Bus transit can serve a greater area than rail, and so can attract greater total ridership than rail with comparable resources, particularly in areas with dispersed development/lower income. Researchers in Istanbul found that “Despite being one of the most important determinants of public transport demand, convenience is often neglected in transportation systems design and assessment of operational performance”. Bus systems ought not be neglected as they are critical to the connectivity and reliability of any transport network, often filling in the gaps between other forms of transportation and serving the most vulnerable members of society.
Busses should be optimised for comfort and to support a variety of passengers with a diverse set of needs and circumstances. Improving bus comfort can encourage more passengers to travel with buses. In-vehicle time, along with the load factor, is also a useful indicator when analysing passengers’ comfort perception.
Improving the comfort of the journey can be achieved through investing in the fleet, but also through optimising bus operations in general to facilitate smooth journeys, e.g.:
- minimising waiting time,
- investing in comfortable waiting rooms for long-distance buses,
- journey-planning apps and mobile ticketing to increase ease of use and facilitate social distancing
- comfortable and weather-resistant bus stops
- bus lanes to improve punctuality
- reduction of overlapping bus routes to improve waiting time and fuel efficiency in certain areas
A survey done in Hamburg found the most important thing to passengers is punctuality (92%) and frequency of services (80%). 95% of the interviewed passengers were very satisfied with riding the e-bus, compared to 52% for the conventional e-buses.
To bring passengers back, transit agencies must continuously monitor vehicle loads and consider changes to mitigate crowding. Taking other steps such as visible hygiene measures and mask-wearing can also help reassure passengers. Transit agencies should also focus on improving the quality of the ride itself: a smoother, quieter bus ride can reduce stress and attract riders.
Warsaw, Poland added five dedicated bus lanes in 2020 (although these do not officially count as a bus rapid transit system by definition).
The United Kingdom announced a GBP 5 billion boost for sustainable transport in 2020, with a focus on improving bus services by introducing simpler fares, thousands of new buses, improved routes and higher frequencies. Additionally, London is going completely cashless to speed up fare payments and reduce contact while Covid-19 still remains an issue – “Customers will not only benefit from a quicker, cheaper and more convenient method of paying their bus fare; it will also enable us to save millions of pounds each year – which will be reinvested in further improvements to the capital’s transport network.”