Interesting fact

Discounted fares stimulate ‘trying out’ bus journeys. Besides, bus journeys can have health benefits and give you more control over how you spend your time on your journeys.

Many incentive schemes are being used around the world including the Global South to promote the use of public transport. Public transport systems vary enormously however; in this section, we will mainly deal with conventional bus-based and road-based public transport systems.  This means we are not including Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) or Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) or other rail-based systems.

The EMPOWER project is concerned with campaigns that aim to achieve a shift in mode from the use of conventionally fuel vehicles to public transport use. There are a range of initiatives available and implemented to stimulate public transport use, for example infrastructure initiatives (e.g., Guided Busway);  changing from conventional bus based and road based system to a BRT system (e.g., BRT in South AfricaNigeria and MRT in London). However, EMPOWER is focussed on campaigns and initiatives that use positive incentives and provide rewards if a change in behaviour is executed.

Campaigns can be implemented as either ‘standalone’ measures or integrated with other initiatives, such as increased services, changes to accessibilities at bus stops, implementation of bus lanes. Campaigns can be focussed around encouraging new users or increasing ridership from existing users. Within those two broad categories campaigns may also focus on (a) a specific demographic, or (b) a specific behaviour or a combination of the two. For example, offering shoppers increased Wi-Fi access for travelling on ‘off-peak’ services. Increasingly campaigns often involve rewards to encourage changing behaviour and using the bus.

Research has shown that a range of rewards have been used to encourage mode shift to bus travel. This can include better information, reduced and discounted fares, bus ticket purchase on a mobile phone app, increased and additional services on the bus such as Wi-Fi access. However, the research shows that discounted ticket fares and particularly free bus fares can be effective at stimulating people to try the bus. However, there is no substantial evidence that free bus fares lead to permanent or longer lasting change. There is some evidence from actual implementations that some changes to information, comfort associated with the branding of a bus service as a unique and ‘up-market’ service can attract passengers. The individual features that in combination act as incentives can involve a unique livery, Wi-Fi access, speedier services by using limited alighting stops, and high quality seats and interiors. Experimental research has shown other incentives and rewards, such as digitised points-based systems may also stimulate bus travel. In addition, there is some evidence that there is less clear evidence about the most effective rewards and stimulus to encourage retention and longer term use of bus travel.

In terms of operationalising a campaign there are benefits to using a smart phone app as it allows a greater range of ‘rewards’ and also a flexibility to combine and integrate ‘rewards’ with other activities. Both of these capabilities are of benefit to the passenger and to the operator.

In addition, reward schemes may also work more effectively if they are offered in combination with other schemes designed to improve the bus service. Reward campaigns that reinforce the unique benefits of bus travel and the improvements made to the bus service appear to be more effective.


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