Transport authorities have launched what they called ‘the most sophisticated tool currently available’ for modelling bus use in city regions.
The Metropolitan Bus Model, developed by consultants WSP, is now freely available for use by all of the Urban Transport Group’s (UTG) full members.
The UTG itself is also using the model to assess future scenarios for bus patronage during the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.
It said the model allows different variables to be set for population, employment, car ownership, service levels, fares and public funding, and explores their impact on bus use at the level of local authority districts.
‘On funding, for example, the complex model can examine different scenarios including the impact on patronage of increases or reductions in Government capital investment and revenue support for bus.’
UTG director Jonathan Bray said: ‘The pandemic has plunged what was already a fragile industry into a crisis so there’s never been a more important time than now to have the ability to model the implications of different policy options.
‘The Metropolitan Bus Model will allow us to do this at an unprecedented level of detail and demonstrate in depth the consequences for patronage of different approaches.’
He added: ‘Whilst the sector and Government chronically underinvests in research and development on bus, we are committed to a data driven approach to turning the industry around and this tool significantly increases our capabilities.’
Researcher Dr Tom Ellerton, who led on the development of the model, added: ‘One of our roles is to reduce costs for our members through joint procurement and the Metropolitan Bus Model is a prime example of how we do this through establishing a mutual, sector-leading resource rather than each transport authority commissioning their own work.
‘We would be delighted to talk to any other authorities, or to government, on how the model could be useful to them and if they would like to commission its use from us.’