Satisfaction with Public Transport Trips

Abstract: Continuous urban growth, environmental issues, competition for limited space, longer commuting distances as well as the need to promote equity and equality in society are the primary reasons that make the improvement of public transport (PT) services a key policy area in many countries across the globe. Travel satisfaction measures the perceived quality of the PT service and it is an important aspect that operators and PT authorities need to consider when improving the service offered.Desk research identified a number of important issues that previous studies had neglected. These knowledge gaps include the investigation of: (a) the evolution over time of the determinants (service attributes) of travel satisfaction, (b) the main determinants of travel satisfaction for different traveler segments and travel modes; (c) the most relevant part of door-to-door trips for different types of trip configurations; (d) the impact on the travel experience of weather, accessibility and proximity measures and built-environment characteristics of the first mile of the trip; (e) the [non]linear and [a]symmetric nature of the relationship between PT service attributes and overall travel satisfaction for different travelers and travel modes.The five papers included in this doctoral thesis present an array of approaches and methodologies aiming at increasing overall travel satisfaction with PT services while covering the knowledge gaps that previous research failed to address.Paper I, investigates the determinants of PT satisfaction and their evolution over time (2001-2013). The results show that: a) customer interface and operation, and at a lesser extent trip duration are the quality of service attributes that need to be prioritized; b) while satisfaction, in general, remains rather constant, relative importance fluctuates year after year. However, the QoSAs remain in the same quadrant of the priority map and thus the determinants of travel satisfaction stay invariable.Paper II, reduces the diversity of needs and priorities of Swedish travelers to 5 distinctive multi-modal travelers’ segments. Considering the importance attached to service attributes, these travelers’ segments exhibit geographical disparities and in between-groups overall similarity. Nevertheless, some noticeable differences can be observed. Service attributes’ importance levels reveal overall changes in appreciations and consumption goals over time. The more frequent PT user segments are more satisfied across the board and are characterized by a more balanced distribution of attribute importance while one of the groups - rural motorist commuters - is markedly dissatisfied with the service operation attributes.Paper III, first aims to understand how travelers combine trip legs’ satisfactions into an overall evaluation of their trip, and then to investigate the relative importance of satisfaction with access, main and egress segments for the entire door-to-door travel experience. A number of both normative and heuristic satisfaction aggregation rules are tested for different types of trip configurations. The results show that normative rules can better reproduce overall travel satisfaction than heuristic rules, indicating that all trip legs need to be considered when evaluating the overall travel experience. In particular, weighting satisfaction with individual trip legs with perceived trip leg durations yield the best predictor of overall travel satisfaction, especially when applying a penalty for each waiting time of 3 or 4 times in- vehicle or walking time.Paper IV, investigates the impact that built-environment, accessibility and weather characteristics from the access stage of the trip have on the overall travel experience. This is done in two geographical contexts (urban and peri-urban and rural) and with models regarding the last and the overall trips. The results indicate that perceptual and non-perceptual built-environment variables have a rather weak effect in the overall satisfaction. Safety feelings around PT stations/stops have an effect on the overall travel experience while safety feelings related to travelers’ neighborhood of residence have none. Accessibility results indicate that living in an area that is well-connected to all other areas, and in particular to the attractive ones, has a positive impact on the overall travel experience. Most of the tested weather conditions at the time of the start of the trip exert an impact on travel satisfaction.Based on the three-factor theory, Paper V classifies quality of service attributes regarding their influence (positive, negative or both) on overall travel satisfaction. The analysis is done for different traveler segments and travel modes and presented in the form of a series of three-level cubes. For a general travel, attributes that can mainly bring dissatisfaction when they are not well-provided are, staff and assistance and ticket accessibility (basic factor). These are followed by attributes that can provide both satisfaction and dissatisfaction in a similar way and depending on their performance level (performance factor). Performance attributes are related to operational aspects (trip duration and operation) and safety perceptions while traveling. Quality of service attributes that can mainly bring satisfaction when they are well provided are network and on-board conditions (exciting factor). Important differences are found in the attribute factor classification between travel modes and segments which indicates that a “one size fits all” approach is not recommendable to adopt.This set of papers can help authorities to better evaluate and cater for travelers’ needs by supporting the allocation of resources and prioritizing policy measures in the most impactful part of the door-to-door trip and to the most important factors.