Information

Understanding Why Some People Do Not Use Buses

This research explores perceptions of bus services and barriers to use amongst people who do not use buses often, and looks at what might encourage them to use buses more in future.


2 METHODS

Introduction

2.1 This Chapter briefly summarises the research methods used for the study. Further detail, including topic guides and recruitment materials, are included in Annexes to the report.

Who was involved

2.2 The study involved two phases:

  • Phase one involved 12 focus groups with 'infrequent or non-bus users', defined as people who use the bus once a month or less
  • Phase two involved 12 in depth interviews with people with mobility problems or learning disabilities who used the bus once a month or less.

2.3 The research was qualitative in nature. Qualitative research aims to map the range and diversity of experiences, behaviours or views in relation to the subject of interest among a particular group or groups of people. The samples for qualitative studies are designed to ensure that both range and diversity are captured and that issues can be explored in some depth with participants 3. Qualitative samples are not designed to provide robust statistical or numerical data about, for example the prevalence of a particular experience or behaviour. As such, they are usually smaller than those used for survey research.

'Infrequent passengers' and 'non-bus users'

2.4 As noted above, the sample consisted of both infrequent bus passengers and those who did not travel by bus at all. Our definition of 'infrequent use' - and our main criterion for participation in the study - was that someone used the bus once a month or less. As described in more detail in Chapter Three, within our sample experience of bus use varied considerably, from those who had not used a bus for many years or who had never used a local bus 4 to those who had used the bus in the last few weeks. However, as there was considerable overlap in the views of 'infrequent' and 'non-users', their views are generally presented together in discussion of the findings, rather than treating them as two distinct groups.

Focus group sample

2.5 Ninety-one participants took part in twelve focus group discussions. There were between 6 and 9 participants in each focus group. The sample structure is outlined in table 1.

Table 1: Sample structure for focus groups

Area

Age

Working-status

Household income

1

Aberdeen

30-44

Employed

£25,000+

2

Aberdeen

45+

Employed

£25,000+

3

Glasgow

16-29

Mix

Less than £25,000

4

Glasgow

45+

Employed

£25,000+

5

Dundee

30-44

Employed

£25,000+

6

Dundee

45+

Mix

Less than £25,000

7

West Lothian

16-29

Mix

Less than £25,000

8

West Lothian

30-44

Employed

£25,000+

9

West Lothian

45+

Mix

£25,000+

10

Borders

30-44

Employed

Less than £25,000

11

Borders

45+

Employed

£25,000+

12

Borders

30-44

Mix

£25,000+

2.6 The sample was designed to capture a range of views and experiences of buses by including people from different geographical areas and with different personal characteristics. The 12 groups were conducted in 5 locations across Scotland, including three of the four main cities 5, an 'inter-urban' area (West Lothian), and a rural area (the Borders). Additional selection criteria were based on age, working status and household income. Given the Scottish Government's particular interest in encouraging bus use for commuting, each group included at least some employed participants and seven groups only included people in employment. Quotas on age and income were set based on information from surveys about which groups are least likely to be regular bus users (which includes those on higher incomes and those aged 30-59). Further quotas were set to ensure that at least some participants were from a minority ethnic background. 6

2.7 The focus groups were recruited for ScotCen by a professional recruitment agency (Propeller) and two freelance recruiters. Recruiters were asked to use a mix of door to door and on-street recruitment. 7 A screening questionnaire containing questions on age, gender, employment status, household income and the last time they used a bus was used to identify eligible participants (See Annex A for full Screening Questionnaire). Participants were also asked whether they currently drove a car (the majority of participants confirmed that they did). All participants were given a leaflet about the study (see Annex A), including contact details for the research team.

Sample of disabled people

2.8 The Disability Discrimination Act ( DDA) defines a disabled person as someone with a physical or mental impairment which has a substantial and long-term adverse affect on their ability to carry out day-to-day activities. This covers an extremely wide range of conditions and people with different types of disability may experience very different barriers and challenges in using public transport. For example, a recent report for the Department for Transport found that people with physical impairments and chronic health conditions experienced barriers in relation to journey planning, physical access and facilities, and the approach of transport staff. For people with mental health support needs, on the other hand, barriers were more about confidence and affordability (Penfold et al, 2008).

