Public Transit

Best Assets of Public Transportation: Comfort and Convenience

In a world where time does not seem to be enough, commuting is a part of the everyday routine that is usually catalogued as “wasted time”. Each one of us would rather spend a couple of hours on more productive and enjoyable activities than sitting in a vehicle, often times in a congested road. How could time spent on commuting turn into “well spent time”? If turned into an opportunity instead of a burden, how could it change the overall perception of public transportation?

Often times commuting is associated with stress, “wasted time” and uncomfortable situations, plus given the fact that there are only few tasks people can perform while riding the bus or driving, it is understandable that people want to spend as less time as possible on it.

Though taking the subway, the bus or driving do not generally entail a bad connotation, when compared with other activities this time could be spent on, mobility seems to lose. Always. Innovation is urgently required.

Concepts from around the world to improve the public transit experience

A way to improve public transportation perception and even attract some new passengers is by making the ride more comfortable. This may seem obvious for many, but is rather the exception and not the rule, especially in most developing countries. Overcrowded buses, old train wagons and unprotected bus stops may have more influence on a potential passenger than more technical characteristics, such as catchment area or average speed.

As well as comfortable, make it convenient. According to a public transit survey, one of the main reasons why people (around 40 percent of them) did not use public transit in spite of having a good accessibility is due to inconvenience.

Provide passengers with multiple options, make using public transport advantageous, a smart decision. It may not be a door-to-door service, but it can surely be faster, safer, and most important more adaptable to your lifestyle. It can allow you to focus all your attention on a more appreciated activity. Read or listen to a book, work, study or simply get things ready.

Even though a stable, reliable and of course high speed WIFI connection may seem as the solution, it is important to keep in mind that as human beings people need interaction with our surrounding environment. Some companies in multiple cities around the world offer a new option, “microtransit”. A service that promotes comfortable, convenient and reliable commuting.

While focusing on comfort and convenience, improvements on the trip experience could have a high impact on passenger’s decision making. Make commuting happen in a friendlier environment and turn it into more productive time.

How could your daily commuting trip become more comfortable and convenient? Share your opinions in the comment section.


Please note that this article expresses the opinions of the author and does not reflect the views of Move Forward.

10 Comments

  • John Niles
    25. November 2015 at 14:39

    In dense urban regions, it is very expensive to provide public transit with guaranteed seating for all passengers in peak commuting periods. Are there any good examples where this high level of comfort and convenience is routinely achieved? Certainly not where I live in Seattle with bus service to significant destinations such as Amazon, Microsoft, and University of Washington. The Seattle light rail subway opening an expansion segment a few months from now to the University of Washington main campus is designed to provide standing room only in peak periods in order for its ridership forecast to be met.

    The public transit I have been on in Latin America — Santiago, Sao Paulo, Rio, Mexico City, BA — has been very crowded in peak.

  • Jennifer Rivera
    26. November 2015 at 1:37

    Guaranteed seating for all passengers would be nice, still it is certainly not commonly seen nor perceived as efficient. Comfort could be achieved in many different ways, such as more beneficial “extras” for the daily commuter.

    “Micro-transit” startups are integrating diverse concepts and joining them with (the concept) of transit. Though exclusive and somehow “high end”, these kind of ideas may be leading the way to better mobility experiences.

  • Lluis A. Vidal
    28. November 2015 at 12:34

    Thanks Jennifer for your interesting article. Indeed, this is a very trendy topic today in LATAM. Despite this, I’m afraid I disagree with you about your conclusions. As a result of my experience and collaboration with SIBRT, especially their session “II Taller SIBRT Calidad de Servicio y Satisfacción de usuario”, the best assets for public transportation depend a lot on the particular case you’re studying. In fact, what highlights the most in user preferences is accessibility-reliability and secondly security in general. Adding to this, when it comes to LATAM public transport industry, social context of the region is a core element in the analysis and its urgent needs. We cannot study LATAM public transportation from a western or asian vision. Furthermore, what really matters is what the user considers is necessary to sort out and not the real deficiencies of the system [where sometimes they coincide]. Here there is an example: Bogotá one of the most dangerous capitals in LATAM with a high rate of this kind of events in Transmilenio [Bogotá BRT], personal safety has no relevance because violence is maybe accepted as a cultural fact. On the opposite site, Santiago de Chile is considered a peaceful spot in LATAM but happens the opposite, safety is the second most important feature for public transportation users. Therefore, a careful approach is very recommended when we talk about quality of service, public transport assets, etc.

    P.S: Comfort was the least important feature in all the cases. Unfortunately LATAM is not at this stage yet.

  • Pallavi Reddy
    1. December 2015 at 10:30

    Thank you for expressing your thoughts Lluis! I agree that transportation planners have to take a very careful approach when it comes to quality of service. Off course, as far as user preferences are concerned, accessibility, reliability and safety are the top most requirements, but I think to improve the overall efficiency of the transportation system, it is necessary to provide comfort and convenience together with the above mentioned three factors. One good example is: recently, “Transport for London” introduced WiFi at 250 Tube and Overground metro stations.

