Regional public transport : The balancing act of service planning

Abstract: This thesis addresses the demand for more knowledge regarding regional public transport (between urban areas or to and from rural areas). More specifically, the aim is to develop a better understanding of the effects of different service planning decisions in terms of different trade-offs and their impacts on the overarching objectives of public transport provision. The studied trade-offs concern, for example, stop spacing in rural areas and the distribution of departures between peak hours and periods of lower travel demand.The thesis includes four research papers with different orientations relative to the overarching aim. The first paper is a literature review that explores preferences in regional public transport and how different quality attributes influence modal choice, demand, and customer satisfaction. The other three papers contain in-depth studies of some regional rail, coach, and bus services in the southern Swedish region of Scania, employing different research setups and statistical analyses to enable detailed examination of some important aspects of the service planning trade-offs.The results suggest that the trade-offs can be more complex than they may seem. For instance, stop spacing is commonly debated and assessed as a trade-off between travel time and spatial coverage. However, the results of this thesis demonstrate that stop spacing on regional bus services is not so much about travel time as it is about reliability. This is particularly evident for rural bus stops where buses rarely need to stop to pick up or drop off passengers. Also, the coverage aspect of the trade-off is complex, as higher service quality extends the catchment areas around the stops, not least by increasing the use of bicycles and cars as access modes.Regarding the distribution of departures between peak and off-peak periods, the results of this thesis show that reasonable off-peak service levels are valuable not only for providing possibilities to access activities beyond school and work, but also for attracting new patronage. Despite low patronage levels on some off-peak departures, such departures may contribute substantially to the overall patronage.The main contribution of the thesis is twofold. First, it sheds light on the balancing act that public transport service planning entails. Second, it highlights the regional perspective and shows that the differences between local and regional public transport affect the trade-offs that exist at the core of service planning.