Triggers of Urban Passenger Mode Shift - State of the Art and Model Evidence

Triggers of Urban Passenger Mode Shift - State of the Art and Model Evidence

Nominated for The Planning for Sustainable Land Use and Transport Award


Nils Fearnley, Institute of Transport Economics, Stefan Flügel, Institute of Transport Economics, Marit Killi, Institute of Transport Economics


The paper presents theory and evidence of triggers of urban passenger transport mode shift. Focus is on cross elasticities, and how elasticities vary with context. Policy recommendations for achieving mode shift.


Mode shift is at the core of sustainable transport in all world cities; yet we know comparatively little about it. While there is ample evidence of within-mode demand effects, e.g. the patronage growth following 10% bus fare reduction, we know in general very little about what mode these new passengers came from, and whether, e.g., more car drivers could have been shifted to bus if other aspects of the bus service were improved instead.

These questions are crucial for policy makers who want to change the transport system towards a more sustainable modal mix and are essential in identifying the most effective policies. In this paper, we address this issue by gathering existing evidence of cross-mode demand interactions (or elasticities) from studies conducted worldwide as well as presenting new evidence of cross-mode elasticities from Greater Oslo, Norway.

We establish the theoretical, methodological and empirical state of the art with respect to demand effects at a system level, i.e. across transport modes. Through a meta-analysis of this empirical evidence, which documents the impact of local and individual context on mode substitution, we identify the influence of various factors on the variation in the elasticities. The meta-analysis also addresses methodological issues and how the choice of data and method of analysis impact the results.

Next, we present new evidence of cross elasticities from a study conducted in Greater Oslo based on 15,000 travel observations. Our estimated model illustrates very well how the same triggers, e.g. the cost of car use, bring about different mode switching effects depending on trip purpose and local circumstance, like affluence, land use and availability of alternative transport modes.

The paper’s combination of consolidated evidence from the meta-analysis and new evidence from our own empirical study forms the basis for recommendations to urban policymakers whose goal is to obtain modal shift. This relates not only to the necessary combination of carrot and stick. Because, as we show, travellers of mode i have different preferences for attributes of mode j, our recommendations also address *what* carrots and *what* sticks are called for in order to successfully obtain mode shift.


Association for European Transport