Understanding the essence of transport integration is the first step to building a successful transport system.
What does Transport Integration Really Mean?
The term “integration” gets used a lot by transport planners. But what does it really mean?
Let us consider the importance of integration from a user’s perspective. It can be distilled down to issues pertaining to time, cost, and quality of transport.
To a user, integration is about the ease of moving around. This can be assessed by answering questions like:
- Will I be able to travel when I want to go?
- How much time will the trip take?
- How comfortable and safe will the trip be?
- How convenient will the trip be?
- What will the trip cost?
- What information is available to help me choose my means of travel?
Nearly every daily trip has more than one mode of travel: at least walking at the beginning and end, and then some combination of walking, cycling, or travelling by bus, train, ferry, or car.
For a trip to be considered integrated means a relatively seamless journey, with different segments readily connecting in close proximity (i.e., space and time) to ensure a reasonable travel time from door to door.
Well-designed integration results in economically feasible transport of a reliable quality. The cost of the trip is considered reasonable, affordable, and value for money, or at least acceptable by the user. And, the quality of the trip is safe and comfortable.
How can Transport Integration be Achieved?
There are three prerequisites to the achievement of successful integrated transport networks: (i) integrated planning, (ii) integrated infrastructure, and (iii) integrated operations.
Planning. A major challenge is getting all the agencies responsible for planning transport networks (e.g., state, local and private) to coordinate their efforts and ensure transport policy, networks, and services are developed as an integrated system. Coordinating planning for the various modes will ensure they readily connect at interchanges (both spatially and temporally), resulting in trips with minimum disruption, discomfort, or safety concerns.
Infrastructure. This requires the various transport modes to seamlessly connect to enable the most convenient and highest quality travel experience. For example, interchanges need to ensure seamless connections between park and ride facilities and stations, ensure connections between cycleways and public transport stations, and connect transport stations with retail and commercial precincts. Operation of services at interchanges is particularly important, as waiting time is perceived to be 2.5 times greater than actual time.
Operations. In conjunction with integration of infrastructure, public transport services need to be co-ordinated to ensure seamless connections between services (bus to bus, bus to train, bus to ferry, etc.) from origin to destination. In high patronage areas, ‘turn up and go’ frequencies of 5 to 10 minute intervals are preferred. The different modes need to complement each other, rather than operate independently or in competition with one another. For public transport services, integrated ticketing and fares are critical to enable seamless transfer from one service or mode to another, without financial penalty.
Traveller information, particularly real-time service information, is also a key to success, by helping users make informed decisions about travel modes.
To Understand is to Better Serve
Understanding the meaning and impact of transport integration lays the foundation for creating transport systems that work together well. Viewing transport related concerns and challenges from the point of view of travellers is the key to creating integrated transport systems that successfully serve those very users who will rely upon the systems everyday and encourage greater use.