Why Do People Ditch Transit?

Ryan Holeywell discusses a new report from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley that examines the top reasons people stop using public transit. Frequent, consistent service is most important to riders.
January 16, 2013, 2pm PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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Findings presented this week at the Transportation Research Board's annual conference in Washington, D.C. may provide guidance for transit agencies trying to balance increases in ridership with strained budgetary environments. "While it's well-known that reliability is important to riders," says Holeywell, "it's less understood how, exactly, common transit problems impact the public's likelihood to reduce their ridership in the long-term."

So, in surveying public transit riders in the San Francisco area, the Berkeley researchers sought to dig deeper into the causes of "unreliability", and how they effect the mindset of riders.  

"Frequent, consistent service -- and in particular, reliable transfers between stops -- are what's most important to riders, according to the study. Riders care most about getting picked up from their stop in 10 minutes or less, and they especially value being able to make their scheduled connections. They're not so interested in whether their rides are crowded or whether they can find a seat."

"But a few key things in particular irk passengers: delays that occur once they board a vehicle and delays when they're trying to make a transfer. Delays at transfer stops were more than twice as likely to make someone reduce their transit use than a delay at the point of origin. Riders were especially turned off by delays due to operational problems like backups in the system."

"At a time when transit agencies continue to take budgetary hurdles," concludes Holeywell, "the insights from the study are worth considering. Since certain failings have much larger impacts on ridership than others, it may be in public transportation agencies' best interest to focus resources on minimizing those inconveniences in particular."

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Published on Wednesday, January 16, 2013 in Governing
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