«2 PART IMPACTS OF AMENITIES Amenities have a variety of impacts on customer behavior and perception and affect the adjacent communities as well ...»
IMPACTS OF AMENITIES
Amenities have a variety of impacts on customer behavior and perception and affect the
adjacent communities as well -- impacts which may directly or indirectly affect ridership.
Indeed, many transit agencies are committed to improving both passenger experience and
the relationship of their facilities to the communities they serve because they feel that their
long-term viability depends on it.
2.1 Impact on Ridership A 1996 TCRP study, "Transit Ridership Initiative," describes ridership as "a fragile, somewhat ambiguous goal, and a moving target." The study found that many aspects of transit operations and investment decisions affect ridership. Most agencies that have increased transit ridership have undertaken a variety of programs concurrently. The report
identified five main sources of increased ridership:
• Service adjustments;
• Fare and pricing adaptations;
• Market and information initiatives;
• Planning orientation (community- and customer-based approaches); and
• Service coordination, consolidation, and market segmentation.11 For example, Metro-Dade Transit Agency in Miami experienced a 9.6% increase in ridership between 1991 and 1993. This was attributed to increasing "customer service orientation" (walkways, shelters, safer pedestrian access, new benches, etc.) and use of mini-buses to provide more "cost effective and comfortable service," as well as limited stop services, special events to attract first-time riders, and improved bus-rail transfers and rail feeders.12 Another key transit ridership study, by Richard L. Oram and Stephen Stark, looked at the whole issue of exactly whom transit agencies should target to increase ridership: regular riders? non-riders? infrequent riders? In reviewing surveys conducted in cities across the U.S., the researchers discovered that most people who use transit ride infrequently. Their findings suggest that "a reasonable and easily achieved goal is to get many of the infrequent riders to ride at least a little more. A less reasonable goal is to fully convert these riders (or non-riders....) to regular or daily use."13
THE AMENITIES FOR TRANSIT HANDBOOK - 20Using amenities is one strategy to increase ridership frequency, and the results of the Transit Design Game surveys show that amenities do, in fact, promote transit ridership. In addition to foregoing a fare reduction, a high percentage of riders surveyed indicated that they would increase their transit use if selected amenities were provided. Based on the research as provided in the Transit Design Game Workbook, which accompanies this Handbook, we estimate that spending at the 18 point level (one of the choices on the survey) for amenities would increase ridership in the case study cities by about 1.5 to 3 percent. 18 points is equivalent to spending about $450,000 in annualized costs for a typical 300-bus transit system.
The research also clearly shows that passengers consider amenities to be important and a majority of riders in most cities are willing to forego a fare decrease in order to have them.
However, there does appear to be a limit to what many riders are willing to "spend." For the 12-point survey, 53% of passengers (in Rochester) and 70% of passengers (in Aspen) stated that they wanted all of the features they had selected and were willing to forego a drop in the fare; only 14% (in Aspen) and 23% (in Rochester) wanted to reduce the fare 10 cents and forego all of the amenities selected. Increasing the budget to 18 points, however,
actually reduced the percentage of riders wanting to keep the fare the same in most cities:
many riders with an 18-point budget said they only wanted to spend 12 points, and reduce the fare 5 cents. This means, as expected, that the first 12 points spent on features are more valuable to riders than the next 6 points.
Interestingly, however, of those riders who said they would increase their ridership if the features they selected were provided, it was the more expensive and elaborate amenities (shelters with heat, deluxe benches, fully padded seats on the bus, etc.) that were most likely to induce additional transit trips. In other words, riders are willing to pay for modest amenities, but the more deluxe amenities that would induce trips are (from the rider's perspective) not generally worth the trade-off for a commensurate change in fare. This is like saying, "We would gladly take a Rolls Royce out for a Sunday spin, but a Volkswagen seems like a better investment."
2.2 Impact on Customer Experience
While increasing ridership may not be the principal goal of some transit agencies due, for example, to the difficulties many encounter in adequately meeting existing passenger demand with diminishing available resources or aging fleets, they may be interested, nevertheless, in improving passenger experience and the amenities they provide. Many riders who requested amenities in Transit Design Game surveys were already using transit for all of their local trips. For these people, the benefit of amenities would be evidenced by their attitude toward the transit system and their willingness to pay for them -- not necessarily in terms of increased ridership.
Transit rider surveys and focus group research, detailed in the appendices, indicate that passengers expect transit to be efficient, safe, and comprehendible, as well as comfortable.
An especially useful study by David A. Hensher looked at bus user preferences. Hensher asked respondents to state their preference among hypothetical sets of bus service
THE AMENITIES FOR TRANSIT HANDBOOK - 21characteristics (for example, option 1 would have an old bus, a bus shelter, a $1 fare, a 10minute headway; option 2 would have a new bus, no shelter, a fare of $.85, and a 15-minute headway). Respondents picked the one they preferred.
The result of this survey, completed in Australia, showed a variety of opportunities for enhancements to transit service. "Wait quality" was a top concern of passengers both in terms of the length of time, reliability of the bus relative to the schedule, and the availability of a place to sit down. Another important issue was "vehicle quality," which related to the interior cleanliness and age of the buses. Finally "trip quality" -- the opportunity to have a seat, efficient boarding, a smooth ride, and express service -- and "information quality" also contributed to satisfaction with transit service, with the availability of schedules at bus stops a very attractive feature. His conclusion was that the
major areas to pursue enhancement are as follows:
• Providing shelters at stops, even if a seat is not provided;
• Improving punctuality of service;
• Memory timetables (e.g., buses run every 20 minutes) and posted schedules;
• Keeping vehicle interiors clean; and
• Increased express service.14 This study reinforces the notion that, while amenities are closely associated with passenger comfort, they impact a broad range of passenger experience issues. These amenity features are discussed below.
