Conventional Timetable & Service Information

This measure was provided by INSTITUTE FOR TRANSPORT STUDIES (ITS) in 2014 under the CH4LLENGE project, financed by the European Commission.


It might seem inconceivable that timetable and service information would not be provided to inform passengers about public transport services.  A few exceptions might be services which are extremely frequent. So we are less concerned with questions of whether forms of timetable and service information are provided, and more about the quality of that information, the formats in which it is offered, and hence the resources and effort that should go into providing the information.  

Theory on the role of information considers that as rational people, travellers will locate and use information to make rational choices. As such, assuming that travellers’ interests are serviced by public transport, adequate provision of timetable and other service information will prompt behaviour change towards increasing use of public transport.  However empirical work  suggests a more complex role for transport. Timetable and other service information is sought by those who have decided already to travel by public transport. However travel behaviour is strongly influenced by habit, and so those who tend to use private motor vehicles will have only slight propensity to change their travel behaviour solely as a result of provision of public transport information.  If presented in formats which are accessible to different people, public transport information can have a role in tackling social exclusion by providing understanding of how to access social and economic activities by public transport. 

Introduction

Timetable and service information is a basic resource for passengers in planning journeys; in thinking about the viability of a particular journey, in limiting uncertainty about factors associated with travel by public transport, such as when the next bus is due; where one should position oneself on a platform in order to get on the right part of a train; how to transfer between services.  By comparing timetables to actual running information, timetables form a part of information needed to assess how well a public transport operator is doing in terms of punctuality and reliability.

Terminology and description

Here, timetable and service information is taken to be information about planned running of public transport services. This most obviously will involve information about when services run from stations and stops, and which platform or stop a particular service will run from. This information can also include:

  • Expected levels of crowding on a given service (for instance telling people which peak time services tend to be over-crowded).
  • The alignment of train carriages along a platform, so that people know where to stand to get on the train at the right point - for instance if they have a seat booked on a particular carriage, if they have pushchairs or bicycles.
  • On the carriage or bus, there may be pre-programmed information telling passengers what the next stop will be.

Timetables have a role alongside real time passenger information in providing passengers with information about the status of services they may be planning to use. This can be presented electronically at stations, remotely (for instance online, or through social and conventional media), and through other media as shown below:

01

Why introduce information of timetables and service running?

There is debate about the nature and strength of the influence and value of timetable and other public transport service information.  Lyons (2006), in a review of the purposes and impact of travel information sets out a prominent theoretical assumption about its influence:

“A key presumption is that travellers are rational and objectively weigh up the costs and benefits of the different travel options before them. It is acknowledged that they may often do so with incomplete or imperfect knowledge about these options. Thus if information about the true costs and benefits is revealed it is anticipated that travellers would choose the most cost effective option where ‘cost’ is seen to encompass factors including comfort, convenience, financial cost, journey duration and reliability (Ortuzar and Willumsen, 1994).” (Lyons 2006, p.201)

So, Lyons argues, it is assumed that provision of travel information can have a range of benefits to individual passengers, to service providers and to transport planners. For instance, if they are informed about which services are likely to be crowded, people may decide to travel at a different time this reducing congestion on public transport (Lyons 2006, p.201). As Lyons also notes, provision of travel information (including timetables and service information) may contribute to mitigating social exclusion if it means that people become aware of possibilities of employment, services and so on (Lyons 2006, p.201). Further, it is anticipated that, providing public with information about public transport services, may contribute to increasing use of these modes rather than private motor vehicles (Kenyon and Lyons 2003).   

However empirical evidence suggests a more complex relation between information provision and travel behaviour than that suggested by the theoretical assumptions.  Information on public transport services is found to be both used and useful for people who are already considering travelling by public transport (Farag and Lyons 2010, 897).  The level of use and the influence the information has varies according to socio-demographic factors (Farag and Lyons 2012, 82) and the extent to which the specific journey is unfamiliar to the passenger (Lyons 2006, p. 205).  Significantly though, it is claimed that decisions about what mode of transport to use are strongly influenced by habit, and so “consulting information is influenced by propensity to consider using public transport rather than vice-versa as has hitherto been implicitly assumed by many involved in the provision of transport and information services” (Farag and Lyons 2010, p. 897). Kenyon and Lyons (2003, p. 1) suggest force of habit might be upset and some mode shift could occur if drivers are given information about public transport services at the point at which they seek information on journeys, even if they have not asked about public transport options (2003, p. 1).

In relation to mitigating social exclusion, provision of adequate information about available public transport is claimed to be one factor which will contribute to enabling people to access economic and social activities and opportunities (Lyons 2006, p. 201). However information may not be sufficient, and factors including confidence about travelling will also be relevant (se SEU 2003).

The value of timetable and other service information will also depend on whether it is intelligible to the public. On one hand this requires presentation and explanation in a form that can be easily understood.  To mitigate social exclusion associated with lack of information about transport services, particular consideration should be given to providing information in alternative formats - for instance large print, braille, different languages, information accessible to people with dyslexia (Lamont et al. 2013 ).

