4. Personal Travel 

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).

Who Travels?

Around three quarters (73%) of adults travelled the previous day. The proportion of people travelling the previous day has decreased from 75% in 2016 and 80% in 2006. Men were slightly more likely to have travelled than women; 75 per cent of men had travelled the previous day compared to 72 per cent of women. Older people were less likely to have travelled the previous day.  Only 46 per cent of those aged 80 and over had travelled the previous day and 67 per cent of those aged 70 to 79. Over seventy five per cent of adults below the age of 50 had travelled the previous day. [Table TD1]

Why Do People Travel?

Most journeys were for the purpose of commuting (25%), shopping (23%) or visiting friends or relatives (10%). [Table TD3]

There has been little change in the proportion of journeys made for each 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. Three per cent of people usually travelled to work by bicycle in 2017.

These proportions have not changed greatly over the past 10 years, although bus usage has shown some decline. [Table SUM1]

30.1% of people usually travelled to work by public or active travel in 2017. 

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 rail. 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 most likely to take the bus. These patterns have held broadly stable since 2011. [Table 7]

Why do people choose these modes?

Over the combined period 2013-2017, twelve per cent of people car-shared when travelling to work.  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 [Table 10]

The main reasons given by respondents for changing their usual mode of travel to work in 2017 were changing job (31%) and moving house (22%). [Table 10a] 

Whether car/van commuters could use public transport [part of Table 13] is no longer asked in the SHS. The reasons why car/van users don’t use public transport [Table 14] is asked biennially and was not included in the 2017 survey. Reasons for not cycling to work [Table 26] has not been asked since 2014, but is being asked for 2018. In each case, the most recently available table is included in the statistical tables section of this publication. 

Travel to School

How do children travel?

Around half of children (52%) walked to school, twenty 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 43 per cent in the 12 to 18 age group. The older age group were more likely to catch a bus than younger children; 34 per cent compared to 10 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 to take their children to school because it was too far to walk (15%) and because it was the safest method (16%) or the quickest method (15%) [Table 16]

‘Most convenient’ was the most popular reason for children traveling by school bus (42%) and service bus (39%). The second most popular reason for those who travel by school bus (21%) or service bus (23%) was that it was too far to walk. [Table 16]

The question asking the reasons for primary children not using public transport [Table 17] is asked biennially and was not included in the 2017 survey. The most recently available table is included in the statistical tables section of this publication. 

When Do People Travel?

Slightly more journeys were reported on weekdays (15-16% of journeys on each day) than at weekends. Only 12% of journeys were on Saturdays and 11% on Sundays. [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 18 per cent of journeys starting between 2 pm and 4:30 pm and another 17 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 a quarter (25%) of weekend journeys taking place between these times.

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


The majority of journeys reported in 2017 were of short duration. Sixty eight 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

Thirteen per cent (12.8%) of car driver journey stages were perceived to be delayed due to congestion in 2017. This compares with 11.7% in  2016. This finding previously informed a National Indicator (see National Indicators section). [Table TD10]

Twelve per cent of bus stages were delayed due to congestion, up from 10% in 2016. [Table TD11]

The main reason suggested for car or van stage delays was ‘volume of traffic’ (81%), up from 79% in 2016 and 73% in 2012 [Table TD10a]

Over the combined three year period from 2015 to 2017, the travel diary’s reported congestion figures were highest for commuting (22%) and business travel (16%) stages. Weekday journey stages were more frequently affected by congestion than weekend stages.  As might be expected, the morning and evening peak periods on weekdays saw the highest proportion of driver journey stages delayed by congestion: twenty five per cent for stages starting between 7 and 8 am and twenty seven per cent between 5 and 6 pm. [Table TD12]

Questions in the social survey which focused only on commuting congestion, found that over the combined five year period from 2013-17, 33% of all journeys to work were perceived to be affected by congestion at least once a week.  For both car/van drivers and bus passengers, this figure was higher at 43%. [Table 8]

f ordering services

How Do People Travel?

In 2017, driving remained the most popular mode of transport: 52 per cent of journeys were made as a car or van driver, up from 51% in 2016 and 48% in 2012.  A further 13 per cent were made as a car/van passenger. [Table TD2 and Table SUM1]

The second most used mode of transport was walking; at 21 per cent of journeys a decrease from 24% in 2016 and 26% in 2012. [Table TD2 and Table SUM1]

Around eight per cent of journeys were made by bus. Rail accounted for less than three per cent of journeys and bicycle 1.5%. [Table TD2]

Similar estimates of modal share were seen when looking at individual  stages, as opposed to the complete journeys reported above (journeys may be multistage and multimodal, but are classified using the ‘main mode’). [Table TD2b]

Use of multiple modes 

Three per cent of journeys reported in the Travel Diary in 2017 were multi-stage. Around three quarters of multi-stage journeys consisted of two stages. [Table TD2c]

Multi-stage journeys are most common where the main mode is ferry or air travel. They both have an average of 2 stages. For rail the average is 1.6 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?

When looking at travel between areas of Scotland, fourteen council groupings are used. Some councils are merged to preserve sufficiently large sample sizes. In the combined period from 2012 to 2017, most journeys in Scotland started and finished in the same local authority grouping. The proportion was highest in the Grampian group (Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray) and Highlands and Islands, where this was the case for 97% of all journeys. The proportion of journeys starting and finishing in the same area was lowest in South Lanarkshire (71%) and Glasgow (72%). [Table TD13 and TD14]

How Far Do People Travel?

The majority of journeys recorded in 2017 were short. Eighteen per cent of journeys were under 1 km, and more than half (55%) of journeys were under 5 km. These numbers are broadly similar to 2016. [Table TD4] The median journey length was 4.2 km and the mean journey length was 12.2 km. [Table TD5]

Walking journeys had the shortest average (median) length (0.9 km), with cycling next lowest at 2.7 km. The median car/van driver journey was 6.8 km, bus journeys averaged 5.2 km and rail journeys had the longest median length at 17.3 km. [Table TD5a]

Sixty two per cent of journeys under 1 km were made on foot; car journeys as a driver or passenger accounted for most of the remainder (33%). Car journeys became the most common mode of travel for distances beyond 2 km. [Table TD2a]

Influence Of Ordering Services On Travel

Where individuals had used ordering services to have goods delivered the previous day, they reported a reduction in the number of trips they made that day in seventy three per cent of cases. [Table TD17]

The most popular ordering service was internet shopping, which was used the previous day by 8% of the population, followed by takeaway food delivery (3%). Forty to forty nine years olds were the most frequent users of internet shopping (11%). Takeaway food delivery was most popular with sixteen to nineteen year olds (9%). As might be expected, people aged over 80 used ordering services least. [Table TD17]