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August 17, 2023

Increasing Bus Patronage in 2023

There are many benefits to patrons for using public transport buses, therefore given its many benefits, how is it possible to increase bus patronage?

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There are many benefits to patrons for using public transport buses. To name just a few; not having the stress or cost of parking, reducing congestion in towns and cities, reducing personal carbon footprints and avoiding traffic jams in rush hour thanks to bus lanes and priority bus measures. So why, according to recent research conducted by the Department for Transport, are so many of us still using other modes of transport instead of the bus? And, given its many benefits, how is it possible to increase bus patronage?

The starting point for understanding how to increase bus patronage is first to look at what other modes of transportation people are using and why, plus what, if any, are the barriers to bus usage.

The Department for Transport’s research suggests bus usage primarily competes against the car, which is used frequently by 80% of people in England, with the bus only used frequently by 25%.

So what are the key drivers behind what mode of transport people choose to use?  Looking at figure 1 it is clear that convenience and reliability are the primary motivators as well as safety and overall travel time.

Figure 1. Factors most frequently seen as important when choosing modes of transport (regardless of mode of transport used): -

- How reliable my mode of transport is (88% agreed)
- How easy or difficult it is to complete my journey (82% agreed)
- How safe or unsafe I feel on my journey (75% agreed)
- Overall journey time (74% agreed)
- Ability to travel flexibly, without any prior planning (72% agreed)
- Proximity to house and journey starting point (67% agreed)‍

The research identified some current barriers to bus usage that should be priority areas for bus operators to improve on in order to encourage people to switch from driving. These are listed below in order of importance.   

  1. Reliability of travel
  2. Journey time
  3. Flexibility of travel
  4. Being able to carry items
  5. Cleanliness
  6. Comfort
  7. Having personal space
  8. Cost
  9. Avoiding anti-social behaviour
  10. Frequency
  11. Reducing risk from infection

Furthermore, car users frequently referenced spontaneity as a benefit in comparison to the bus.

However, there were some important factors identified by the research which were important to bus patrons, and therefore imperative to maintain to retain current users. Any new interventions introduced to try and increase patronage, should therefore not cause detrimental impact on the following factors:

  1. Ease of journey (via inter-connectivity of public transport services)
  2. Safety from others
  3. Simplicity of journey planning
  4. Availability of nearby bus stops
  5. Accessibility (how easy or difficult it is to get into and out of the transport vehicle)
  6. Availability of bus routes
  7. Availability of real-time information

Buses therefore need to deliver on the fundamental and universal transport needs of reliability, ease of completing journeys, safety, journey time and flexibility. 

Given the reasons people choose a specific mode of transport, the improvement areas identified through the research and the important factors to existing bus patrons, the solution to increasing bus patronage among existing and non-users lies in demand responsive transport. 

Demand responsive transport delivers a superior bus service for patrons, it sets aside the constraints of a fixed route and schedule, rather enabling patrons to request journeys based on the time they want them, taking them from their front door to their desired destination. Patrons can request a service weeks in advance as well as last minute, providing the reliability and flexibility being asked for by patrons.  Real-time information on where a bus is on its route, is available to users via an app and drivers have insight into a patrons' mobility needs to help take them into consideration and plan ahead. 

Demand responsive transport clearly delivers a superior experience for patrons and is the key to increasing bus patronage.

Find out more about Liftango’s demand responsive transport solutions here.

Alternatively, contact us for a demo.

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