Assessing systematic sources of variation in public transport elasticities: Some comparative warnings

David A. Hensher


There is an extensive and continually growing body of empirical evidence on the sensitivity of potential and actual users of public transport to fare and service levels. The sources of the evidence are disparate in terms of methods, data collection strategy, data paradigms, trip purpose, location, time period, and attribute definition. In this paper, we draw on a data set we have been compiling since 2003 that contains over 1100 elasticity items associated with prices and services of public transport, and car modes. The focus herein is on direct elasticities associated with public transport choice and demand, and the systematic sources of influence on the variations in the mean estimates for fares, in-vehicle time, and headway obtained from 319 studies. The major influences on variations in mean estimates of public transport elasticities are the time of day (peak, all day vs. off-peak), the data paradigm (especially combined SP/RP vs. revealed preference (RP)), whether an average fare or class of tickets is included, the unit of analysis (trips vs. vkm), specific trip purposes, country, and specific-mode (i.e., bus and train) in contrast to the generic class of public transport.