The development during the 1980s of urban minibus operations in Britain is catalogued in terms of numbers of places served, numbers of vehicles, and vehicle types. By 1989 well over 7000 small vehicles were in use on such services. User surveys at four example sites are reported, the surveys being designed to establish quantified information about demand changes on conversion, and about factors influencing these changes. At two of the survey sites about half of the extra trips attracted were previously made by car. Improved frequency was easily the most important factor affecting usage. A financial analysis is presented which considers the costs involved in using small vehicles of various sizes to meet certain supply requirements, and these costs are compared with conventional bus costs. When providing an equal supply capacity minibuses can cost up to 75 per cent more, with frequency elasticities in the region of 0.3 to 0.4 required to maintain previous financial performance. On a one-for-one basis minibus costs range from about 0.60 to 0.74 of conventional bus costs. Other aspects of conversions are also discussed, including their operational reliability, environmental effects, and lessons concerning the potential for more attractive bus services in the future.

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