Purpose-driven public transport: creating a clear conversation about public transport goals


Jarrett Walker

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

land use - planning, policy - equity, mode - mass transit


Transit, Trade off analysis, Strategies, Strategic planning, Social justice, Social equity, Ridership, Public transit, Public participation, Public involvement, Priorities, Patronage (Transit ridership), Objectives, Mass transit, Local transit, Local participation, Goals, Fairness (Social equity), Equity (Justice), Comparison studies, Citizen participation, Alternatives analysis


Public transport faces an increasingly intense conflict between patronage goals and coverage goals. Broadly speaking, patronage goals seek to maximize patronage of all types, while coverage goals lead to the provision of service despite low patronage - to achieve social inclusion objectives for example. The conflict between these goals follows inevitably from the underlying structure of the public transport product, including both its costs and geometry. The tradeoff between patronage and coverage is the type of value-judgment that elected officials are paid to make. The paper presents a means of quantifying the tradeoff, to facilitate public discussion and decisions on how to balance these priorities. These strategies are designed to ensure that the decision about how to balance social versus patronage goals is made consciously rather than inadvertently, with a clear understanding of the consequences of the choice.


Journal of Transport Geography home Page: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/09666923