Older and disabled people’s need and valuation of traveller information in public transport
planning - signage/information, policy - disability
The public transport system is complex and dynamic in the sense that it is never constant despite its somewhat rigid structure. Therefore travel by public transport in itself involves a certain extent of insecurity and the ability to travel safely and efficiently requires knowledge about the system. This knowledge can be acquired through experience and practice or through traveller information. In the near future old and disabled people will make up an increasingly larger proportion of the travellers in public transport. Many old and disabled people feel anxious and insecure before they travel by public transport. These feelings in themselves can sometimes be significant enough to prevent them from travelling even though the anticipated obstacles are not always severe enough to cause this result. In order to reduce their anxiety and insecurity old and disabled people therefore often start to plan their travel by public transport a long time in advance. This study explores old and disabled people’s traveller information needs and valuation of traveller information when planning a trip by public transport and discusses the potential of adequate traveller information to improve access to public transport. It was carried out in Sweden and is based on two surveys, a focus group interview study with old and disabled travellers and a comprehensive questionnaire study among old and disabled people. The focus group interviews were carried out with six groups of old and disabled travellers and explored what kind of traveller information was necessary to have access to in order to be able to travel by public transport. Using a grounded theory approach the focus group interviews resulted in a list of distinct demands of traveller information expressed in user terms. In order to validate the results a questionnaire based on the findings from the focus group interviews was sent to randomly chosen members of the three largest organisations for retired people and the nine largest organisations for disabled people in Sweden. A total of 4,500 questionnaires were evenly distributed among members of the twelve organisations. The response rate was 42 %. The tentative results show that old and disabled people do need more traveller information than what is offered today when planning a trip by train or by bus. The need for traveller information varies within the group of old and disabled people depending on what perspective is adapted. There is of course traveller information that is necessary for all old and disabled travellers regardless of physical capacity whereas other traveller information is primarily in the interest of relatively broad categories of disabled people. There is also traveller information that is only decisive to a very specific group of disabled people and the need increases the more specific the group is. However, this does not necessarily mean that this specific traveller information is not as decisive for all old and disabled people’s travel. It seems that it is only the intended use of the information that changes; on the aggregated level this decisive traveller information is used for comfort and security rather than as an absolute must for making the trip. Both uses however seem to be crucial for old and disabled people’s travel by public transport. The tentative conclusion is that the role of traveller information in old and disabled peoples travel by public transport is more important that what has been understood previously and that the use of traveller information in these groups differs from other groups of travellers. The theoretical context of the study also implies that traveller information has potential to improve access to public transport.
Waara, N. (2009). Older and disabled people’s need and valuation of traveller information in public transport. Paper from The Association for European Transport Conference held in Leeuwenhorst Conference Centre, The Netherlands on 5-7 October 2009.