2.9 In terms of capturing a wide range of views and experiences of 'infrequent or non-bus users', it was important that this study included disabled people. Their views were explored using one-to-one, in depth interviews rather than simply involving them in the general population focus groups for two main reasons. First, the barriers to bus use faced by people with a disability may be different from those experienced by other infrequent or non-bus users. This could make it difficult for disabled participants to share their views and experiences in a general population focus group. Second, people with some types of disability may have particular needs to enable their participation in research - for example, interview schedules and interviewer style may need to be adapted for people with a learning disability. One-to-one interviews allowed greater flexibility to adapt the interviews to individual needs. 8

2.10 Since the size of the study placed some limitations on the number of people with different types of disability who could be interviewed, the sample focused on two broad types of disability: mobility problems and learning disabilities. These two groups were selected on the basis that people with these types of disabilities were likely to face different types of barriers to using buses - for example, those with mobility problem might be more likely to mention problems around physical access, while those with learning disabilities might have issues around information provision. Given the size of the study, interviewing people across a wider range of disability groups would have meant there were too few people within each broad category (e.g. sensory impairments, mobility problems, learning disabilities, mental health problems, etc.) to allow us to identify patterns in the experiences of people in these specific groups. However, it is important to acknowledge that if it had been possible to include a larger (and therefore wider) sample of disabled people, it is likely that the research would have identified additional barriers faced by disabled people. For example, those with sensory impairments are likely to face a different set of issues around information provision to those experienced by people with mobility problems or learning disabilities.

2.11 Six individuals with a mobility problem were recruited through following up participants in the Scottish Household Survey ( SHS). The SHS asks questions about both bus use and disability, and asks people whether they would be happy to be re-contacted for further research in the future. As such, it enabled the researchers to identify people who used the bus once a month or less, who had mobility problems (such as problems or disabilities related to legs or feet, problems or disabilities related to back or neck, and arthritis) and who had consented to be re-contacted. Potential participants were sent letters introducing the research, then telephoned to see if they would be prepared to take part.

2.12 As there were too few people with learning disabilities in the SHS to use this as a sampling frame, an alternative recruitment approach was used. Six individuals with a learning disability were recruited through Enable Scotland, a charity working with people with learning disabilities. In order to ensure that potential participants fully understood what would be involved before deciding whether or not to take part, researchers from ScotCen visited Enable groups to explain the research in person, as well as providing written information (see Annex A for copies of leaflets).

2.13 It is possible (though by no means inevitable) that people who are in regular contact with organisations like Enable that represent their rights may be more conscious of disability issues compared to other disabled people. This could mean that their views on a range of issues - including transport - are somewhat different to those of other disabled people, who are not engaged with such organisations. However, a potential advantage to recruiting people from an organisation like Enable is that they may be more likely to be able to articulate issues of identity and discrimination in bus use relating to their disability. There is also a risk that when recruiting through a 'gatekeeper' organisation, they will 'cherry pick' people they think are likely to give a particular view, for example. While the risk of this is arguably less when the research is not about the organisation in question, we nonetheless took steps to discuss the nature and purpose of the study with Enable to ensure that this did not happen.

2.14 Most in depth interview participants lived in 'other urban' areas (Greater Glasgow, the central belt and Aberdeenshire) rather than in cities or rural areas 9. The final sample structure is shown in Table 2, below.

Table 2: Sample structure for in depth interviews

Area

Type of disability

Age

Gender

Working-status

Other urban

Mobility problem

60-74

Female

Not working

Other urban

Mobility problem

30-44

Male

Long term sick

Other urban

Mobility problem

45-59

Female

Not working

Other urban

Mobility problem

45-59

Female

Not working

City

Mobility problem

60-74

Female

Retired

City

Mobility problem

60-74

Male

Retired

Other urban

Learning disability

16-29

Female

Student

Other urban

Learning disability

16-29

Male

Employed FT

Other urban

Learning disability

45-59

Male

Not working

Other urban

Learning disability

45-59

Male

Not working

Other urban

Learning disability

30-44

Male

Not working

Other urban

Learning disability

16-29

Male

Student

Data collection techniques

2.15 Focus groups were conducted by members of the research team and took place in hotel conference rooms or other suitable venues in the areas where the groups were recruited. A topic guide provided an indication of the issues to cover with each group, but these were used flexibly, with scope for the facilitator to follow-up in more detail on topics as they emerged (see Annex B for full topic guides). Topics included:

  • Experiences of bus travel
  • Perceptions of local bus services
  • Types of transport used for different journeys
  • Reasons for using different types of transport
  • Views on the bus as an alternative
  • Reasons for not using buses (more), and
  • What, if anything, would encourage people to use the bus.

2.16 People with a mobility problem or a learning disability were interviewed face-to-face by members of the research team either in their homes or in a private room at Enable or one of Enable's partner organisations. Separate topic guides were developed for the in depth interviews. These were very similar in terms of topic coverage to the focus group topic guides. However, the topic guide for people with learning disabilities contained additional suggestions for probing to ensure that the topics raised in the interview were fully understood by all (see Annex B for full topic guides).

Facilitating participation

2.17 In order to help facilitate participation in the focus groups we ensured that:

  • They were organised in central venues that were easy to access
  • Groups were conducted in the evening for working participants.

