Oct 28, 2014

It's already there!

This is one of the main messages of the eight SmartMove cooperating regions, which held their second European meeting and training seminar in Wittenberg, Germany, in October 2014. Public transport is often perceived by residents as worse than it actually is – thus simple tools such as direct marketing or small fixes in schedules can help boost passenger numbers.

Experts from the eight European regions met to discuss ways to encourage more passengers to use their local public transport services. As part of the EU-funded SmartMove project, a marketing campaign will start in spring 2015, with the aim of attracting new public transport customers to existing transport services.

“People very often have no idea where the next bus stop is, where they can purchase tickets, or how much they cost”, said project leader Oliver Roider of the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria. Such lack of knowledge is the first obstacle that stops people from using the available buses. In rural areas there is generally one car parked in front of each house — and it’s not an easy decision to leave the car behind and walk to the bus stop instead.

There are a number of innovative ideas that make it easier for people to reach their nearest bus stop. In Austria’s Waldviertel region, for example, people can travel to more remote bus stops by electric bicycle. In the Langadas district in Greece, call taxis deliver passengers to the nearest main bus lines.

Wittenberg (Germany), which hosted the meeting, can boast similar success. “Although the size of the population has decreased, the number of bus passengers has remained the same”, says Peter Franz, director of ISUP Ltd., a consultancy company that helped Wittenberg county to fine-tune the region’s public transport services. All that needs to be done is to keep reminding local residents about what's on offer. This might be done using creative methods such as guided walks to the nearest bus stop. The first step, however, is direct marketing. And this is exactly that will happen next spring. Another positive side effect is that bus operators will obtain feedback about the needs and wishes of their potential new customers.

When someone makes a comment about departure times, it's generally in the form of a complaint. However, such comments can also be seen as valuable input: if a bus departs just five minutes earlier, someone might be able to get to work on time by bus — and this means one more passenger.

SmartMove is definitely not about changing infrastructure. “That’s always complex and expensive”, points out Roider. Instead, the project will use simple tools to make further improvements to what is already available.

Source: Mitteldeutsche Zeitung

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