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Inclusive and Healthy Mobility: Understanding Trends in Concessionary Travel in the West Midlands

In this project, we intend to generate new insights into the changing mobility practices of senior residents.

In this project, we intend to generate new insights into the changing mobility practices of senior residents. The project is funded by the ESRC's Big Data Network Phase 3 and conducted in partnership with Transport for West Midlands (Co-I Chris Lane) and the UCL Consumer Data Research Centre (Co-I Prof Paul Longley). 

Changing practices, changing transport

There is an ongoing need to study the mobility practices of senior residents as lifestyle practices, age and ethnic characteristics in this group steadily diversify. At the same time, the transport system continues being transformed by new mobile technologies, the emergence of novel, demand-responsive and shared transport services as well as a dynamic information and communication environment propagating online services, shopping, entertainment and socialising, all of which affect the times and ways we travel.

Decline in bus patronage

Viewed against these developments, the project investigates the changing bus patronage of senior residents in the region of West Midlands (West Midlands Combined Authority - WMCA). Since 2009, the region has experienced a dramatic decline of approximately 25 per cent in bus patronage.* Understanding these trends is an urgent priority for urban transport authorities, not only for economic and operational reasons. Unmet mobility needs can also reinforce health disadvantage and social inequalities among potentially vulnerable groups, such as elderly residents.

New forms of urban data

WMCA's travel smartcards have produced a database of several hundred million records of bus boardings over nearly seven years. The data constitutes a powerful resource for research, particularly when it is linked to other datasets routinely collected by transport operators in England. Using data linkage procedures, we are developing a complex data processing framework that will permit contextual analysis of changing bus patronage with respect to regularity of daily travel, origins and destinations, travel distance and time and — by inference — delay experience, trip chaining, trip purpose and the time spent away from home using public transport.

Inclusive urban transport systems

Apart from contributions to transport and health geography, we expect the research to generate benefits for the UK urban transport sector through updated insights into senior residents' travel needs, the demonstration of transferable data processing solutions, impact assessments of network and service changes as well as an appraisal of strategic policy instruments, such as 'Mobility as a Service' and the English National Concessionary Travel Scheme. As part of a wider vision, the project will add to the debate on inclusive and health-promoting transport systems as a key enabler of independent living in later life stages. 

* see http://opendatawestmids.org.uk/dataset/west-midlands-bus-patronage.

Jens Kandt (Principal Investigator)
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Alistair Leak (Research Associate)
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Chris Lane, Transport for West Midlands (Co-Investigator)

Paul Longley, UCL (Co-Investigator)