Public transport is a key component of addressing the wicked problem of traffic congestion. The question is, how to encourage and sustain patronage by next generation users. Recent research is providing suggested directions, moving forward.
A major policy problem facing transport professionals is how to reduce traffic congestion and improve transport productivity – a wicked problem. They also need to improve accessibility, mobility and safety; get better air quality, use less energy and reduce the transport footprint.
Public transport has to be part of the solution package, but to be successful, transportation planners must better understand what users want.
In many jurisdictions, governments provide significant subsidies for public transport (in Australian major urban areas subsidies are in the order of 70 percent of operating costs). The public sector, however is usually slow to embrace innovation and disruptive technologies, and is not proactive in considering the implications of emerging trends.
In a UK study, it was found that 75 percent of all journeys involve negative experiences or pain-points for transport users (multi-modal journeys are especially painful) and 57 percent of travellers are always looking for ways to optimise their journeys. A growing segment of users are ‘Progressive Metropolites” typified by technology-savvy young professionals, who want to reduce their transport footprint.
Public Transport and the Millennial Generation
There is an increased use of public transport among Generation Y, a New Zealand study found, there is a high latent demand, and they respond to well-known convenience factors like consistent frequency and coverage of services. More specific factors to encourage further Generation Y patronage include smarter pricing mechanisms and improved real-time information (through onboard or at station Wi-Fi access).
Key life stage changes, like moving home or starting a family, are opportunities for maintaining or further public transport uptake. What works for Generation Y also has a positive flow-on effect for ‘older’ patrons.
Making use of currently available technology is the first step – such as social media sentiment mapping, and sharing real-time service advisories. Providing increased opportunities for innovative concepts, technologies and approaches should then follow.
What do you consider public transport agencies and operators should be doing to encourage greater patronage by next generation users?