Do People Prefer BRT or LRT?



Do People Prefer BRT or LRT?

Authors

John Swanson, Steer Davies Gleave, Clemence Routaboul, Steer Davies Gleave, Chris Chinnock, Steer Davies Gleave

Description

Although much is known about the relative construction and operating costs of Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail Transit, less is known about which passengers prefer. This matters, because while BRT is nearly always found to be cheaper to build and operate, there is concern that it may not be such an attractive service for users, and may not therefore represent good investment.
This paper will describe research carried out by Steer Davies Gleave, funded by our internal Research and Innovation programme and with the cooperation of Nantes Métropole, the local transport authority, to try to answer this question.

Abstract

Although much is known about the relative construction and operating costs of Bus Rapid Transit and Light Rail Transit, less is known about which passengers prefer. This matters, because while BRT is nearly always found to be cheaper to build and operate, there is concern that it may not be such an attractive service for users, and may not therefore represent good investment.
This paper will describe research carried out by Steer Davies Gleave, funded by our internal Research and Innovation programme and with the cooperation of Nantes Métropole, the local transport authority, to try to answer this question.
The city of Nantes, in France, provides an excellent opportunity to assess user preferences because it has both types of transit in operation. LRT is the older and more established system, with three lines operating. A single BRT line, known as the Busway, was added more recently.
We carried out market research with people who had recent experience of using both services. Focus groups were held, followed by face-to-face interviews with over 500 respondents. These people were asked to rate BRT and LRT on experience criteria, and to complete a Stated Preference exercise in which the characteristics of the two systems, including fares, were traded off against each other.
It was found that while LRT was rated more highly, this was largely due to its more extensive network coverage, while BRT scored more highly on comfort and security. Once these factors were allowed for the residual preference was – slightly – in favour of BRT over LRT.
This finding was quite robust when we looked at people with different levels of experience of each mode. While the strength of belief varies with frequency of use of each mode, the overall conclusion holds:
I BusWay did better than tram on comfort;
I Tram did better than BusWay on service level and network coverage; and
I When these are both allowed for there was a residual preference for BusWay over tram.
These findings are specific to Nantes, deriving from the services implemented there and the views of the local population. However they imply that from the passenger point of view there is no reason to suppose that BRT is innately inferior to tram. The research shows that a well-designed and operated BRT system can be at least as attractive to passengers as tram, if not more so.
The paper will describe the research, present the finding and discuss their implications.

Publisher

Association for European Transport