It is evident that users perceptions are their reality.
So what is important to public transport users? And what are the low cost ways we can address concerns and improve the quality of service provided?
Research shows that the time and energy travellers spend walking to, and waiting for public transport greatly influences their perceptions of the quality of journey.(1) Travel time outside of the public transport vehicle has considerably more influence over user’s perceptions of the journey than in-vehicle time.
A trip on public transport is a door-to-door experience from origin to destination, which involves walking, waiting, boarding, travelling, and transferring or interchanging from one service to another.
As demand increases and services become more complex, more time is spent waiting and/transferring, so this is an area needing focus. With more mass transit services being used to move larger volumes of people quickly, such as metro rail or bus rapid transit, then an increase of feeder services and transfers becomes necessary.
Research indicates that public transport users value time differently for different parts of the journey:
- In-vehicle time is valued at 100% (ie 1 minute of travel is perceived as 1 minute)
- Transfer time is valued at 300%
- Transfer time, with real-time next service information is valued at 150%
So for a trip involving 20 minutes of in-vehicle travel time and 10 minutes transfer time, providing real-time passenger information can mean a reduction of 30% in the perceived duration of the trip!
In the California study (1) public transport user’s perception of stops/stations and transfer facilities was researched to assess satisfaction and importance and some interesting results were obtained (see figure).
Source: Ref 1
Users valued safety, service reliability and on-time performance the highest, followed by information. As users put a premium on waiting time, expected delays are perceived as shorter than unexpected delays.
Reducing the uncertainty by providing real-time information by various means, whether at stops or by a smartphone app, would reduced the perceived journey time considerably.
Reference (1) Iseka, H., Smart, M., Taylor B. and Yoh, A. (2012) Thinking Outside the Bus, Access, No 40, Spring 2012
Picture credit: “Waiting for the bus” by Julia Stuebing