Demand impacts

Responses and situations
Response Reduction in road traffic Expected in situations
Information on congestion on public transport may prompt people to alter travel time.
Information on congestion or alternative routes  may prompt people to alter travel.
Information on congestion on public transport may prompt people to alter travel.
Awareness of travel options may increase travel.
Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use.
Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use.
Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and encourage people to move closer to public transport services.
= Weakest possible response = Strongest possible positive response
= Weakest possible negative response = Strongest possible negative response
= No response

Short and long run demand responses

Demand responses
Response - 1st year 2-4 years 5 years 10+ years
Information on congestion on public transport may prompt people to alter travel time.
  Information on congestion or alternative routes  may prompt people to alter travel.
  Information on congestion on public transport may prompt people to alter travel time.
  Awareness of travel options may increase travel.
  Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use.
  Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use.
  Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and encourage people to move closer to public transport services.
= Weakest possible response = Strongest possible positive response
= Weakest possible negative response = Strongest possible negative response
= No response

Supply impacts

To the extent that public transport service information encourages increased use of public transport and a shift from motor transport or other modes, the information can help create conditions which would encourage public transport operators to increase (or attempt to increase) supply of services. Further, to the extent that information prompts passengers to avoid peak services, or to make use of previously under-used services, the information might help sustain public transport services by improving their efficiency (see Lyons 2006).

Financing requirements

Timetable and service running information is required by operators regardless of how they share this information with passengers. Provision of information to passengers will have associated costs in two major respects.  First is the personnel time required to consider what information should be presented, and how it can be presented in accessible forms. This is unlikely to be a one-off matter, and passenger feedback can be used to refine and develop information available. The second major type of cost is associated with the formats in which information is presented. This can include printed and electronic information involving personal and public screens.  Finance could be supported by local authorities on the basis that information can contribute to social good by supporting social inclusion, and can help limit problems associated with motor traffic if it increases mode shift from motor vehicles to public transport. Finance may also be provide by the operators, either being offset by increased revenue if passenger numbers are increased or services run more efficiently. Private, third party, information providers may also offer services, although this could raise questions about ownership of information.

Expected impact on key policy objectives

Contribution to objectives

Objective

Scale of contribution

Comment

  Information on congestion on public transport may prompt people to alter travel. If information prompts mode shift from private motor vehicles to public transport then this may reduce road congestion.
  Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and so limit damage to liveable streets associated with high car use.
  Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and so limit pollution and noise  associated with car use.
  Information on public transport services is one factor needed to overcome problems of accessibility to social and economic activities and opportunities.
  Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and so limit collisions by private motor vehicles.
  Evidence on relationship between economic growth and transport is weak.
  Information provision may increase fare revenue and improve efficiency of services.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Expected impact on problems

Contribution to alleviation of key problems

Problem

Scale of contribution

Comment

Congestion

Information on congestion on public transport may prompt people to alter travel. If information prompts mode shift from private motor vehicles to public transport then this may reduce road congestion.

Community impacts

Information on public transport services is one factor needed to overcome problems of accessibility to social and economic activities and opportunities. Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and so limit damage to liveable streets associated with high car use.
Environmental damage Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and so limit pollution and noise  associated with car use.
Poor accessibility Information will not reduce poor accessibility itself, however it can help reduce inaccessibility associated with lack of knowledge of how to make given journeys.
Social and geographical disadvantage Information  can help reduce inaccessibility associated with lack of knowledge of how to make given journeys.
Accidents Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and so limit collisions by private motor vehicles.
Economic growth Information provision may increase fare revenue and improve efficiency of services.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Expected winners and losers

Winners and losers

Group

Winners/Losers

Comment

Large scale freight and commercial traffic

If information prompts mode shift from private motor vehicles to public transport then this may reduce road congestion.

Small businesses

Information may improve journeys for staff. If information prompts mode shift from private motor vehicles to public transport then this may reduce road congestion.

High income car-users

If information prompts mode shift from private motor vehicles to public transport then this may reduce road congestion.

Low income car-users with poor access to public transport

If information prompts mode shift from private motor vehicles to public transport then this may reduce road congestion.

All existing public transport users

For people who have decided to use public transport, information is useful in planning their journey.

People living adjacent to the area targeted

Not applicable.
Cyclists including children Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and so limit collisions by private motor vehicles.
People at higher risk of health problems exacerbated by poor air quality Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and so limit pollution and noise  associated with car use.

People making high value, important journeys

If information prompts mode shift from private motor vehicles to public transport then this may reduce road congestion.
The average car user If information prompts mode shift from private motor vehicles to public transport then this may reduce road congestion.
= Weakest possible benefit = Strongest possible positive benefit
= Weakest possible negative benefit = Strongest possible negative benefit
= Neither wins nor loses

Barriers to implementation

Scale of barriers
Barrier Scale Comment
Legal

There may be questions of ownership of information.

