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Valuing Convenience in Public Transport

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The experience of transport systems users, in terms of comfort, reliability, safety and above all convenience, is critical in determining demand for transport services, at least when there is a choice of alternative ways to travel. Convenience is one of the strongest attractions of the private car for passenger transport. For users of public transport, convenience is also clearly important but not always clearly defined and not often measured in designing transport systems or monitoring their operating performance. In many situations, an increase in public transport convenience reduces the unit costs of travel (euros/dollars per hour or cents per minute) and so provides benefits equivalent to an increase in travel speed.

This report focuses on convenience and its importance to the user experience. It reviews operational definitions of convenience, evidence for the willingness of users to pay for convenience and the use of indicators to assess and improve the convenience of public transport, with a view to making it more effective and more competitive.

 

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Measuring and valuing convenience

A review of global practices and challenges form the public transport sector

International Transport Forum

The term “convenience” is often used in relation to transport; the assumption being that a “convenient” service will be more attractive. Hence those responsible for the specification and supply of public transport have an interest in optimising the level of convenience provided to passengers. However, what makes a service convenient is generally neither well defined, nor understood. Basic attributes such as network size, service frequency, journey time and pricing alone cannot explain passenger demand for public transport modes. Other factors of convenience play a key role in influencing demand and mode choice but they are often more complex and harder to define, measure and value. In this paper we first consider the meaning of the term convenience in transport, and urban public transport in particular, including the attributes which it encompasses.

We argue that the good measurement of public transport convenience and service quality is a prerequisite to its valuation and ensuring more optimal policy decisions and management actions to maximise convenience and hence demand. We focus on the urban public transport operator and its measurement of convenience by reviewing the practical experience gained from over 20 years of international benchmarking with more than 50 metro, bus and suburban rail operators in large cities around the world. Specifically, we review the current standards and practices from the urban railway industry in measuring convenience and provide examples of how such performance in metro operations varies globally. It is demonstrated that current practice in many cities remains too operationally based, despite there being an opportunity for much more customer focused measures using the greatly increased data availability from new technologies.

The experience of the UK railway industry in valuing convenience related attributes is discussed. Here, a common framework for demand forecasting has been developed combining service quality and convenience measures with other service attributes to effectively measure the “attractiveness” of the service to customers. The paper concludes by considering the implications and opportunities for public transport operators, authorities and regulators worldwide in better measuring, valuing and managing public transport convenience in order to better meet mobility needs.

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