Bus passenger views on value for money
22 October 2013
The cost of fares and the ease of buying tickets are key parts of the bus passenger ‘experience’. Our research in 2010 found that improving value for money was one of the top priorities for improvement while our work on bus passenger satisfaction shows that, on average, just over half of those surveyed were satisfied with value for money.
We wanted a better understanding of what passengers actually thought about value for money, what had the biggest influence on their perception and, importantly, what might help to improve things.
In particular we wanted to find out more about what 16-19 year olds thought, as they had lower satisfaction with value for money on buses. This is a big market for the bus industry so there is real benefit in knowing what makes them ‘tick’.
The key findings of this new research are listed below.
- The ‘core’ product is all important. When passengers buy a ticket they expect a punctual, reliable service and a seat in return – something that can easily be forgotten when looking at fares and ticketing initiatives. Focusing on performance will also improve perceptions of value for money.
- Better access to information is essential. Passengers relied on word of mouth and the bus driver for information on times, routes and fares. How much business is lost because potential passengers simply don’t know how to use the bus or because people can’t find the ideal ticket for their needs?
Passengers didn’t realise what ticket types existed, how they could buy them or where they could find out the information they needed. The research found a very strong desire for more centralised sources of information. For example websites, apps and notices on the bus. It also emphasised the importance of live updates on bus running – something also found in our research on disruption.
- The bus driver is the face of the company. One feature shone through all this work – the driver is responsible for far more than driving the bus. They are the main source of information on fares, the provider of information on delays and disruption, and a reassuring presence when it comes to personal security.
The driver’s attitude can make a big difference – so good training in customer service is essential.
- Younger passengers have very distinct needs. They rely on buses, need more flexibility (to balance work, education and seeing friends) and often take journeys spontaneously.
They also resent paying adult fares when they are still at school/college or on low (or no) incomes. They want this reflected in the fares that they pay – with adult fares only kicking in from 18 onwards.