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Public transit is an inexpensive alternative to owning a vehicle, but there are a variety of reasons why many people choose not to use it.

Public transit is a service that many municipalities make available to benefit the lives of those who reside in those cities. This includes citizens, tourists, and workers. Some people only have one option for how they travel. Mode captivity refers to people who have no choice in the type of transportation they use. Captive transit riders have no transportation options other than transit, and captive auto users require a vehicle for jobs and travel. Getting everyone to shift their transit habits is not realistic, or possible, so the focus is on creating a transit system that appeals to non-captive auto users who may decide to use public transit some or all of the time.

How can transit support different trip types?

It’s no surprise that different people use transit different ways for different reasons. It is difficult to match transit demand with the service provided because much of transit use is unpredictable. For example, it is difficult to isolate one area or consistent time period for where and when people go shopping, or engage in social or recreational activities. The flexibility required to match the demand for these needs is not easily provided by transit outside of densely built urban centres.

Travel to work and school is a type of demand that is well served by transit since it exhibits strong daily or weekly patterns. This type of travel is predictable in both time and space, and because of this, is much easier to match the demand with service. Travel to school is also often tied to transit captivity, as students under the age of 16 are non-auto drivers, and post-secondary students often choose cost-effective transportation options due to a limited income. Secondary students are often served by specialized school routes, and post-secondary students benefit from a subsidized pass, the Universal Transit Pass or UPass.

How do operational aspects affect ridership?

There are several operational aspects that positively impact transit ridership: minimizing passenger wait times; enhancing service hours; increasing bus frequency; and improving reliability. By making improvements in these areas, ridership generally grows because the value of taking transit has increased in reaction to the development of better service.

How does customer experience impact ridership?

Hard attributes or physical attributes such as  reliability, frequency, and trip duration are important in determining transit demand and satisfaction levels in Edmonton. These factors most directly influence people’s decision to take transit over other means of transportation. Soft attributes or perceived attributes aren’t as strong in attracting new riders, but are equally important as hard attributes in retaining ridership. Access to information, time, comfort, and security were the top soft attributes that are important to Edmontonians.

How do land use and proximity of transit facilities affect the likelihood of taking transit?

As a general rule, the closer a person’s home is to a transit facility, the more likely that person is to access the transit system by walking or cycling. An individual whose workplace is within close proximity of an LRT station is more likely to take the LRT to work than drive. Someone who wants to go shopping is more likely to take transit if the mall has an integrated transit station.

How does price impact ridership?

Price can have a direct impact on mode shift. That is, if the cost of driving increases, the more likely someone is to seek out cheaper alternatives. 

Going Forward

Part of the task ahead of us is to determine what choices we need to make to achieve Edmonton’s goals for transit, and how we should measure them. What’s most important to you in a transit system?

For More Information

Transit Strategy Project Team

Online Contact 311 Online

In Edmonton: 311
Outside Edmonton: 780-442-5311

TTY 780-944-5555

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