Sunday, April 25, 2010

Belgian study predicts a big swing to public transport if it was free & improved quality.

A recently updated review of this study (published 19 April 2010) reveals that at least 22% of current car users commuting in and out of Brussels each day, would switch to public transport if it was free and frequent and of higher quality - including capacity, accessiblity & connections.
The study also identifies the mobility policies of companies that need to be 'adjusted' to favour public transport; eg - limiting parking privileges and the use of company cars.
This 22% modal switch would have a big impact on reducing chronic traffic congestion and associated problems. How long would it take for this percentage to increase substantially after the advantages of free, quality public transport were proven in practice? it did in the Belgium city of Hasselt where there has been a jump of over 800% in passenger numbers and traffic congestion is just a bad memory, since free buses were introduced in 1997.

The full report is available via the link below this summary.
[Fare-FreeNZ editor]

Commuting to Brussels: how attractive is ‘free’ public transport?


According to a 2001 study, 63% of people who commute to Brussels travel by car, whereas 17% travel by train. The mobility challenge is considerable given the fact that 360,000 people commute to Brussels on a daily basis. Furthermore, our capital city has one of the highest motorisation rates in Europe, with one vehicle for less than every two inhabitants. In recent years, Belgian cities have begun providing free or reduced-cost public transport. The question arises as to whether the implementation of such a system could help solve some of the problems in Brussels.

In the 37th edition of Brussels Studies, Astrid De Witte and Cathy Macharis (VUB) focus on the factors which determine the transport mode choices made by commuters who travel by train and by car, and on the influence of price.
The study shows that various factors related to access to transport modes have an influence on their use. Thus, having a car at one's disposal – and moreover, a company car – significantly reduces the likelihood of travelling by train. Home-work distance also plays a role, with the car being significantly more popular for trips under 30km. Finally, the level of income also has an influence on transport mode choice: as income rises, so does car use. Similarly, reimbursement of road travel costs by the employer strongly encourages car use.
Other factors exist which are related to the personal characteristics of commuters. For instance, civil servants travel by train more, and people with a high level of education are more likely to travel by car. Furthermore, it was observed that train use diminishes with age.
Finally, factors related to the experiences and habits of users were also pointed out. It is noteworthy that train and car users mentioned the same positive reasons for their choice: speed, price and user friendliness. The importance of habits should also be mentioned: after a few years, only drastic changes could prompt a user to modify his or her behaviour in terms of mobility.
In such a context, would free public transport provision be enough for a vast modal shift to take place? Only 9% of those who commute by car state that they would certainly change their transport mode if public transport were free. The remaining 91% mention many obstacles, leading us to believe that transport policies are not just a matter of fare policies. Better connections and increased speed and accessibility of trains are demanded by car users.
In order to reach the Iris 2 plan target for a 20% reduction in car traffic in Brussels by the year 2020 (with respect to 1999 figures), it is necessary to consider all of the factors which determine the modal choice of commuters.
Publication date
Project finished

To read the full report - go to this link:

Document type
Urban Policy > Transport and infrastructure
Public transport

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