Blog post:

Passenger Information:  Does one size fit all?

Paul Everson | June 25, 2015

Tags: Passenger info |

As a provider of passenger information websites and Apps, Trapeze is constantly reminded of the choices available to the traveller. With the availability of Open Data, the number of alternatives grows daily.

However, it occurs to me how similar passenger information websites and Apps all are – there’s usually some content about the provider, a journey planner, schematics of the network and maps to orientate the traveller. Increasingly, there may also be real-time data, service disruption information and options for ticketing. So given there are many common features, we can assume that travellers have broadly similar requirements, right? Wrong!

There is, of course, no such thing as a typical traveller; but it is possible to generalise about different passenger ‘types’, each with their own needs. I think we can crudely categorise these passengers along a spectrum: with the “inexperienced traveller” at one end and the “commuter” at the other. 

So what does this mean for passenger information systems?  And how can we attempt to meet the information needs of these passengers?

To begin, let’s explore the characteristics of travellers.

Inexperienced travellers

I would characterise this group as having little knowledge of the transport network. Using public transport causes them anxiety. Their information needs, however would seem to be quite simple; providing answers to the following questions:

  • Which bus/train 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?

To ease their anxiety they are likely to research their journeys well in advance, using a small number of websites – including those of specific transport operators, or big name brands like Google. Brand is as important as content or accuracy of information to these travellers, because they will trust information from brands and company names they recognise. Indeed, we examine this point in more detail here.

These passengers don’t want optimum routes or even a large number of choices; they just want a predictable journey. They will use route maps and schematics to visualise the transport network. They are likely to pre-book tickets where possible, and rely on a printout of their itinerary, as well as information displays and at stop printed material, to provide reassurance that they are following their intended journey. 

In the event of disruption or a deviation from their itinerary, they are more likely to seek advice from a person, rather than technology.

So as technology suppliers, we need to let the user explore the transport network to find a suitable journey. Allow them to book tickets (using the same website) and provide a clear printout of the itinerary. There needs to be consistency between this data, and that provided along the route.

Irregular, confident traveller

Moving along the spectrum, this group of passengers aren’t regular users of public transport, but are nonetheless confident in their ability to navigate the network.

These passengers may still pre-plan their journeys, which serves to confirm their travel options. They are likely to recongnise the cost savings of pre-booking tickets, especially for the longer distance legs of their journey; but not be too concerned about tickets for the “last mile”.

Any anxiety is likely to be greater at the destination of the journey, so their pre-trip research will focus on identifying a solution they will later rely on. Their requirement will be based on ease of use, rather than brand or functionality.

I would suggest these passengers prefer a website, and don’t want the overhead of downloading an App for a small number of trips. Real-time and disruption information can be useful, but need to be well presented so as not to become a barrier to the use of public transport.

In the event of travel disruption, their confidence will allow them to use a mixture of technologies – personal devices and at stop/station technology – to identify a solution.

Passenger information, solutions for this group need to include location based services, mapping and mobile friendly websites. 

Regular commuter

Finally, we arrive at our expert users; the regular commuters. They will know the area well and have a strong working knowledge of bus operators, schedules, locations of bus stops and local geography.

They are likely to have researched alternative websites and apps, settling upon a specific one that suits their needs. They will be less interested in brand, and more on features.

These regular passengers have more intensive information requirements. They will be interested in active content – meaning information on disruptions, delays - and expect this to be pushed to them before and during their journey. They will expect the system to know their individual preferrences, and will be willing to set up an account to enable this. They will use their personal device for all interactions, barely noticing the at stop/station displays. 

Passenger information solutions for this group must consume relevant external data sources. Real-time and disruption information are expected, and Apps become the preferred channel over websites. The solution must not be overcomplicated, presenting complex data clearly, in order to address the passenger’s requirements.

Conclusion

There may well be no such thing as an average traveller; but clearly there are identifiable ‘types’. We can generalise about the shifting information requirements of these different travellers by plotting them along a spectrum: and tailoring our information solutions and services to these needs. To those of you delivering a passenger information solution – which type of traveller does your solution support?

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About Paul Everson

Paul Everson is Trapeze's Product Manager (Travel Information). He has been working in public transport for 18 years and joined Trapeze in 2008. Paul says: "My role within Trapeze is a mix of product and account management, which suits my interests and skillset. I find it exciting to be part of an industry that is constantly evolving".

Read more posts by: Paul Everson