  • Jennifer Rivera
    1. December 2015 at 15:35

    Thank you for you comment! Comfort definitely means something different in each location. Still understanding it- whatever it may represent in each specific case – is the key. For some it is free WIFI, for other guaranteed seating, and in some cases security and safety. As you mention it, it is necessary to understand the context where any given public transportation system is located. Unfortunately, nowadays this practice is still the exception, not the rule. In Bogota personal safety is relevant and is DEFINITELY not accepted as a cultural fact. Every day thousands of trips are completed in TransMilenio but, as mentioned before, it necessary to understand the urban dynamics that currently converge in the city. Implementation delays of the SITP, lack and deteriorated infrastructure for non-motorised modes and increasing congestion do not leave many options.
    The results of a recently published survey confirm that almost 90% of TransMilenio users do not feel safe when using the system. If options were given and people would be able to really choose, the concept of efficiency would have to evolve, adopt comfort and adapt to local reality, in order for the system to operate at all.
    Public transportation is fascinating in how it mixes multiple aspects, from technology to social and cultural issues. In the same way planners should take advantage of the opportunity of experiencing it both as planners and users.

  • Lluis A. Vidal
    1. December 2015 at 15:48

    Thanks Pallavi for your reply. In deed, London and its public transportation system are between the best in the world, so there is their need to improve their service giving this extra service. Besides this, my focus was on developing countries.

  • Lluis A. Vidal
    1. December 2015 at 16:59

    Mmmmm…. Lots of things have been said hehe I like your reasoning but I’m afraid to say I do not quite agree. The SIBRT studies of quality of service are recent, quite serious, focused on LATAM context and the conclusions are clear. Maybe is just a difference between our points of view of the same issue. The SIBRT point of view, which I agree, takes users as a whole and not as individuals. When there are the unfortunately common budget constraints that we suffer as transport planners every day, decisions must be made to solve the most common of the demands. [The most common of user profile and his/her context must be taken into account too].
    Just in case, I’m not saying that comfort is not fundamental to provide a good service and, of course, convenience is necessary for the subsistence of public transport in the near future. But, despite that, I’m just saying that this is not the real context of our region and there are more urgent needs to be satisfied; like: increasing fleet to improve frequency and reliability, fleet management integrated software, personal safety, financial stability and effective anti-evasion systems,… In fact, speaking from my experience, these last years a bunch of fantastic ideas were wasted in Santiago de Chile because of not waiting the appropriate moment, losing a great opportunity and being discarded for the political authority [and wifi was an example :/ ].
    Just to finish and in reference to Bogotá example, I didn’t mean to say that citizens from Botogá are not worried about their personal safety or is not relevant for them or personal safety is not a very important social concern. Moreover, this is confirmed with the survey you referred to. But, despite that, the outcome of the SIBRT study came up with the fact that security is not the biggest concern for Transmilenio users. So, in conclusion, I did use this example just to show how important is a good understanding of context and needs, nothing else.

  • Lluis A. Vidal
    1. December 2015 at 17:00

    Mmmmm…. Lots of things have been said hehe I like your reasoning but I’m afraid to say I do not quite agree. The SIBRT studies of quality of service are recent, quite serious, focused on LATAM context and the conclusions are clear. Maybe is just a difference between our points of view of the same issue. The SIBRT point of view, which I agree, takes users as a whole and not as individuals. When there are the unfortunately common budget constraints that we suffer as transport planners every day, decisions must be made to solve the most common of the demands. [The most common of user profile and his/her context must be taken into account too].
    Just in case, I’m not saying that comfort is not fundamental to provide a good service and, of course, convenience is necessary for the subsistence of public transport in the near future. But, despite that, I’m just saying that this is not the real context of our region and there are more urgent needs to be satisfied; like: increasing fleet to improve frequency and reliability, fleet management integrated software, personal safety, financial stability and effective anti-evasion systems,… In fact, speaking from my experience, these last years a bunch of fantastic ideas were wasted in Santiago de Chile because of not waiting the appropriate moment, losing a great opportunity and being discarded for the political authority [and wifi was an example :/ ].
    Just to finish and in reference to Bogotá example, I didn’t mean to say that citizens from Botogá are not worried about their personal safety or is not relevant for them or personal safety is not a very important social concern. Moreover, this is confirmed with the survey you referred to. But, despite that, the outcome of the SIBRT study came up with the fact that security is not the biggest concern for Transmilenio users. So, in conclusion, I did use this example just to show how important is a good understanding of context and needs, nothing else.

  • rdohmeier
    10. December 2015 at 3:09

    I have commuted by car, bus, and now a 20 minute ferry where I am able to work on my laptop, and the ferry time is productive time I would pay for.

  • Pallavi Reddy
    14. December 2015 at 10:13

    Thank you for sharing you thoughts rdohmeier! To improve user’s productivity, what should public transit providers do?

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