Inducing Increased Demand for Public Transport ? Experience in Australia
E Richardson, Sinclair Knight Merz, AU; M Burgess, Public Transport Authority Western Australia, AU
Cast study experience in Australia has shown that targeted and sustained investment in behaviour change (TravelSmart)and improved frequency and service has potential for substantial increases in public transport market share.
Strategic Transport Planning Goals
Increasing public transport market share and a reduced proportion of car driver trips is a major goal of transport planing agencies all around Australia. There are numerous reasons given for increasing public transport usage, including:
- Improved social equity by providing greater travel choice for more people;
- Global and local environmental benefits, with tangible local health benefits;
- Reduced congestion on the road system with consequent advantages to economic productivity; and
- Containing the demand for and cost of roads infrastructure, which has peak period demands but is often under-utilised outside peak periods.
Increased car ownership and the market demand, at the time, for low density suburban living were major reasons for the decline in public transport usage during the second half of the 20th century. However, it is argued that Government policies and plans, and particularly increased Government investment in roads and reduced investment in public transport, caused the move from public transport to cars to be greater than would have been the case under different investment strategies. The per capita usage of public transport varies quite markedly in different cities and in different areas of the same city. This is largely a consequence of the quality and level of public transport service that has been retained or provided in these different areas. As an example, the part of Melbourne developed prior to 1960 (the inner areas and the tram suburbs - 45% of Melbourne population) has levels of walking and public transport that are more than twice the levels in the remainder of Melbourne. In the older area, the combined walking and public transport trips are 23% more than car driver trips, whereas walking and public transport trips are less than half (44%) of car driver trips in the newer area.
It is now widely known that road traffic in urban areas increases when the road system is improved. Some of this is as a result of people driving further, but some is because of a mode shift from walking and public transport to car travel. Studies have also shown that car travel can reduce when road space is reduced.
In this paper we expand this concept of induced traffic to public transport. The central thesis of this paper is that whilst the total (all modes) number of trips per person remains fairly constant over time, people can be induced to change mode, depending on the relative attractiveness of a particular mode and on the information people have available to them at the time.
Public transport will be seen to be a more attractive travel alternative if any or all of the following apply:
- Improved frequency of service;
- Improved speed and reliability of service;
- Safer, more comfortable and more convenient modal interchanges, including park and ride;
- Integrated and easy to use ticketing systems;
- Improved passenger security;
- More information on mode choice, including timetables and routes for public transport and comparative real costs of travel alternatives; and
- A suite of demand management measures designed to progressively increase restraint on car usage.
The key to increasing public transport mode share is to ensure the service is continuously improved and is seen to be improved, relative to the alternative of travel by car. Simultaneous improvements to car and public transport travel is not likely to result in an increase in public transport mode share.
Perth and Australian Examples
A number of Australian case studies are discussed and the results and findings are summarised. They include TravelSmart (behaviour change), major changes to frequency and service design, implementation of dedicated busways, new non radial bus routes (cross suburban routes), free city centre transit distribution systems and experience with Park and ride at rail and bus stations.
Important findings from these case studies include:
- TravelSmart (behaviour change) studies consistently result in increased usage of public transport (between 7% and 17%) as well as large increases in walking and cycling. Car driver trips have reduced between 4% and 10%;
- Major improvements in frequency and service on an area wide basis in Perth increased public transport patronage by between 52% and 79% over four years;
- The introduction of a dedicated busway in Brisbane with frequency of service improvements, increased public transport patronage on the core busway services by 45% in the first year of operation; and
- Perth's Circle Route bus service has doubled its predicted 8 year patronage estimate within four years of implementation.
Discussion and Conclusions
It is recognised that the specific impact of some measures cannot be quantified from the available data and that, in some instances, more than one factor may be contributing to the increase in demand. To assist in understanding the more holistic position the following have been considered in relation to the Perth public transport system:
- Annual passenger satisfaction monitor of bus, train and ferry passengers; and
- Public transport system usage since 1969/70 to 2002/03.
The former independently conducted annual survey provides an appreciation of how passengers view new services such as the Circle Route and more generally tracks what passengers consider to be important over time. The survey has been undertaken across the Transperth system every year since 1996.
By considering the annual bus and rail system patronage over time it is possible to identify trends and link the specific time when improvements were made versus periods when no or few improvements were made.
The conclusion reached is that it is possible to induce more patronage to use the public transport system through behaviour change (TravelSmart) and through improvements to frequency and service. There is potential for fairly major increases in public transport market share, if Governments can be persuaded to direct investment to public transport improvements, rather than more general road improvements, over a sustained period.
Association for European Transport