How incident alerts increase ridership

The Trapeze Team | March 23, 2017

While it is widely understood that poor information hurts public transport ridership, our industry has historically failed to deliver reliable information when incidents cause services to deviate from the schedule. This is perfectly understandable, since traditional information systems – from print to real-time and even journey planners – break down when planned services are affected.

However, this is a problem worth solving, since improvements here could dramatically improve confidence in public transport. Let’s consider two different passenger types to see how incident alerts increase ridership.

Caroline: The Commuter

As a commuter, Caroline is the lifeblood of the public transport network. She knows the area, bus operators, locations of bus stops and local geography. She even knows the times of the bus she needs to get, and how long she will wait for any required connections. Caroline already knows her travel plans so she doesn’t even need to conduct journey plans or check service schedules.

What Caroline requires more than anything else, is information regarding disruptions and delays. She expects her transport provider to know her plans and to proactively push out information regarding changes to her intended journey. Should a change occur before her departure, Caroline expects this information to be communicated so that she can make alternate plans before she has even left home. Changes while on the move are also critical, enabling Caroline to adapt in real-time, reaching her destination with minimal delay.

Delivery of incident data is central in order to retain Caroline’s faith in public transport: by ensuring the impact of delays is kept to a minimum, Caroline never feels the need to explore other forms of transport. Even better, proactive provision of information actually enhances Caroline’s sense of attachment to public transport and her local providers, nudging her towards the role of a true advocate who promotes her experience to those in her social circles.

For Commuters:

  • Maintain and expand ridership
  • Increase confidence in services
  • Promote advocacy

Nigel: The New Passenger

While commuters like Caroline are the lifeblood of a public transport infrastructure, new passengers like Nigel are equally important, since they represent future growth. While services to core passengers are critical for maintaining the current performance, it is only by attracting new passengers that we can truly expand the reach of public transport.

Nigel has little knowledge of the transport network, so the experience causes him anxiety. His information needs are simple but thorough (Which bus do I need? Where do I find it? When does it leave? Where do I get off? What ticket should I buy? How much will it cost?).

Nigel researches journeys well in advance; he doesn’t require optimum routes or large numbers of choices; what he wants is predictability. Having pre-planned a journey, Nigel is likely to be thrown by any deviations to his itinerary. However, this can be alleviated through clear, concise alerts delivered to him directly. If these alerts are received in advance of departure – enabling Nigel to take on board any revisions – he is likely to still undertake the journey, and be comfortable doing so.

Information alerts enable Nigel to have confidence in his public transport journey, even in the face of disruption. This is extremely important, since a good or bad experience has a profound impact on his likelihood to use public transport in the future. And because (until now) Nigel has only rarely used public transport, encouraging him to become a regular user or commuter has a clear impact on ridership levels.

For New Passengers:

  • Expand ridership
  • Provide reassurance
  • Transition to regular user (or commuter)


While we have chosen two extreme examples here, incident alerts have a profound impact on all public transport users. Effective, proactive delivery of targeted information enables all bus users to make more informed transport decisions, thereby reducing delays and inconvenience, and increasing their likelihood to choose the bus next time they travel.

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About The Trapeze Team

The Trapeze Team are here to bring you news and information from Trapeze Group (UK) and the public transportation industry.