What Do Passengers Do During Travel Time? Structured Observations on Buses and Trains

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - australasia, mode - bus, mode - rail, ridership - behaviour


behaviour on public transport, observations, looking out, texting, sleeping, talking, listening


Structured observation is one way to assess how public transport passengers actually use their travel time. This study reports on 812 adult passengers in Wellington, New Zealand. Researchers recorded passenger characteristics and behavior over a 4-minute period, on a range of routes and times, using 12 pre-set codes. Most passengers (65.3%) were “looking ahead/out the window” at some point in the observation period, more on buses than on trains. About one-fifth of all passengers observed were seen reading, more on trains. Other activities included listening on headphones, talking, texting, and sleeping/eyes closed. Activities were compared on the basis of gender, age group, mode, and time of day. Comparisons are made with recent observational and survey studies, with discussion of both methods and results.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by the Journal of Public Transportation (NCTR)