Commuters are shunning buses in the West Midlands, according to a new study.
As the nation grew richer, perhaps it was inevitable that more of us would be driving cars instead of using public transport.
But this has not been the trend in London, where bus use has increased.
The explanation may lie partly in the level of congestion in central London, where it is frequently quicker to travel by bicycle than by car.
However, the roads are almost as clogged in central Birmingham in peak hours.
There are two other factors at play.
One is the existence of the congestion charge in central London, which dramatically increases the cost of driving into the heart of the capital.
This is obviously significant, but it is worth remembering that there is far more to the city than the central area.
London is a region in its own right, containing 32 borough councils, and only a tiny portion is actually covered by the charge.
The second issue is the fact that public transport is simply better.
London’s transport authority has far more control over bus services than those in other parts of the country, and is able to demand minimum levels of service.
In the West Midlands, as elsewhere, bus firms are regulated by the vagaries of market forces.
In this case, the market has not been successful in providing commuters with a better service.
Then there is the Oyster card, a ticket which can be used on a range of different services, making it easier to pay.
One advantage is customers are saved having to dig out change when they get off the bus and onto a train, as they have already paid in advance by buying credits for their card.
The Oyster card is not a Holy Grail, but as well as the immediate advantages it is symbolic of a transport system which is genuinely integrated to a significant extent, with a range of bus, rail and tube services co-ordinated to ferry London’s passengers to their destinations.
This matters for Birmingham, because good public transport is good for the economy.
And, of course, that is particularly important today – as Britain stops growing richer and some of us are actually becoming poorer.
Government must empower local councils to improve local transport in their areas.
But as a first step, it is up to local authorities themselves to prove they can work together to develop solutions for sub-regions such as the West Midlands.