4. Personal travel

26 September 2017 - Transport and Travel in Scotland 2016

4. Personal travel

This section contains analysis and headline findings from the Scottish Household Survey questions relating to personal travel (including the Travel Diary part of the survey).


Three quarters (75%) of adults travelled the previous day. The number of people travelling the previous day has decreased slightly from 77% in 2015. Men were more likely to have travelled than women; 76 per cent of men had travelled the previous day compared to 74 per cent of women. Older people were less likely to have travelled the previous day.  Only 51 per cent of those aged 80 and over had travelled the previous day and 65 per cent of those aged 70 to 79. In the younger age groups, over seventy five per cent had travelled the previous day. [Table TD1]

Why Do People Travel?

Most journeys were for the purpose of commuting (23%), shopping (23%) or visiting friends or relatives (11%). [Table TD3]

There has been little change in journey purpose since 2012.

Travel to Work

How do people travel to work?

Two thirds of people usually travelled to work by car / van, either as a driver (62%) or passenger (5%). Twelve per cent of people usually travelled to work on foot. Ten per cent of people usually travelled to work by bus and five per cent travelled by rail. Less than three per cent of people usually travelled to work by bicycle in 2016. [Table SUM1]

Who travels to work by which mode?

Women were more likely than men to walk or catch the bus to work. Men were more likely to cycle to work or travel by train. People in lower income households were more likely to walk or take the bus; people in higher income households were more likely to drive. People in rural areas were also more likely to drive than those in urban areas. Younger people (aged 16 to 29) were least likely to drive to work. [Table 7]

Why do people choose these modes?

Of those who drive to work, 46% said that they could use public transport.  The main reasons for not using public transport were that it takes too long (42% of respondents) and that there is no direct route (23% of respondents). [Table 13 and Table 14]

Thirteen per cent of people car shared in 2013-2016.  Of these, the majority (92%) arranged it between themselves, with only 8% organising it through their employer. The main reasons given for not car sharing were that nobody from work lives nearby (63%) and the lack of regular work hours (23%). [Table 11]

Relatively few people have changed the mode of transport they used to get to work. Of all the modes, driving seems to be most resistant to change. Based on data for the last 5 years, of those who drove to work a year ago, 98 per cent still drove to work.  For other modes, the biggest shift was to driving; eight per cent of those who cycled and 5 per cent of those who walked a year ago now reported driving. [Table 10]

The main reasons given by respondents for changing their usual mode of travel to work in 2016 were changing job (39%) and moving house (20%). [Table 10a] 

Of those who didn’t cycle to work in 2014, the main reason given for not doing so was ‘it’s too far’ (33%), followed by ‘too many cars on the road’ (18%).  ‘The weather’ and ‘traffic travels too fast’ accounted for 16 per cent and 12 per cent respectively. [Table 26]

Travel to School

How do children travel?

Around half of children (52%) walked to school, nineteen per cent travelled by bus and around a quarter (26%) travelled by car. [Table SUM1]

There was variation in mode of travel by age. In the 4 to 11 age group, 58 per cent reported walking to school, compared to 42 per cent in the 12 to 18 age group. Older children were more likely to catch a bus than younger children; 35 per cent compared to 9 per cent.   [Table 15]

The Sustrans Hands Up Scotland publication also covers travel to school. Due to the use of different categories, it is not possible to make a direct comparison with the Scottish Household Survey: http://www.sustrans.org.uk/scotland/what-we-do/schools-and-universities/hands-scotland

Why do parents choose these modes?

Of those walking, eighty nine per cent did so because the school is close by. Of those travelling by car, most parents used this because it was the most convenient mode (39%). Parents also chose to use the car because it was too far to walk (16%) and because it was the safest method (15%). ‘Most convenient’ also was the most popular reason for children traveling by school bus (43%) and service bus (39%). The second most popular reason for those who travel by school bus (20%) or service bus (24%) was that it was too far to walk. [Table 16]

The main reason for primary children not using public transport was that ‘they are too young to travel on own’ (54%).  For secondary-aged children the main reasons were that  parents ‘prefer to use the car’ (34%) or ‘no service available’ (28%). [Table 17]

When Do People Travel?

