Public transit agencies often struggle with service reliability issues; when a bus does not arrive on time, passengers become frustrated and may be less likely to choose transit for future trips. To address reliability issues, transit authorities have begun to provide real-time information (RTI) to riders via mobile and web-enabled devices. The objective of this research is to quantify the benefits of RTI provided to bus riders. The method used is a behavioral experiment with a before–after control group design in which RTI is only provided to the experimental group. Web-based surveys are used to measure behavior, feeling, and satisfaction changes of bus riders in Tampa, Florida over a study period of approximately three months.
The results show that the primary benefits associated with providing RTI to passengers pertain to waiting at the bus stop. Analysis of “usual” wait times revealed a significantly larger decrease (nearly 2 min) for RTI users compared to the control group. Additionally, RTI users had significant decreases in levels of anxiety and frustration when waiting for the bus compared to the control group. Similarly, they had significant increases in levels of satisfaction with the time they spend waiting for the bus and how often the bus arrives at the stop on time. Taken together, these findings provide strong evidence that RTI significantly improves the passenger experience of waiting for the bus, which is notoriously one of the most disliked elements of transit trips. The frequency of bus trips and bus-to-bus transfers were also evaluated during the study period, but there were no significant differences between the experimental and control groups. This is not surprising since the majority of bus riders in Tampa are transit-dependent and lack other transportation alternatives.
The primary contribution of this research is a comprehensive evaluation of the passenger benefits of RTI conducted in a controlled environment. Moreover, this research has immediate implications for public transit agencies – particularly those serving largely transit-dependent populations – facing pressure to improve service under tight budget constraints.
Brakewood, C., Barbeau, S., & Watkins, K. (2014). An experiment evaluating the impacts of real-time transit information on bus riders in Tampa, Florida. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 69, 409-422.