Dundee’s car use has hit a three-year high amid an ongoing fall in bus use.
Statistics published by national agency Transport Scotland show there is nearly one car for every two people in the city.
Dundonians have bought cars in their droves in recent years, with ownership rising from a low of 358 per 1,000 people in 2014 to 450 per 1,000 in 2017.
However, transport bosses say bus usage has fallen by 5% in the North-east, Tayside and the central belt in the last year, and by 9% in the last five.
In Dundee, passenger numbers have plummeted by 25% in the last decade alone.
Transport secretary Michael Matheson has expressed “concern” about the decline.
However Mike Rumbles, North East Liberal Democrat MP, claimed “little” was being done to encourage people to leave the car at home in Dundee.
He said: “Let’s be blunt about this – private car use is on the rise, because public transport links in Dundee and Tayside are not good enough.
“Cuts by bus operators to routes across the city and the wider region have left a patchy network in need of serious investment.
“Ministers should be taking an active role in encouraging people on to buses.
“The proper way to encourage bus use is to improve frequency, reliability, convenience and fares.”
Friends of the Earth Scotland (FoES) has expressed concern over the impact rising car usage has on the environment.
Last month it named Seagate and Lochee Road as two of the most polluted streets in Scotland.
Dr Richard Dixon, director of FoES, said: “These statistics paint a grim picture of transport in Dundee and across Scotland.
“The continuing fall of bus passenger numbers in the Tayside region should be a wake-up call to our politicians – we need to fundamentally change our attitude to buses.
“They need to be seen as a public service, necessary to improve air quality, reduce congestion, and ensure everyone can get where they need to go and participate fully in their community.”
Local bus operator Xplore Dundee says it saw a “marginal upturn” in passenger numbers in 2018 – but admitted passenger numbers have fallen by 25% in the last 10 years.
A spokeswoman for the firm said: “We believe buses are crucial for connecting communities, reducing congestion and improving air quality and we’ll continue to work with the local authority to ensure public transport is given priority in Dundee and that we can provide a service which will encourage more people out of their cars and on to our buses.”
Despite the increase in car use, the rise of electric and hybrid cars has led to more efficient use of fossil fuels. About 60,700 tonnes of petrol and diesel were burned in 2016, down 10.6% on 2007.
The roads are also safer than ever, with 119 accidents logged by police in Dundee in 2017 – less than half that recorded a decade earlier.
Alongside encouraging bus usage, Dundee City Council hopes to bring about an uptake in cycling.
Its Northern Links project, currently in the works, aims to provide segregated cycle lanes on streets which have previously favoured cars, such as Lochee Road.
Kevin Cordell, the council’s lead on cycling, said: “Getting more people to use their bikes for commuting and short journeys around the city would be good for all of us.”
But Neil Quinney, of Dundee Cycling Forum, said: “Locally and nationally we have decades of ‘car first’ design decisions to improve.”