Promotion of the Use of Public Transportation/Transit in Large Cities: Best Practices
Overall, public transportation in the United States is facing declining ridership on a national level. This decline in ridership may be a result of competition posed by convenience apps and ride sharing, or problems present in aging systems. Some cities are responding to the challenge presented by shared mobility apps by developing their own public transportation convenience apps, and maximizing their use of technology in other ways. They are also finding ways to integrate their services with mobility sharing companies. Public Transportation operators are also attempting improvements through traditional renovation, line additions, and the introduction of new services and amenities. Adapting to mobility sharing, new technology, and practicing traditional methods of improvement can all be considered best practices for promoting public transportation and reducing car-driving.
Even after an extensive search through industry-related sites, government sites, and media reports, it was not possible to find the exact details requested. This lack of information may be due to the transit systems not being keen to publicize their current challenges as some have faced declines. However, while exact information wasn't available, particularly information specific to best practices in promotion of mass transit along the lines of behavior change, there was an assortment of information available on ways the New York and Boston areas have worked to increase change in ridership behaviors. Those details and more are outlined below.
MOBILITY ORIENTATION DEVELOPMENT AND HUBS
One approach to encouraging the use of public transportation is through Mobility Orientation Development. According to a report prepared by the Arcadis firm, Mobility Oriented Development "is an evolution of transit-related planning and execution." This approach evaluates the big picture of a city or town's transportation dynamics. Rather than focusing solely on traditional public transportation aims of increasing ridership, and decreasing driving, Mobility Oriented Development supports these outcomes by focusing on developments that increase overall mobility and create a "wider social benefit." For Arcadis, a key element of this approach is in the evaluation of transportation hubs regarding their social value, connectivity, and the safety and economic potential of the neighborhoods where they are located.
LAST-MILE INITIATIVES FOR TRANSIT
One challenge of public transport initiatives is to create greater access for those who do not live within walking distance to public transportation. The term last-mile refers to additional transportation needs at the end of a transit journey. According to a 2017 report prepared for the city of Richmond, California by Nelson/Nygaar Consulting Associates Inc., some solutions to this problem include making improvements to stations where passengers can transfer to other modes of transportation. These improvements include sidewalks, and bikeways, car sharing pods, bus stops, bicycle sharing stations, bike parking, and rail connections. The report also highlights shuttles as valuable tools for providing last-mile connectivity.
CUSTOMER SERVICE APPS
Another way that cities can encourage the use of public transportation is by employing the type of convenience applications used by ride-sharing companies such as Uber and Lyft. According to a 2017 article by Govtech.com, in recent years, ride-sharing apps have outdone public transport services by measures of convenience. Govtech.com cites a report by the American Public Transportation Association which found "that a drastic decline in ridership has been taking place in major public transport systems in cities nationwide." New York and Boston have been able to buck this trend, apparently, by adopting the use of the same type of convenience apps used by ride-sharing companies that appear to be luring riders away from public transport overall. Commuters like the convenience of payment, route prediction, and near-instant availability of ride-share drivers. Govtech.com also points to common public transportation weak spots such confusing schedules and maps, which ride-sharing gives commuters the chance to avoid.
BOSTON, NEW YORK, & LAS VEGAS IMPLEMENT APPS
Govtech.com highlights the methods Boston, New York City and Las Vegas are using to fight public transport decline. These include the development of apps and convenience features for ticketing and stations. For their commuter rail, Boston has created an open data portal so that developers can use it to create apps that offer transport commuters information about delays, and arrival times. Mayor Cuomo of New York has implemented mobile ticketing, charging stations, and Wi-Fi. He has also initiated traditional improvements such as adding lines and renovating stations and vehicles. To combat the decline of bus ridership, Las Vegas has implemented an app that offers real-time bus locations and arrival times, as well as route planning, and mobile ticketing.
SHARED MOBILITY AND PUBLIC TRANSPORT
According to a report prepared by the Shared-Use Mobility Center for the American Public Transporation Association, "The more people use shared modes of transportation, the more likely they are to use public transport." The report explores the developments, changes, and opportunities that have resulted from new technologies in recent years. "Some have predicted that, by creating a robust network of mobility options, these new modes will help reduce car ownership and increase the use of public transportation." The report advocates increased integration and coordination of information, payment, and services. It argues that public transportation should adapt to the trend of shared modes of transportation, including by partnering with companies that provide shared modes of transportation.
Public Transport problems and cuts
According to an article by Robert Puentes of US News, there may be more driving the decline of public transportation beyond ride-sharing apps. Puentes discusses common problems of public transportation systems, including a lack of funding, delays, and aging infrastructure. He surmises that cuts of poorly attended routes may be the biggest factor in ridership decline. Puentes explains cities have bus routes that were "designed decades ago." Cities such as Houston and Seattle have redesigned routes, and implemented technology to improve bus service, and Baltimore is now working on updates for their bus system.
Best Practices for the promotion of public transportation are evolving with new developments in technology and the development of new modes of transportation, such as the trend of shared mobility. In this rapidly changing environment, the successful models of New York and Boston offer best practice solutions for other cities. Thanks to their implementation of technology through the use of apps, open city data sources, increased amenities, and traditional improvements in the form of renovations, these cities have improved their public transportation numbers at a time when public transportation has declined nationwide. One key element of their success is undoubtedly their adaption to technology. For instance, New York City's public transportation ridership increased overall in 2016, though its subway ridership did decline slightly, by 0.7 percent. Boston's overall ridership increased by 1.4 percent, and its rail increased by 3.5 percent. These implementations have created convenience and "increased good will" for Boston commuters. Best practices may also be gleaned from the world's best used and most efficient hubs, such as the firm Arcadis' measure of hubs by connectivity, social factors, and the safety and economic health of the municipal areas in which they are situated.
Although we did not find a comprehensive pre-compiled list of best practices for the promotion of the use of public transportation, the sources we found suggest the following best practices.
1. Adapting to new technology and maximizing its potential for user convenience.
2. Connecting traditional transportation networks with evolving ones.
3. Maximizing the potential of local transportation hubs in terms of connectivity, efficiency and social value.
4. Improving rider amenities through updates to infrastructure, and design.
In considering changes to user behavior, the increased ridership of New York City and Boston that came after the implementation of various improvements. In Boston, that meant opening the city's data so that developers could use it to create apps that made public transport more convenient. The 1.4% overall increase in overall public transportation and the 3.5% increase in rail riders reflects an improvement in public perception that showed up in their behavior. From this, we can surmise that at least some of these riders made a decision not to drive, or ride in a taxi or ride-sharing car. Likewise, the increase of overall ridership in New York City after improvements such as new lines, cell phone outlets, and mobile ticketing reflects the positive influence of these changes on the public and their riding behaviors.
Promotion of the use of public transit in cities is currently focused on drawing people back with improvements. These improvements include renovating infrastructure, redesigning service, and implementing amenities. A key element of public transportation improvements also involves new uses of technology and partnerships with mobility sharing companies to better suit needs of the riding public. The success of improved public transportation programs in New York and Boston indicate that these approaches may serve best practice models for promoting transit.