A Segmented Approach to the Provision of Passenger Information

A Segmented Approach to the Provision of Passenger Information


J P Hawthorne, Sinclair Knight Merz, UK


How a fresh approach to segmentation and a better understanding of the different types of messages to be conveyed and channels available can be used to evaluate and improve the provision of information to passengers on public transport systems.


It is generally accepted that the effective provision of passenger information plays an important part in attracting and retaining patronage on public transport systems. It is also recognised that different groups of passengers may have different information requirements.
Some of these are to do with the physical or demographic characteristics of the passengers themselves. For example, special provision may be required for the needs of those who are disabled or have mobility problems; or for those with limited or no knowledge of the local language. But other demographic characteristic such as age, or even car ownership, may, in practice, be poor indicators of the range or content of the information required.
Ideally, a segmented approach should be applied, but normal demographic characteristics are not necessarily appropriate. This paper looks instead at how passengers actually use and interact with public transport systems ? and why potential passengers may be reluctant to use them. It proposes an alternative practical approach based on regularity of use and familiarity with public transport in general. Starting with these factors, three key passenger types are identified, together with their defining features and typical characteristics.
Each passenger type is examined in more detail to identify its particular information requirements both before and during the journey. Particular note is made where pre-journey information may be made available through channels over which the operator does not have complete control.
Having identified the particular passenger requirements, the information to be supplied is itself categorised into three main types, each with its defining characteristics and specific examples. Each of these is cross-referred back to the passenger types, to determine how relevant it is and how closely it can be matched to their specific requirements.
A range of information delivery systems is considered, ranging from those within the operator?s direct control through to those where the operator has limited or no direct control; and each is assessed in terms of its suitability both for specific types of information and as a means of communication with the three passenger types. Using marketing communications techniques, this is developed into a matrix of messages, channels and audiences.
Based on consideration of a range of public transport systems across Europe and south-east Asia, and including both major city and smaller local operations, examples are given of how segmentation by passenger and information types may be applied in practice. Yet some operators may not fully appreciate the potential problems that may result from an incomplete understanding of passengers? information requirements. A particular advantage of the matrix approach is the identification of possible duplication and significant gaps in the overall provision of information. Each of these can impact on the extent to which communication is effective.
The paper does not set out to argue the case for any specific communication system. Rather, by focussing initially on the audiences and the nature of the messages to be conveyed, it sets out a framework within which the potential contribution of various communications channels and systems can be compared and evaluated.


Association for European Transport