Slightly more journeys were reported on weekdays (14-15% of journeys on each day) than at weekends, with most journeys reported on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays (15% of journeys) and least travel reported on Sundays (12% of journeys). [Table TD8]

Peak travel on a weekday was between 7 am and 9:30 am (19% of weekday journeys started between these times).  The afternoon peak is more spread out with 17 per cent of journeys starting between 2 pm and 4:30 pm and another 16 per cent starting between 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm. The busiest time for travel on the weekend is between 12 noon and 2pm, with slightly less than a quarter (24%) of weekend journeys taking place between these times. Twenty nine per cent of weekend journeys start before noon and 47% of journeys staring after 2pm. 

There has been little change in these travel patterns reported in the survey over recent years. [Table TD7 and Table TD8]


Most journeys were short:  sixty nine per cent of journeys lasted up to 20 minutes, with thirty seven per cent lasting between five and ten minutes.  Only seventeen per cent of journeys lasted more than half an hour, of which around five per cent lasted more than an hour. [Table TD6]

Perceptions of Congestion

The main reason suggested for delays was ‘volume of traffic’ (79%), up from 76 per cent in 2015.  Delays as a result of road maintenance have risen from 28 per cent in 2015 to 29 per cent in 2016. [Table TD10a]

Around twelve per cent (11.7%) of car driver journeys were perceived to be delayed due to congestion in 2016, a decrease on 2015 (12.4%). This provides an update to National Indicator 4, which will show performance maintaining. Ten per cent of bus journeys were delayed due to congestion, a similar figure to 2015. [Table TD11]

Around half (51%) of all journeys to work were perceived to not be affected by congestion but the proportions were lower for car driver and bus journeys (37% of car driver journeys and 37% of bus journeys), indicating that these groups experience congestion more frequently.  Forty one per cent of people who drive to work reported experiencing congestion at least once a week. The proportion was 43 per cent for buses. [Table 8]

Around a quarter (25%) of drivers allowed no extra time for congestion on their journey to work, over a third (35%) allow ten minutes or less. For bus passengers, thirty per cent allowed no extra time and thirty one per cent allowed ten minutes or less. [Table 8]

Twenty one per cent of driver commuting journeys and eighteen per cent of driver business journeys were delayed by congestion. Journeys for medical appointment (18%) were also affected by congestion. Weekday journeys were more frequently affected by congestion than weekend journeys.  As would be expected, the morning and evening peak periods on weekdays saw the highest proportion of driver journeys delayed by congestion: twenty two per cent for journeys starting between 7 and 9 am and twenty seven per cent between 5 and 6 pm. [Table TD12]

How Do People Travel?

Driving remained the most popular mode of transport: 51 per cent of journeys were made as a car or van driver, the same level as in 2015.  A further 13 per cent were made as a passenger. [Table TD2 and Table SUM1]

The second most used mode of transport was walking at 24 per cent, an increase from 22 per cent in 2015. [Table TD2 and Table SUM1]

Around eight per cent of journeys were made by bus, a decrease from 10 per cent in 2015. There has been little change in share for other modes of transport with two per cent of journeys made by rail and around one (1.2) per cent by bicycle in 2016. [Table TD2]

Similar estimates of modal share were seen when looking at journey stages. [Table TD2b]

Use of multiple modes 

Three per cent of journeys reported in the Travel Diary in 2016 were multi-stage. Three quarters of multi-stage journeys reported consisted of two stages. [Table TD2c]

Multi-stage journeys are highest for ferry and air travel. Ferry journeys have an average of 1.83 stages, aeroplane journeys have an average of 1.95 stages. For rail the average is 1.62 stages per journey and for all other modes the average number of stages per journey is only just over one. [Table TD2c]

Where Do People Travel?

Most journeys in Scotland started and finished in the same local authority.  The proportion was highest in Grampian (Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray), where 98% of journeys started and finished in the same area, and Highlands and Islands, where this was the case for 97% of all journeys. The proportion was lowest in Glasgow and South Lanarkshire, where 72% of all journeys started and finished in the same council area. [Table TD13 and TD14]

How Far Do People Travel?

Around a fifth (20%) of journeys were under 1 km, and more than half (55%) of journeys were under 5 km. These numbers are broadly similar to 2015. [Table TD4] The median journey length was 4 km and the mean journey length was 19.8 km. [Table TD5]

Walking journeys had the shortest average (mean) length (3.8 km), then taxi/minicab(4.9 km). The average car driver journey was 22.8 km, bus journeys averaged 19.3 km and rail journeys had the longest average length at 62.3 km. [Table TD5a]

Slightly less than two thirds (65%) of journeys under 1 km were made on foot; car or van journeys accounted for most of the remainder (32%). [Table TD2a]