The following is from the Niche Transports web site which has a wonderful amount of modern transportation information. All common sense stuff here, but it does give pause for thought, in North America transit planners still use the ‘Carrot and Stick’ method of transit planning, which basically means people are forced onto a slightly improved transit system by punitive measures (read taxes, user fees and auto levies). It has been found that there has not been enough ‘carrot‘ (improved transit) and much too much ‘stick’ (onerous taxes)and ‘Carrot and Stick’ fails. In Europe, transit planners use the ‘Push/Pull’ method of transit with much more success. More on Push/Pull later.
To entice people to use public transport it needs to be:-
- Frequent: For urban areas at least every 10 minutes daytime, 15 minutes evenings and Sundays. And if such frequent services are not commercially viable then – providing the route serves genuine transport needs – some revenue support payments will be appropriate. (Sometimes ‘cross-subsidy’ from a very profitable route could be an alternative to taxpayer’s money).
- Reliable: So passengers can have confidence that the transport does exist and will get them to their destinations without undue delays.
Reliability also means that whenever there is an ‘incident’ getting services moving again should be the absolute first priority – instead of the desires of the various authorities to take unreasonable time periods ‘investigating’.
- Fixed: Transport that is ‘flexible’ enough to change route daily is also flexible enough to disappear altogether. For people to change their habits and rely on public transport they need confidence it will be serving them long term – fixed infrastructure transports give that confidence because they require upfront investment to serve their transport corridors and therefore are less likely to disappear at the whim of a transport operator. Trains, trams, trolleybuses, monorails, maglevs (etc) require that fixed infrastructure whereas experience with motor buses shows that it is far too easy for them to be here today – gone tomorrow!
- Comfortable: Not everyone expects – or even wants – a seat for every journey but neither do they want to travel as the proverbial sardine in a tin can!
Comfort also applies to ambiance, quality of ride, temperature, no unpleasant smells, and noise. On all counts electric transports win in this department.
- Full-time: It is no good transport stopping at 6.45pm weekdays and not operating at weekends – especially Sundays & public holidays – as this is useless for people who work late shifts / odd hours and inhibits social activity.
- Direct: Transport needs to go where people want to go!
- Integrated: Cars often offer ‘door to door’ transport, this is not always a realistic possibility for public transport but with integrated systems which offer easy to use, pleasant, sheltered interchange facilities, short waits for the next service and through ‘one purchase’ ticketing passengers should not be seriously inconvenienced by the need to change vehicle to complete their journey.
To further assist passengers all network maps and timetables should highlight interchange opportunities. (These topics are fully covered on the Transport Integrationpage).
- Safe: Passengers must feel that their personal safety is not being compromised, either by failings in the transport companies’ infrastructure & vehicle maintenance systems or through the actions of fellow passengers. Travelling by car – and bicycle, if sharing a public highway with the general traffic – are some of the most dangerous activities a person can perform, its just that a blind eye is turned to the dangers whereas with public transport danger is perceived even when there isn’t any.
- Well-publicised: Before even considering using public transport potential passengers need to know that the transport actually exists, where it goes, when and for how much. This means good publicity, such as household leaflet distribution, TV, radio and other media advertising, etc.
- Understandable: To give passengers confidence that they are taking the correct vehicle for their destination it is important that there is good sign-posting to and between stops / stations and on the vehicles.
Understandable also means that all publicity – timetables, fare charts, system maps etc – are laid out in an easy-to-read / comprehend format.
- Affordable: People will not use public transport if the fares are so high that it is cheaper to go by car, this especially applies to groups of 3+ people. Transport is not just for the rich!
With cars passengers often choose to travel “on spec” – and can make that journey at the same cost as if they had planned it six weeks previously; a significant deterrent to using public transport (especially with longer distance train travel such as London – Manchester) is that they charge premium fares just because a passenger chooses to travel “at the last minute”.
Honest: Passengers are expected to be honest and pay the correct fare before travelling; however it is also important that the transport system gives them a reasonable chance of doing so. As the British Prime Minister’s wife found out [January 2000] it is not enough just to offer to pay your fare at your arrival station as this is a common trick used by habitual fare evaders which explains why, when she travelled from a station where the ticket office was apparently open, she was given a £10 ‘penalty’ ticket. (Habitual fare evaders are also prosecuted though the courts – this usually results in them being heavily fined and getting a criminal record.)