Green disaster looms as the car remains king among commuters “Why should I slum it on the bus? I’ve got a car”
British workers would still take their car to work even if free and regular public transport were laid on for them, it’s been found.
In fact, people would rather sit in a traffic jam in the warm, dry cocoon of their own car instead of “slumming it” on the bus, a Yorkshire based employment law consultancy says.
According to the Protecting.co.uk law firm, this could well mean a disaster for Britain’s green and transport policies as people refuse to give up their motors on city centre roads that are approaching gridlock.
“The thing about the motor car is that it has brought us convenience and independence relatively cheaply,” says Protecting spokesperson Mark Hall, “And we love our convenience and won’t easily give it up.”
Protecting.co.uk asked hundreds of people who drive a car to work if they were prepared to give it up and use public transport, and the answer was a resounding and unsurprising “no”.
• 97% said they wouldn’t switch to the bus tomorrow on current public transport systems
• 87% said they wouldn’t switch to the bus if it were made free of charge
• 48% said they might consider a bus service that ran from near their home to their place of work
• 86% said they preferred the privacy of their own car to the public space of a bus
“And there’s the two problems in a nutshell,” says Hall. “There’s the convenience of driving, and even if that was taken away, people just don’t want to get on a bus to work. We’re transport snobs, even if we don’t want to admit it.”
That’s a conclusion backed up by workers who habitually drive their cars to their place of employment.
• Sue, 28: “It’s two buses to get to my office, including a change in the town centre. Nobody’s got time for that, and I hate slumming it, to be honest.”
• Nicola, 40: “I tried taking the bus, honestly I have. But when it’s raining, you have to share with damp, smelly people and that’s my idea of Hell, thank you very much. Car for me, all the way.”
• Darren: 25: “It’s a good 20 miles to work for me, and that’s an hour and a half on the bus visiting every village in between. Thirty minutes in the motor, 45 on a bad day, that’s why I drive and you can’t convince me otherwise.”
• Martin, 62: “You can’t turn your music up loud on the bus. They don’t like that.”
And one employee who works at a company that runs a free bus service told us of the problems he has with that:
• Gregor, 31: “It only goes from outside the station, so it’s great if you commute in by train. Not so good for the rest of us who have to get into town in the first place just to get the free bus service. And now work wants to charge us for our parking spaces.”
Protecting.co.uk also spoke to workplace managers, and found several who are trying to dissuade their employees from driving in. One in particular told us his company’s philosophy:
“We’re aware of the pollution that cars cause, so we’re trying to get more people to arrive on public transport as part of our policy to reduce CO2 emissions,” said Ed, aged 51. “The trouble is, as soon as we restrict parking spaces, they’ll drive to work and park a few streets away. It’s a battle.”
Ed also told Protecting.co.uk that one solution might be to reward workers for using public service, and even contribute toward season tickets. “Rush hour traffic slows down our delivery drivers and costs us money. It’s in the company’s interest to get cars off the road!” he says.
Protecting.co.uk says it will need a nationwide cultural shift to get people out of their cars and onto public transport, but with petrol still relatively cheap, it’s going to prove difficult.
“People demand two things from life – money and convenience,” says Mark Hall. “If we can’t get people to give up their comfy, warm cars by making buses better, employers are going to have to – well – bribe them.”
“Not so much of a bribe – Think of it as a green investment.”