Measuring the performance of urban public transport in relation to public policy objectives

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - europe, mode - bus, mode - tram/light rail, infrastructure - bus/tram lane, economics - operating costs, policy - environment, policy - social exclusion, policy - equity, operations - performance, policy - sustainable


Urban public transport, Performance measurement, Public policies, Bus routes, Assessment, Funding


Urban public transport is currently facing increasing difficulties to obtain funding. While the priority is given to sustainable mobility in cities, the development of the supply leads to increasing operating costs, but the receipts from customers is insufficient to cover the expenses. Taking the example of French cities, the article analyses the reasons of the explosion of deficits. As the design of the network is in France under the full responsibility of Transport Authorities, the growth of the supply is often driven by public policy objectives (accessibility to the city for disadvantaged people, reducing car use and CO2 emissions) rather than by the demand. Even if the patronage starts again increasing since 2000, the global performance of the network is not satisfying, as evidenced by the rather weak rate of utilisation (on average 4 trips per Apart from the successful development of right-of-way systems (such as tramways), the extension of bus routes to lower density areas explains this mitigated result. It is suggested to develop a line-based performance measurement in order to favour an optimisation now essential to cope with public funding restrictions. Impact indicators are proposed and illustrated on the city of Montpellier.


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


Research in Transportation Economics Home Page: