The decision by the Scottish Government to extend free bus travel to under 19 year olds is a small but positive step. However, the latest Transport for Scotland Report published yesterday (27th February 2020) shows that the number of bus journeys undertaken is continuing to fall while car usage is rising. The steepest fall in bus use is in the Highlands and Islands while the decline is least in South East Scotland. The data in the report doesn’t break down regions by public transport provider but the relatively small decline in the South East is almost certainly a result of increased numbers using publicly run Lothian Buses.
In 2107 transport accounted for 36.8% of Scotland’s total greenhouse gas emissions. Cars were the biggest contributor accounting for almost 40% of the total. Cutting the use of polluting car transport is a critical part of shifting to a zero carbon future. Simply replacing petrol and diesel by electric would put huge pressure on natural resources that are in short supply and whose extraction causes major environmental damage. The answer must surely be a comprehensive, flexible and well connected public transport system that has electric buses as a key component and is free to users. There is good evidence that low or free fares results in a massive increase in public transport use.
One of Lothian’s new 100 seat Envrio400XLB buses. CC-BY-SA 4.0