Where Is My Bus?

Abstract:

In order to attract more choice riders, transit service must not only have a high level of service in terms of frequency and travel time but also must be reliable. Although transit agencies continuously work to improve on-time performance, such efforts often come at a substantial cost. One inexpensive way to combat the perception of unreliability from the user perspective is real-time transit information. The OneBusAway transit traveler information system provides real-time next bus countdown information for riders of King County Metro via website, telephone, text-messaging, and smart phone applications. Although previous studies have looked at traveler response to real-time information, few have addressed real-time information via devices other than public display signs. For this study, researchers observed riders arriving at Seattle-area bus stops to measure their wait time while asking a series of questions, including how long they perceived that they had waited.

The study found that for riders without real-time information, perceived wait time is greater than measured wait time. However, riders using real-time information do not perceive their wait time to be longer than their measured wait time. This is substantiated by the typical wait times that riders report. Real-time information users say that their average wait time is 7.5 min versus 9.9 min for those using traditional arrival information, a difference of about 30%. A model to predict the perceived wait time of bus riders was developed, with significant variables that include the measured wait time, an indicator variable for real-time information, an indicator variable for PM peak period, the bus frequency in buses per hour, and a self-reported typical aggravation level. The addition of real-time information decreases the perceived wait time by 0.7 min (about 13%).

A critical finding of the study is that mobile real-time information reduces not only the perceived wait time, but also the actual wait time experienced by customers. Real-time information users in the study wait almost 2 min less than those arriving using traditional schedule information. Mobile real-time information has the ability to improve the experience of transit riders by making the information available to them before they reach the stop.

Citation:

Watkins, K., Ferris, B., Borning, A., Rutherford, S., and Layton, D. (2011) “Where Is My Bus? Impact of mobile real-time information on the perceived and actual wait time of transit riders.” Transportation Research Part A 45. 839–848.

Link:

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