2.18 For in depth interview participants we:

  • Offered to use whatever method they were most comfortable with to arrange the interview (for example, text, type-talk, e-mail or phone)
  • Conducted shorter interviews and offered comfort breaks
  • Re-scheduled interviews, due to participant illness
  • Reduced the detail and complexity of interviews particularly where people had learning disabilities or cognitive impairments
  • Arranged interviews in venues of their choice, and
  • In the case of participants with learning disabilities, we visited potential participants prior to interview to explain the format and content of the interview and to ensure that their consent was based on a full appreciation of what was involved

2.19 For both the focus groups and one-to-one interviews, participant leaflets clearly stipulated that we would do our best to accommodate any particular needs participants might have, and asked them to let us know if they wanted to participate but required help or support to do so.

2.20 As a 'thank you' for their participation, £30 was given to each interviewee and focus group participant who took part. Participants were also asked whether there were any facilities or support they would need to enable them to participate in the discussion, to try and ensure that the focus groups and interviews were as inclusive as possible.

Data analysis

2.21 All focus groups and interviews were digitally recorded and transcribed in full. Transcripts were then summarised for analysis using 'Framework'. Developed by the National Centre for Social Research 10, Framework is an analysis method that provides a consistent method for organising and condensing qualitative information to enable robust analysis. It helps reduce large volumes of data for analysis, while retaining systematic between case (looking at what different people said on the same issue) and within case (looking at how a person or group's opinions on one topic relate to their views on another) investigation. This project used an electronic version of 'Framework', which allows data summaries created by researchers to be searched and to be linked to verbatim sections of transcripts. 11

2.22 Analysis involved a number of stages. First, the research team identified key topics and issues emerging from the research objectives and the data, following familiarisation with a selection of transcripts. An analytic framework was then drawn up and a series of thematic matrices, or charts, set up each relating to a different broad theme or issue. The columns in each chart represent the key sub-themes or topics whilst the rows represent individual participants or groups. This matrix was uploaded to the 'Framework' software package and every focus group and interview transcript summarised under the key themes (See Annex C for details of themes). 12 By using 'Framework' software the context of the information was retained and the summary electronically linked to the section of the transcript from which it came 13, so that analysts could easily return to the transcript to explore a point in more detail or to extract text for verbatim quotation. In this way, the data are ordered within an analytical framework that is grounded in participants' own accounts and oriented to the research objectives. The final stage was for the report authors to investigate the summary charts to identify:

  • The range of experiences and views on key issues - by reviewing the relevant columns and classifying views and experiences so that the full variety is captured
  • Any similarities and differences between and within groups - by searching the relevant columns for differences and similarities between, for example, those with disabilities and those without
  • Emergent patterns and explanations for particular experiences or opinions - by searching across rows, to look for links between, for example, length of time since people last used a bus and their current views on bus services.

2.23 Both focus groups and individual interviews were charted using the same matrix. Where possible, the views of individual participants in focus groups were identified in the summaries, so that views could be analysed at both the individual and group level.

Reporting conventions

2.24 As discussed above (paragraph 2.3), qualitative research does not attempt to provide statistical inferences about the prevalence or distribution of particular behaviour or views. Rather, it aims to map range and diversity, and to explore the reasons why people hold particular opinions or have particular experiences. Given this distinction, this report attempts to avoid using 'quantifying' language which could be misconstrued as implying statistical inferences to a wider population. 14

2.25 Verbatim quotations are used in this report to illustrate, amplify and clarify findings. Quotations from participants are cited in italics, and are anonymised to protect their identities. Some background information about the respondent (e.g. gender, focus group number, location, type of disability) is provided for context.

Challenges of discussing bus travel with people who do not use buses (often)

2.26 Engaging participants on an issue where their knowledge and experience may be limited presents a number of challenges. Researchers on this study encountered two issues in particular which impacted both on the data we collected and some of the analysis discussed later in this report.

2.27 First, a key objective of the research was to identify what opinion of buses was based on among those who do not use them often or at all. Understanding how opinions are formed is important in terms of informing policies to persuade people of the merits of bus use. Are the views of those who do not use the bus, or who do so only infrequently, based on past experience of using buses, or do they rely on other sources, like family, friends, work colleagues, or the media? Researchers on this study tried where possible to probe on why people held particular opinions. However, they had to strike a balance between probing the foundations of opinion and ensuring that participants did not feel that they were being 'interrogated' or accused of holding incorrect or unfounded views. In addition, time constraints meant it was impossible to probe on the reasons for every opinion expressed. However, we have attempted to draw out what people's views were based on wherever possible in this report.

2.28 Second, participants identified a large number of barriers to using buses. However, they often talked about problems with buses in a 'general' manner, rather than focusing on the specific reasons they did not use the bus. We have attempted to separate out discussion of 'general problems' from 'individual barriers' in chapters four and five of this report. However, inevitably there is some overlap and it was not always possible to clearly separate the two. A similar issue arose in discussing potential solutions. While participants identified various improvements that might, in principle, make buses more attractive, it was not always clear that these would actually encourage them personally to use the bus more often. Again, where possible we have commented on this, but within the context of group discussions it was not always possible to follow up in detail on every suggestion made.

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