The underestimated demand for public transport?

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, operations - crowding, operations - performance, operations - reliability, operations - capacity


Norway, crowding, public transport, capacity, punctuality, value of travel time


The urban areas are growing, in Norway as in rest of Europe. The main urban areas in Norway expect a population increase of about 30 per cent until 2030. This is a substantial challenge for the capacity of the transport system, especially in the peak period. In addition are the conclusions from most policy documents that the increased transport demand should be managed by public transport and walking/cycling. This is a very demanding target, and what are the consequences for a public transport system that already struggle with capacity constraints? The road traffic will also face the capacity constraints, with increased congestion, and possibly improved competition for public transport. In total will congested traffic and crowded vehicles become a more significant problem in future transport planning and there will be a need to discuss the implications on public transport demand. This paper will evaluate the effect of punctuality and crowding on passenger demand, based on a stated preference study in the Oslo area among 2300 respondents. This is a follow up from two earlier studies in 1992 and 2002, with both standard attributes (access time, in-vehicle time, waiting time, interchange) and additional attributes like punctuality and crowding. The main findings from this survey indicate more demanding customers, with a higher value of time and quality compared to the earlier studies. This is a natural impact of increased income level in the region. More important is the high valuation of punctuality and travel comfort. The passengers want to have a seat and they hate overcrowded vehicles and delayed departures! The value of travel time delays is 5 to 6 times higher than in-vehicle time. And the passengers are willing to pay between 2 and 3 euro per trip to avoid overcrowded vehicles. It is not possible, or cost efficient, to reduce all crowding in the vehicles. But the problem is that overcrowding and punctuality is neglected in most transport models when we investigate the effect on transport demand. For instance will priority measures, like bus lanes, be evaluated based on the travel time reduction and not increased punctuality and possible increased timetable frequency. And increased frequency, like new buses, will be evaluated based on reduced waiting time and not increased seating capacity and reduced crowding. There has been a significant increase in public transport demand in Norwegian cities during the last years, and even more than growth in the city of Oslo. In the other hand is the estimated effect of public transport measures in the most recent transport plans modest, even for rather strong measures. One reason might be that the transport plans introduce the wrong measures. Another reason might be that the transport models underestimate the demand for public transport. This paper will present a study from Oslo and Bergen indicating that the estimated effect of public transport measures can be more than doubled if we include more qualitative elements in the demand function. The demand function is based on the new value of time and quality from the Oslo study, with revealed preference data as scaling factor for overall demand, for two examples in Oslo and Bergen A comparison of the results with standard service elasticities indicates that: 1. In Oslo: The travel time elasticity increased from -0,28 with basic travel time effects, to -0,6 if we include punctuality and up to -0,98 with full synergy effect of increased timetable frequency 2. In Bergen: The service elasticity (vehicle km) increased from 0,3 to 0,46 if we include the new higher value of time from this survey and up to 0,52 if we include seating comfort This is very much in line with earlier studies of service elasticities. Both findings will depend on the level of crowding and punctuality in the area, and the value of time and quality among the public transport passengers. Oslo has a higher market share for public transport and more problems with punctuality and crowding compared to Bergen. The paper will present the value of time study and the demand model used for the comparison between cities and different market segment. And discuss the implication of urban growth on public transport demand models.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by AET, copyright remains with them.