How to Get More People to use Public Transportation
Where to Begin
As more and more people move into major population areas, and as more of the people in those areas drive their own private vehicles to and from work, it puts a heavy strain on the local infrastructure. It can cause traffic congestion, increases the probability of vehicular accidents, and causes many people to stress out; which can lead to everything from health issues to road rage.
To combat these issues, their needs to be a way to encourage people to use public transportation, like the bus or commuter train. This would help reduce the use of organic fuels, decrease stress and other health related issues, and could help the consumers save money on the cost of fuel and vehicle maintenance.
But, how do you get people to ride public transportation? I have tackled this question from three different areas: leadership, technology, and society. If these points where somehow brought together in such a way to show the benefits to the consumer, then the consumer may just start riding public transportation more often.
So, how do we get there? How do we get to the point of a very large majority of consumer's riding public transportation? Well, here is my idea on how to accomplish this lofty goal, and it breaks down like this.
Lead by example - Everyone associated with the push to get the public to ride public transportation more, should also ride public transportation. No exceptions! If you are unwilling to ride it, then why should anyone else ride it?
Show (and keep showing) the benefits - Constantly remind people of the benefits of riding public transportation by offering simple promotions, like a refrigerator magnet with the number on it to find out a bus schedule. How about printing little known facts about public transportation for the public to take advantage of, to enhance their riding experience.
Do not treat anything you implement for public transportation as if it is for the poor. We maybe poor by your standards, but we do not need you to rub our faces in it. If you do not understand this point, then you do not need to be in the leadership role.
Above all, the leadership needs to realize that the population is NOT STUPID! Do not make decisions to produce a cost saving item with no real value to the consumer because you think that the consumer is TOO STUPID to notice it. We are smarter than you think!
Who needs to come together to make the leadership component happen?
Local business owners
Local transit authority
A committee representing the consumer (these individuals cannot be part of government, nor a business owner, and does not work in any capacity for the transit authority)
The consumer needs to be informed on what decisions are being made. Maybe a website updated weekly.
Without transparency, you may as well not do this. It would be a waste of the leadership's time and the consumer's time if it is not clear what the leadership is doing. Transparency becomes a necessity for this to work.
In the leadership role, the above is a rough cut of what I think the leadership should be, in order to be effective at creating and getting the public more involved in city transportation.
Comfortable spacing - Do a size survey for each route to determine the seat spacing. Do not use the national general population size to determine seat spacing. That national size, may not exist on my route.
Green energy transportation - OK. We have excepted the idea of energy saving green technologies. So implement them already. Just pick the right ones for the consumer's needs. And let the consumer's have a 50% choice in selecting the correct technologies. The other 50% should reside with the transit authority.
When it is all said and done, you can only go so far with technologies. No one has to invent the flying bus, just make the bus more in line with what people can experience in their own cars. Think about it, as a public transportation leader, you want the public to ride the buses. So, what is in a car that is not in a bus? Or another way of thinking about it is, what does a car have that you can easily add to a bus, that would attract more riders?
End of work day blues - The need to get out of town after work and back to familiar surroundings is high for many of us. Driving our personal vehicles is a good way for us to get right to our door-step. Create a system that replaces the “personal vehicle to door-step” scenario and you will get a ton of consumers who will consistently use that system.
Business owners, if you want us to stay in town and spend money, then you have to work with the transit authority to create some type of after hours transportation schedule. For many, the “personal vehicle to door-step” scenario is a large crowd pleaser. Just make it happen. Come up with a way to get the consumer as close to their front door as possible without offering door-2-door service.
Peak times vs non-peak times (over crowding)
During rush hour, public transportation can become very crowded. Look for ways to limit over-crowding on buses and trains that will treat the population evenly.
Diseases - No one wants to catch a cold or the flu or hair lice (to name a few) from someone on public transportation. There are a small number of people that do not know enough to stay home when they are sick. Address the sick issues with the drivers, with laws, with public health services, and with business owners to keep sick people at home.
- Security - No matter what is done, if people do not feel safe riding public transportation, they will not ride it.
Infrastructure - Encourage small business owners to supply rides from door-to-bus and bus-to-door services. This may even be a way for local taxi companies to expand their services (provided they use green technologies).
Society (the public) is a tricky area. This is because in a large city, like Chicago, different culture groups cluster together to form micro-cultures within a large city. And as many of you know, cultural differences can be as diverse as day and night. Now I am not suggesting that buses be built or modified based on culture, but analyzing the differences can be a way to better understand the people riding the buses. It can be a way for a city to bring people together.
By creating the procedures, methods, laws, and awareness as discussed above, consumers may find it more convenient to ride public transportation in very large numbers.
I cannot let you leave without suggesting several changes that may get the public more into riding city transportation. Here is my idea for buses; ... If you look at the gadget sector of the market; when new gadgets come along, many people jump on these things as if there will be no tomorrow.
Why not modify buses to incorporate some type of new gadget into it that the paying public can use. For example, why not modify a bus to deliver a connection to each seat for either Internet activity, or music, or tv. Make it so that people must have their own headgear and device to hear/see it (most people already have some type of compatible device built into their cell phone).
Now the morning and evening commute is no longer boring. Just remember to announce when you have reached a major destination (like, “now arriving downtown”) so that people will not miss their stop.
Or, how about on the Friday commute home from work, the transit authority could offer a special bus (per route) call the party bus. This bus would feature a theme for those that want to ride it. The transit authority would not have to do anything special to the bus, no additional fuel would be needed, and yet the transit authority could charge triple the price. This “party bus” could run a short excursion to a specific place (not to far of its route), stay their for an hour or two, then drop the people off on the normal route.
What is your idea of enhancing or modifying a bus system to make it more appealing to commuters? Let me know by leaving a comment below. I will post all (decent) comments, good or bad, at the bottom of this article.