Bus passenger numbers have halved in English metropolitan areas outside London since services were deregulated in 1986, according to provisional Government figures.
But bus patronage in London, where services are run privately but are still regulated, has more than doubled in the last 25 years.
There were 1.03 billion passenger journeys on local bus services in English metropolitan areas (excluding London) in 2011/12.
This represented a 2.3% drop on the 2010/11 figure and compared with a figure of more than 2.06 billion in 1985/86, the time deregulation was introduced.
Going further back, the English metropolitan area passenger journey figure in 1975 was as high as 2.59 billion and was nearly three billion in 1970.
These latest provisional figures also showed there were 1.28 billion passenger journeys made in English non-metropolitan areas in 2011/12 - a fall of 0.2% on the 2010/11 figure.
The rate of patronage in English non-metropolitan areas has also declined since deregulation, but at a much slower rate than in metropolitan areas.
In contrast, London bus usage continues to rise, helped by travelcards such as Oyster and Freedom Passes for senior citizens.
In 2011/12, there were 2.32 billion passenger journeys on buses in London - 2.4% more than in 2010/11. The London journey figure had dipped as low as 1.04 billion in 1982 and was still only 1.15 billion in 1985/86.
Scotland and Wales bus services also proved more popular last year - with passenger journeys increasing 1% in Scotland to 443 million in 2011/12, while Welsh journeys rose 1.8% to 115 million.