Examining inclusive mobility through smartcard data: What shall we make of senior citizens' declining bus patronage in the West Midlands?

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus, place - europe, technology - passenger information, ridership - behaviour, ridership - old people, policy - equity, policy - social exclusion


Mobility & ageing, Public transport, Sequence analysis, Smartcard data, Spatial analysis


Free access to public transport is viewed as an effective means to enable inclusive mobility, but the recent decline in bus patronage by passengers entitled to free travel in the West Midlands and other UK regions presents a conundrum to transport research and policy. In this research, we analyse travel smartcard transactions recorded over nearly six years for 371,220 concessionary passengers resident in the West Midlands Combined Authority. Using sequence analysis, we identify six groups representing different temporal boarding profiles. We link these profiles to geo-spatial data and characterise them by means of spatial pattern detection and multinomial logit modelling. We find that, first, the decline in patronage occurs in three waves across the study period according to distinct activity patterns; second, formerly frequent (daily) passengers tend to abandon the bus and thus show the largest impact on the overall trend; third, the neighbourhood context of withdrawing passengers indicates social disadvantage, higher instance of ethnic minorities and lower car ownership rates, in other words higher risk of social exclusion. To discuss these in parts paradoxical results, we identify three causal domains - social, health-related and structural - and conclude with implications for policy promoting inclusive and healthy mobility in later life.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Elsevier, copyright remains with them.


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