Nudge tactics developed to encourage drivers to switch to the bus

Greener Journeys
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Insight from two years of research and trials in cities across the UK has been used to develop new techniques to encourage drivers to make the switch to the bus, helping to reduce congestion and carbon emissions.

Collaborating with more than twenty bus operators, local authorities, passenger transport executives, charities and community groups, the Greener Journeys ‘Behaviour Change Lab’ has developed and tested methods through a series of projects in cities across the UK aimed at encouraging drivers to take the bus.

The research findings and tested techniques have been compiled into a toolkit entitled ‘Driving modal shift from car to bus‘ which will be launched on the opening day of the Euro Bus Expo in Birmingham on the 4th November.

Trials included targeting drivers when they are most likely to be frustrated with driving – such as when trying to find parking space, sitting in traffic or paying for petrol – and encouraging them to try using the bus with a free ticket.

The experiments, which created effective ‘switch tactics’, found that:

  • It is possible to accurately target non-bus users and particularly car drivers to make the switch: 51% of those using a free bus ticket in Sheffield said they would otherwise have driven that day
  • The use of free tickets changes behaviour: over half (55%) of infrequent bus users made more trips in the weeks after their trial trip
  • Using well briefed street teams achieves scale and accurate targeting of car drivers: redemption rates for tickets were up to 15% with only 30% being existing regular bus users
  • Working with community groups can also achieve accurate targeting: 59% of those engaged with trial tickets through one group in Manchester were car drivers
  • Learning about the high cost of driving is effective in deterring young drivers: over one fifth (21%) of young people who completed an online tool to determine the likely cost of driving said they could ‘do better things with the money’

Claire Haigh, Chief Executive of Greener Journeys commented:
“Tackling car dependency will be crucial if we are to achieve an 80% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2050. Cars produce 58% of domestic transport emissions which as a sector is responsible for nearly a quarter of emissions in the UK.

“Driving modal shift from car to bus will play an essential part in achieving the necessary reductions.  This toolkit brings valuable new insights to this area, by examining new ways to overcome deeply engrained and habitual behaviour.

“I hope it will provide a useful resource for bus operators and local authorities in helping to deliver some immediate and low cost carbon savings.”

Rob Moore, Director of project partners Behaviour Change said:
“There is plenty of room within the bus industry for new methods of driving modal shift from car to bus, both to deliver customer growth and reduce carbon emissions. Persuading people to break the car habit however is not an easy task. These innovative trials have used the latest thinking on behavioural insight to develop new tactics which are already bearing fruit for the industry.”


For further information:

Greener Journeys Press Office
+44 (0)20 3128 8555

For a copy of the research please contact

Notes to Editors

The Greener Journeys Behaviour Change Lab
The Greener Journeys Behaviour Change Lab began in February 2012 with the aim of confronting a fundamental challenge for Greener Journeys and the bus industry at large: what are the practical on the ground methods of getting people out of their cars and onto buses. The projects were developed to be complementary to existing work done by bus operators, moving away from conventional marketing approaches. Five ‘action-based’ experiments were run in different locations around the UK, each in partnership with a local operator and delivery partners.

Projects were run in Sheffield, Leicester, Manchester, the North East and Bristol. In total over 10,000 trial bus journeys were taken and 1,470 evaluation questionnaires were completed. Most of the approaches used free ticket mechanics, which helped drive trial and positive experience. Approaches working directly with community groups showed how it is possible to engage markets that are usually ‘hard to reach’.

The new toolkit ‘Driving Modal Shift from Car to Bus’ will be launched on 4 November at 11.30 on the Environmental Stage at the Euro Bus Expo in Birmingham. More information can be found here:

For more information please contact Greener Journeys on

Effective techniques to encourage drivers to switch to bus

  • Target drivers at a ‘moment of pain’, when car driving is at a disadvantage (parking, congestion, buying petrol)
  • Encourage drivers to try the bus with a free ticket
  • Identify/screen for drivers at the point where tickets are being given away
  • Use the free bus ticket voucher as a means to capture data about people’s behaviour when they redeem the ticket so that you can evaluate the effectiveness of the activity
  • The validity period of the vouchers affects the proportion of car drivers redeeming: a longer time to redeem means an infrequent bus user will be more likely to find a suitable journey to try
  • Very low car parking costs will affect the attractiveness of a trial day bus

About Greener Journeys
Greener Journeys is a campaign dedicated to encouraging people to make more sustainable travel choices. It aims to reduce CO2 emissions from transport by encouraging people to switch some of their car journeys to bus or coach instead.  Switching from car to bus for just one journey a month would mean one billion fewer car journeys on our roads and would save 2 million tonnes of CO2 every year.

It is a coalition of Britain’s leading bus companies and other supporters includingTransport for London, Campaign for Better Transport, the RAC Foundation, Passenger Focus, the Confederation for Passenger Transport (CPT), and the Passenger Transport Executive Group (pteg).  Its primary funders are bus companies Arriva, FirstGroup, Go-Ahead, and Stagecoach.

For more information visit:

About Behaviour Change
Behaviour Change is a not-for-profit social enterprise that tackles major social and environmental challenges by developing ideas that help people do the right thing. In addition to developing and running charitably funded initiatives working on food and energy issues, Behaviour Change takes on consultancy work for like-minded organisations such as Greener Journeys and were their partners on this project, delivering the city trials between 2012 and 2014. The social enterprise has also worked with the National Trust, developing their award-winning 50 Things to do before you’re 11 ¾ campaign, to encourage a new generation of sofa-bound children to rediscover the joys of den-building and tree climbing ( and are working on the Love Food Hate Waste campaign for government waste reduction body WRAP.

For more information, visit

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