Efficiency of Service Amenities can make transit more efficient and easier to use. For example, low floor buses can speed boarding, particularly among people with low or impaired mobility. According to TCRP Report 2, "Applicability of Low Floor Light Rail Vehicles in North America," low floor vehicles reduce boarding times for "faster service and shorter trip times for all passengers," not just those passengers with disabilities for whom they are especially intended.15 Another example is bus waiting areas which "bump out" sidewalks so that buses do not have to pull into the curb and waiting areas are increased in size. Portland, Oregon, has begun installing the "bump-outs" described in Case Study 3 in Section 4.3. Other examples of amenities that may improve transit efficiency are multiple doors to allow simultaneous boarding and alighting, the alignment of the waiting area with vehicle floor, fare purchase mechanisms, and the arrangement of amenities at the stop and the configuration of the waiting area to allow queuing and easy boarding.
Safety and Image
Amenities can improve security. A Canadian report, Making Transit Stops Safer for Women,16 suggests a broad range of strategies including: adequate lighting at and around bus stops; telephones at or near stops; location of stops near active land uses; and a map of the surrounding area.
THE AMENITIES FOR TRANSIT HANDBOOK - 22Amenities can also impact security indirectly. People often perceive a station as more dangerous than it really is because of a poor general appearance or lack of maintenance, or because it lacks the presence of official people, like ticket agents or retail vendors. These signs of deterioration are often equated with signs that a place is unsafe or "out of control."
Studies of New York City subway station environmental improvements have shown that when stations are rehabilitated, people feel safer, regardless of actual crime patterns.17 When amenities are provided and successfully maintained, there is also an implied security presence and a sense that someone is in control of the transit station. In addition, the use of fare or "smart" cards on buses and trolleys makes drivers feel safer because there is less cash on board. Security cameras on buses also may make passengers feel safer, even though their helpfulness in apprehending criminals may be limited.
Amenities which provide people with knowledge about how to use the transit system improve their ability to use public transit and make it easier (and perhaps more likely) that they will do so. Examples of these are posted and available route schedules and information, both at the transit stop and on the vehicle, access to the driver to ask questions or directions, and recorded stop announcements.
THE AMENITIES FOR TRANSIT HANDBOOK - 23Case in Point 3: Passenger-Friendly Vehicles: The Enduring Legacy of the PCC Streetcar In looking back over the history of transit, and especially transit vehicle design, it is clear that many early transit vehicles were designed specifically with passenger experience and comfort in mind. The open-air double-decker buses on New York's Fifth Avenue and the Cable Cars of San Francisco are two examples of vehicles that were (and are) fondly remembered. In London, the Underground System, for instance, was a model "single design" project, where stations, transit vehicles, graphics and signage all supported each other.
The result was a cherished London experience, where people felt safe and well-cared for -- even delighted -from the moment they caught sight of an underground station (from the omnipresent "roundel" logo) until long after they had arrived at their destination.
Arguably the best transit vehicle to roll off any American assembly line was the Presidents' Conference Committee (PCC) Car, a standardized, innovative streetcar design that was developed in the 1930s by the Electrical Railway Presidents' Conference Committee (ERPCC) to meet a wide range of needs and situations.18 In 1930, the street railway industry was in deep financial trouble, already feeling the pressure of the automobile and the motor bus. Most trolley cars in service were obsolete and the industry believed that a more reliable, high-performance streetcar that incorporated the most modern technology available would help them realize a higher rate of return on their equity and revive the industry.
The original approach taken to the design process was novel -- and provides a useful lesson to agencies today.
Rather than making piecemeal improvements to equipment and components, as had been done in the past, the team of designers confronted the task in a holistic manner. Their research, based on actual experience, was more scientific than what had been previously carried out. Through exacting study of the effects of movement on the human body and careful analysis of the performance of over 600 existing cars, the research team came up with a vehicle that was a composite of the best the industry had to offer.
THE AMENITIES FOR TRANSIT HANDBOOK - 24(Case in Point 3 continued)
Previous attempts to improve streetcar design had consisted only of isolated efforts to meet local needs and problems rather than industry-wide goals. Instead of a standard streetcar design, ERPCC produced a group of components that could be assembled in several ways to meet an overall standard of performance and efficiency. Individual manufacturers sometimes varied the appearance of the car or the components, but the operating performance was always the same.
The PCC car introduced major advances in electric streetcar design, such as
• Easier and faster access: The two entrances and exits were wider than they had been previously, with three small steps rather than two high steps to facilitate boarding and alighting.
• New look: The appearance was sleek and uncluttered, suggestive of speed. The new cars had a streamlined look that was popular in automobile styling in the 1930s.
• Roomier: One of the models could hold as many as 135 passengers, including standees.
• Heating and ventilation: Forced-air ventilation used the structural elements in the car walls as air ducts.
Heat from the dynamic brakes could be circulated inside the car body on cold days.
• Lighting: Interiors were brightly illuminated. One model used cove-mounted lighting reflected off the ceiling.
• Windows: The vehicle's windows rolled up and down as in automobiles. Later models had standee windows above the regular windows.
With the introduction of the PCC cars, ridership increased dramatically. In Brooklyn, where the first cars were operated, the Smith-Coney Island line posted a 33% increase in gross revenues from October 1936 to September 1937. Schedule speeds increased 14%, allowing (two) fewer cars to operate. Many passengers abandoned those routes without PCC cars. In Chicago, although the cars were operated by two-person crews, they were so efficient that labor costs were reduced by 10.8%.