How can we promote new public transport?


Aoife Ahern

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

planning - marketing/promotion


Concerns about the impact of the car on the environment, on quality of life and on congestion levels in towns and cities have led to increased recognition amongst transport planners and engineers that alternatives to the car must be promoted. This means that public transport has to form a core part of any sustainable transport system. One form of public transport that is seen as an alternative to the car intowns and cities is light rail. However, there are problems involved with promoting these systems to members of the public and in anticipating the impact that they will have on people’s travel behaviour. In the past, forecasts of the patronage figures on these systems have been much higher than the actual patronage figures achieved. Transport planners and engineers must find a way to make these systems more successful. One way in which to do this is to discover what the public want from the systems and what factors influence their decisions to use them. This paper describes a series of interviews carried out with potential users of Croydon Tramlink and a survey carried out of potential users of Luas in Dublin. It outlines the attitudes of these users to the two light rail systems and highlights the concerns they held about using the systems. The interviews and questionnaires in both studies were analysed using an attitudinal theory called the Theory of Planned Behaviour, which lent itself to allowing a greater understanding of the motivational factors behind people’s reasons for choosing modes and offered some interesting insights on the impact that publicity from the relevant authorities had on people’s decisions to use the new public transport systems. The paper shows that people were in general very unimpressed by the promotion of the systems and in some cases it had a negative impact on their decisions to use them. The conclusions of the paper have some interesting implications for transport policy. The most relevant factors involved in people’s decisions are outlined. Suggestions are made on how the lessons learned about people’s decision-making processes regarding new light rail systems could be used to more effectively promote future public transport systems. In addition, the paper describes how using attitudinal theories, such as the Theory of Planned Behaviour in analysing people’s modal choices, can help the authorities to understand those choices and hence promote the use of new public transport.


Permission to pubish abstract given by AET.