Bus passengers less averse to transfers than thought (Transportation Research)
A recent scientific study shows that the structure of bus networks can drastically shape demand.
Conventional wisdom states that transit riders are averse to transfers and that consequently bus networks should be designed to limit their number. Probably as a result of this belief, many real bus systems try to connect as many origins and destinations as possible without transfers, so they are usually composed of long, circuitous routes with redundant overlapping sections – and the resulting bus map is hard to understand. If coverage is extensive, many routes are needed. Economics then prevents an agency from populating all routes with sufficient buses to provide attractively frequent service. This low frequency and the complicated circuitous map discourage transfers, perpetuating the belief that people are averse to transferring. Not surprisingly, the percentage of bus trips that includes a transfer has been reported to be: 1.5% for Boston, 3% for New York, 13% for London, and 16% for Melbourne.
Experiment shows that:
- • A bus network designed for transfers can boost demand.
- • Bus transit passengers are much less averse to transfers than previously assumed.
- • Transfers on a partially reshaped network more than doubled, from 11% to 26%.
- • Transfers on a partially reshaped network exceed any on record by more than 10%.
The Nova Xarxa [New Network] in Barcelona was designed with a different paradigm. It was designed and deployed to cover the whole city on the belief that if a bus map is easy to understand, and has direct lines with frequent service and ubiquitous transfer points then the bus system would become more appealing, people would transfer more freely and become users of the network rather than its single lines. With this design paradigm, a city can be covered with fewer lines, which can be depicted on a simple map. The lines can in turn be economically populated with sufficient buses to deliver the high frequency required to encourage transfers. Could this work?