Real-time Multimodal Travel Information in the Netherlands
F Cheung, Netherlands Ministry of Transport, NL
Travel information assists travellers to make a rational choice of modes and routes. Travelling public would benefit more if travel information is in real-time and multimodal.
In the Netherlands, mobility management is defined as ?the organization of smart travel?. An important policy issue is to determine the value of providing real-time multi-modal travel information on different options available and its impact on travel behavior. DVS has completed a study based on desk research, literature study, expert meeting and interviews with specialists. The results and findings have been presented in a report to the Transport Ministry.
At present, multi-modal travel information is not widely available. Organizations such as ANWB (the Dutch automobile and cycling association) and 9292 Travel Information Group have made some efforts to provide such data as a public service. However, little is known about the specific needs of travellers and even less regarding how real-time travel information could influence behavior and mode/route choice.
On the basis of the study findings, a picture has emerged. There is a need for easily accessible, precise and reliable travel information that is directly relevant to the traveller?s journey requirements. Much preparation takes place in advance of the journey. Pre-trip information is obtained from operators? timetable, websites or/and advice from friends. However, there is a clear desire to have unambiguous, valid, usable and up-to-the minute information during the trip. Research results showed that information need is stronger for car drivers than for public transport passengers. However, being informed is not sufficient to influence mode choice. Normally, travel is a force of habit.
Opportunities for pre-trip and on-trip information to influence choice are prevalent mainly in situations when dealing with journeys to unfamiliar destinations, at times with heavy congestions, after major road incidents and under extreme weather conditions.
In spite of a clear indication that there prevails a desire for directly usable travel information, there is a general lack of willingness-to-pay for such a service. There is reluctance. Travellers often hold the opinion that such information should be freely provided by the operators or the transport authority as part of their public duties (?public goods?). In circumstances when there is a clear need for real-time travel information, these are also situations when it is most difficult and costly to collect, process and provide to suit people?s personal requirements.
There is also a perceptional problem. In line with the findings from McGuire, travellers indicate that their ability to take notice, comprehend and process the information during unusual circumstances is low and the ?mental cost? to derive the appropriate course of action is high. For some travellers, previous bad experiences often caused them to distrust the information issued or advice given. As a result, real-time multi-modal travel information is perceived as at its worst during situations and in circumstances when it should be at its best.
A contentious issue is the standpoint by communication specialists: provide ?perfect? information and ?realistic? mode/route choice advice or do not provide them at all. The argument is: single modal, static, partial and time dependent information is often valued poorly. If information is multi-modal, dynamic or actual, the need for travel information increases. However, its acceptability would rise only if the information is personalized, easily available and readily comprehensible.
Every aspect of travel information should be prepared with care and presented with utmost attention to a high standard. Insights gained also suggest that the valuation of additional travel information develops via an increased marginal utility function. Only when the information-seeker is satisfied with the quality of the information before confidence is gained and its value is appreciated.
If provision of quality travel information is conceived as a policy instrument to induce modal shift, its cost-effectiveness is doubtful. Travel time saving is often not the sole cause to influence travel choice. Habit,attitudes,loyalty and prejudice often play a part. Travel is perceived as a total personal experience. Thus, efforts to entice the car user to switch mode in favour of public transport cannot rely on the provision of quality travel information alone. A package approach is necessary.
Travellers will also notice when travel advice is used to persuade them to behave differently. At best, the advice will be ignored; at worst, people feel that they are being manipulated and that any change in their behavior will primarily benefit other people and not themselves. Therefore, travel information should be used to inform the passengers objectively and not with a hidden agenda to influence the traveling public to adapt to preferred behavior.
Association for European Transport