding constraints posed by tick-boxes. Some quantitative data was also collected, relating to access to and use of cars, journey purpose, and potential fares. Respondents also had the opportunity to suggest ways in which the bus journey could be improved; this will be fed back directly to operators, and is not discussed here.
4 Results and discussion
4.1 The questionnaire was completed by 152 respondents. Given that the remit of TAG, and hence the focus of the study, was limited to the metropolitan district of Manchester, 84% of respondents were residents within Manchester. 11% of respondents were from Oldham, with smaller proportions of responses from Salford, Rochdale, Stockport, and Bolton.
4.2.1 Slightly over half of all respondents said they did not have access to a car, highlighting the important role that public transport plays for maintaining the mobility of these respondents, and contributing to equality of opportunity, in terms of accessing goods, services and amenities outside their localities.
4.2.2 Out of 71 respondents with access to a car, 62 respondents claimed to use their cars less, now they have a pass. Reasons for doing so were mainly when there was a convenient local bus service available as an alternative, and also the costs and stresses associated with parking, and running the car.
4.2.3 In the Local Transport White Paper ‘Creating Growth, Cutting Carbon’ (DfT, January 2011), the Government sets down its commitment to enabling and encouraging healthy and sustainable travel choices, providing an alternative to car, when walking and cycling may not be viable. The White Paper draws on what is known as the ‘Nudge’ effect; a term used to describe an incentive that doesn’t forbid choice. The national concessionary travel scheme is an example of this, providing an incentive for older people to make the more sustainable travel choice of switching from car to public transport, as shown by the responses to the second question above. It also contributes towards Government’s goals of reducing carbon emissions.
4.2.4 The Local Transport White Paper also emphasises the public health benefits of active travel.
The bus pass serves as an incentive to engage in more active forms of travel, as most end-to-end journeys that include a bus trip are likely to include an element of walking, as highlighted by participants of informal discussions on bus pass use;
4.2.5 Active travel can also impact on the development of cognitive conditions such as dementia, the prevalence of which increases with age (Luengo-Fernandez et al, 2010). According to the 2010 Department of Health White Paper ‘Healthy lives, healthy people’, half of dementias have a vascular component (caused by problems with the supply of blood to the brain). Improving lifestyle, including encouraging exercise through more active forms of travel could reduce the impact of such dementias (DH, 2010).
4.3 Frequency of pass use on local buses
4.3.1 Out of 148 responses to this question, 82% of respondents used their passes on the bus three or more times per week. 43% claimed to use their passes on the bus daily, or more than five days per week. The high level of pass-use is unsurprising given that the survey was most likely to have been completed by those who feel most strongly about the concessionary travel scheme, and who get most use out of their passes. Frequency of pass use will also depend on the level of service provision in that respondent’s locality.
4.4 Trip purpose
4.4.1 Respondents were asked what kind of journeys they used their passes for, and could select as many reasons for travelling as applied. ‘Shopping’ was selected by 91% of respondents with ‘Leisure and recreation’ selected by 87% of respondents. ‘Medical appointment’ and ‘Visiting friends and family’ was selected by 77% and 74% of respondents respectively.