Getting Personal – Beyond the Public/private Transport Split

Getting Personal – Beyond the Public/private Transport Split


John Hawthorne, Jacobs


Transport planners typically categorise modes as either public or private. This is a supply side split. Transport users are interested in the journey outcome and experience. Is a demand based split more relevant in a changing transport marketplace?


Transport planners typically categorise modes as either public or private.
The split is generally based on the ownership of, or responsibility for, the assets used and the relationship between the assets and the specific trips made. Thus it is essentially a supply side split.
However, transport users are primarily interested in the journey outcomes and experiences, and it is these demand side factors which ultimately influence mode choice.
An ideal transport mode would deliver the desired combination of journey outcome and experience for each trip made by an individual or a group travelling together. Such a mode could be described as “personal”, and is typically offered by so-called private transport. In contrast, most public transport modes could be categorised as “impersonal”, as it is generally necessary for the operators to aggregate demand to devise financially viable service offerings (whether funded through the farebox or subsidy), and thus deliver services less well matched to individual user requirements.
However the relationship between the public/private and personal/impersonal splits is more complex than a simple one-to-one matching.
This paper questions whether transport planning places too much focus on the supply side split, and explores a matrix approach, which identifies the relationships between modes and helps to clarify the characteristics and role of modes which are less easy to classify as simply public or private. In particular, it considers the opportunities and threats of the expansion in personal travel, the potential for public transport to offer a more personal user experience, and the possible impacts of new transport technology on the historical public/private split..


Association for European Transport