How can we create mass change in transport use?

Nancy Platts, leader of the Labour Group on Brighton and Hove City Council. Photograph: Michael Crabtree
Nancy Platts, leader of the Labour Group on Brighton and Hove City Council. Photograph: Michael Crabtree

What motivates you more – cash or climate change?

Or to put it another way, if you have a car, what would persuade you to give it up and use public transport, walk or cycle instead?

It is a question I put to a car driver recently who told me he was concerned about the environment. He was quick to respond that he rarely used his car these days, except for a regular journey to Hastings that was awkward by public transport.

It got me thinking. Journeys across country; with children or lots of stuff can be tricky by bus or train.

But we need to get large numbers of people out of their cars to reduce our carbon emissions. It would also clear the roads making bus journeys quicker. More people on buses could mean more buses and a better service in outlying areas or across country. Cyclists would be safer, encouraging more people to cycle and everyone could get fitter. It sounds like a win-win and with one of the lowest car ownerships in the UK, many in our city have already been convinced, but we still have a way to go.

I gave up my car in 2003 because when I added up the cost per journey, I realised that even if I took taxis or hired a car for those awkward journeys I would still save a small fortune.

So, if we want to create mass change in transport use, should we appeal to people through their pockets?

The most recent survey I could find on the annual cost of a car was from June 2018. It revealed the average UK motorist was spending £162 per month, excluding finance payments. Factor in a loan and the cost shot up to £388. As one journalist put it, that’s nearly £2,000 to put a roof over your head and drive to work.

By comparison joining a car share scheme is £60 a year plus £4.95 an hour – great for the occasional journey or day out. An annual bus pass is £635, a 30-minute daily ride on Brighton Bikeshare is £72 and walking is free.

Whichever option you choose over your car, there are significant savings to be made and you will be doing your bit towards saving the planet.