Published: 28th NOVEMBER 2023

Transport to Thrive

We've teamed up with the University of the West of England (UWE) to address the transport barriers that young people aged 16 to 24 face when accessing key life opportunities. We're working with national authorities, local authorities and young people to produce high-quality evidence and insights that support policy action.

Report 2: Why we shouldn't ignore the transport needs of young people

In the UK, many disadvantaged groups lack transport choices, including young people aged 16-24.

There has been little research to identify and understand the transport issues and barriers experienced by young people. 

This report is the first of its kind to focus on the 16-24 age group who are leaving behind youth and moving into adulthood. 

It presents new analyses of national travel data, combined with insights from in-depth interviews with young people leaving school and college.

It is essential that we better meet the transport needs of young people and other disadvantaged groups.

This report recommends ways to improve transport for 16–24-year-olds and support social and economic outcomes for the next generation of leaders, and society as a whole.

Small image of cover of Transport to Thrive reportDownload the second report from the project. 

Report 1: Fair bus fares for young people

Bus travel is an integral part of a sustainable transport system, providing access to places that are difficult to reach by walking, wheeling or cycling.

Young people are more likely to rely on the bus than other age groups.

However, for many young people, cost is a barrier to using the bus.

This policy briefing assesses the current situation with regards to bus fare support for young people across the UK.

It explores the features and outcomes of existing, ambitious schemes that are making the cost of the bus more manageable for young people aged 16-24.

Guided by young people, it concludes with the changes that are needed to make buses fairer for young people aged 16-24.

Fair Bus Fares for Young People policy briefing front coverDownload the first report from the project. 

The report is also available in a text-only format.  

Appendix 2 supporting material for Maps 1-4 (young person bus fare offers).

What is Transport to Thrive?

We’re working with the Centre for Transport and Society at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) on a UK-wide project called Transport to Thrive.

The project aims to address the transport barriers that young people aged 16-24 face in accessing life-defining opportunities and experiences. It includes:

The Steps to Adulthood research study

Through interviews with young people, this research is looking at the ways that access to transport impacts the lives of young people leaving education and training at the age of 18.

Transport to Thrive policy briefings

Bringing together new insights with existing evidence, each briefing focuses on a particular theme to highlight how policy and practice can support or block young people from reaching opportunities.

Throughout the project, we are working with a panel of ‘Young Advisors’.

They’re the experts with lived experience providing insight and creativity and guiding us on project priorities.

We are also working with a ‘Board of Advisors’ to help guide us on opportunities for impact. 

Read on to find out more about why it is important to focus on the needs of young people, and how to get in touch.


Young people have specific needs from a transport system

Young people have specific needs from a transport system. This is driven by a number of differences between younger people and older age groups, including:

Financial circumstances

Young people have less disposable income than older age groups, and this can sometimes restrict travel options.

The ways that young people get around

Young people are more likely to use public transport than older age groups.

Car ownership is lower amongst young people than it is for other age groups, and it is declining over time.

The places that young people need to go

Being young is a time to reach education, training, apprenticeships and first jobs.

Not all of these places are well-served by transport options that are available to young people. 


Transport availability when young can affect long-term outcomes

The decisions that we make when young can have long-term outcomes on skills development, future income, personal and professional networks, and ultimately health outcomes.

For example, you may not pursue your preferred choice of courses because transport options to the college that offers them are complicated and expensive.

You might instead make do with your second or third choice because they are easier to get to.

Or perhaps you don’t accept a promising job offer because public transport options don’t run at the times you need.

You might instead wait for a more viable job offer even though it’s less desirable.

Younger people must make many of these types of decisions.

And these decisions can have implications that resonate much further down the line.


Transport policy is not meeting the needs of young people

Very little consideration is given to the impacts of transport policy and planning decisions on young people.

This can be seen in the mismatch between the way that transport investment has been prioritised and the needs of young people.

This is problematic since mobility is important for young people to develop, learn, expand horizons and ultimately thrive.

Currently, our transport systems are excluding many young people from these opportunities.

Transport to Thrive aims to raise the profile of 12-24-year-olds with decision-makers through collecting evidence and insights.


Want to know more about the project?

If you are a local, regional, or national authority, transport provider or organisation interested in supporting the needs of young people in your work, please email and to find out more.

You can also subscribe to the Sustrans newsletter to receive updates straight to your inbox about this project.


Young People’s Future Health Inquiry

This project is part of the Health Foundation’s Young People’s Future Health Inquiry.

And it is one of five policy posts making the case for policies to enable young people to thrive.

The RSA is exploring economic security.

The Institute for Employment Studies and the Resolution Foundation are exploring access to high-quality work.

And the Association for Young People’s Health is addressing the inequalities faced by different groups of young people

Together, we aim to amplify young people’s voices and place their needs at the heart of decision-making across a range of policy areas.

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The Health Foundation is an independent charity committed to bringing about better health and health care for people in the UK.

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Take a look at some of our other projects across the UK