UK Passenger Transport Information on the Intemet: Promoting Best Practice Through Accreditation
LYONS G D, University of Southampton, UK
Publication in July 1998 of the first UK Transport White Paper for some 20 years (DETR, 1998) was the culmination, although not conclusion, of considerable debate concerning the future of UK transport set against the background of an increasingly car depe
Publication in July 1998 of the first UK Transport White Paper for some 20 years (DETR, 1998) was the culmination, although not conclusion, of considerable debate concerning the future of UK transport set against the background of an increasingly car dependent society with a (perceived to be) declining public transport system. The White Paper sets out a series of policy objectives designed to discourage inappropriate use of the car and improve and promote alternative public transport modes. Information in this context is seen as a key factor in empowering individuals to make more informed travel decisions, particularly with regard to mode choice.
Mode choice decisions are based on an individual's comparison of one or more attributes associated with the disutility of making a trip. An individual notionally ranks the available modes according to the collective disutility or Generalised Travel Cost (Ortflzar and Willumsen, 1994) for each mode and selects the mode that offers the lowest disutility. Such decisions are seldom based on perfect knowledge. Drivers may, for example, have no information about altematives to a trip by car and as such will discard public transport as an alternative or will assume the collective disutility of public transport is higher than private transport regardless of the accuracy of their assumption. There is, therefore, a role for traveller information in ensuring that travellers make choices that are more informed with the implicit hope that in so doing drivers will, in some instances, elect to use an alternative mode.
Information cannot change the disutility of a particular mode for a particular journey. It can only change the perception of disutility. Hence there may be many occasions when perfect information will simply serve to highlight the disparity between a trip by private transport as opposed to public transport and reinforce a decision to travel by car.
Nevertheless there will be occasions where information could have a more positive influence and encourage use of alternatives to the car. Policies set out within the White Paper are intended, through improvements to public transport services coupled with continued financial penalties imposed on car use, to render public transport a more viable alternative to the car. If this is achieved then the provision of accessible, high quality information to the public, particularly concerning public transport choices, will become an increasingly important factor in bringing about modal shift.
Information is made available to the public in a variety of ways. A key means of delivering information to the public is now the Internet and World Wide Web (WWW). This will undoubtedly become a major, if not the principal, communications medium for the next Century. It offers a highly versatile means &delivering information to a rapidly increasing proportion of the population and as such is already being used extensiveIy to provide information on public and private transport.
This paper reports on the activities of an Accreditation Panel for public transport information WWW sites. Further to a request from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR), this was set up in autumn 1998 by The Chartered Institute of Transport in the UK (CIT UK) which has now become The Institute of Logistics and Transport (ILT) on merging with the former Institute of Logistics.
The aim of the accreditation process that has now been developed is to foster public confiderice in the quality of public transport information available via the WWW, achieving this through recognising good practice and promoting best practice in information provision. The paper first outlines the UK policy context for public transport information delivery via the WWW and then considers the state-of-the-art. The accreditation process being taken forward by ILT is described. A series of activities during 1999 seek to sell the concept of accreditation to the WWW public transport information sites' industry. The first activity was a workshop targeted at individuals concerned with the technical management of public transport WWW sites. The aim of the workshop was to explore views within the industry concerning issues and challenges associated with delivering information via the WWW and concerning the nature and value of the accreditation process and its role in promoting best practice within the industry. Findings from this workshop are reported.
Association for European Transport