Finance Costs associated with considering what information should be provided and how it should be presented in an accessible way. Further costs associated with the media in which information sis presented.
Governance There may be questions of cooperation required to share information.
Political acceptability None.
Public and stakeholder acceptability None.
Technical feasibility None.
= Minimal barrier = Most significant barrier

Aspects of the influence of public (and private) transport information on tackling social exclusion have been explored in a study involving a series of focus groups with people with dyslexia (Lamont, Kenyon, and Lyons, 2013). The focus groups’ participants explored some of the problems that people with dyslexia confront in using transport. This includes difficulties with reading timetable and other information, such as that presented on screens at stations, also difficulties in reading bus numbers and hence knowing which bus to catch, and also problems in processing verbal information (although auditory information can also be beneficial where people have difficulty reading text). These tangible difficulties can result in emotional responses including ‘frustration, nervousness, a lack of confidence’ (p. 152). The study reported that “[P]roblems with timetables emerged strongly during the discussions, for reasons related to the nature of dyslexia, including:

  • Amount of information displayed.
  • Colour contrast.
  • Font size.
  • Font style.
  • Information presented horizontally/linearly.
  • Timetables printed on glossy paper.
  • Use of the 24 h clock”.  (p. 153)

The participants offered a number of suggestions to improve accessibility of information, including:

“The provision of graphical displays of routes and/or text which provides a meaningful visual description of local landmarks …
…. better staff training (which) would ensure that dyslexics are attended to more appropriately, which would have a positive effect upon their ability to ask for information in situations where it is unavoidable” (p. 155).

Farag and Lyons (2010) conducted a study investigating use of public transport information by people planning an ‘uncertain’ journey but where they have access to a private motor vehicle.   The authors conducted the study via a postal questionnaire sent to a random sample of households in two UK cities (Bristol and Manchester).  They report that “the desire to consult public transport information for an uncertain journey is affected by attitudes, subjective norms, and past behaviour” (p. 897), and that “[g]reater use of PT information will come over time from greater willingness to consider using public transport. Thus it is inappropriate in the ongoing provision of PT information services to simply presume that improvements to information services themselves and increased awareness of them will lead to increased PT information use” (p. 912).

Contribution to objectives
Objective Scale of contribution Comment
  Information on congestion on public transport may prompt people to alter travel. If information prompts mode shift from private motor vehicles to public transport then this may reduce road congestion.
  Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and so limit damage to liveable streets associated with high car use.
  Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and so limit pollution and noise  associated with car use.
  If consideration is given to presenting information in formats that are accessible to different groups of people, and take account of people with different needs such as dyslexia.
  Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and so limit collisions by private motor vehicles.
  Not considered.
  Not considered.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution
Contribution to objectives and problems
Objective Scale of contribution Comment
  Information on congestion on public transport may prompt people to alter travel. If information prompts mode shift from private motor vehicles to public transport then this may reduce road congestion.
  Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and so limit damage to liveable streets associated with high car use.
  Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and so limit pollution and noise  associated with car use.
  Information on public transport services is one factor needed to overcome problems of accessibility to social and economic activities and opportunities.
  Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and so limit collisions by private motor vehicles.
  Evidence on relationship between economic growth and transport is weak.
  Information provision may increase fare revenue and improve efficiency of services.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

 

Contribution to alleviation of key problems
Objective Scale of contribution Comment
Congestion Information on congestion on public transport may prompt people to alter travel. If information prompts mode shift from private motor vehicles to public transport then this may reduce road congestion.
Community impacts Information on public transport services is one factor needed to overcome problems of accessibility to social and economic activities and opportunities. Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and so limit damage to liveable streets associated with high car use.
Environmental damage Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and so limit pollution and noise  associated with car use.
Poor accessibility Information will not reduce poor accessibility itself, however it can help reduce inaccessibility associated with lack of knowledge of how to make given journeys.
Social and geographical disadvantage Information  can help reduce inaccessibility associated with lack of knowledge of how to make given journeys.
Accidents Information on public transport services could help change habits of car use, and so limit collisions by private motor vehicles.
Economic growth Information provision may increase fare revenue and improve efficiency of services.
= Weakest possible positive contribution = Strongest possible positive contribution
= Weakest possible negative contribution = Strongest possible negative contribution
= No contribution

Appropriate contexts

Appropriate area-types
Area type Suitability
City centre
Dense inner suburb
Medium density outer suburb
Less dense outer suburb
District centre
Corridor
Small town
Tourist town
= Least suitable area type = Most suitable area type

Adverse side-effects

None.

Lamont, D., Kenyon, S. and Lyons, G. (2013) Dyslexia and mobility related social exclusion: the role of travel information. Journal of Transport Geography, 26. pp. 147-157.

Farag, S. and Lyons, G. (2010). Explaining public transport information use when a car is available: Attitude theory empirically investigated. Transportation, 37(6), 897-913.

Farag S., and Lyons, G., (2012) To use or not to use? An empirical study of pre-trip public transport information for business and leisure trips and comparison with car travel, Transport Policy 20 (2012) 82–92

Kenyon, S. and Lyons, G. (2003) The value of integrated multimodal traveller information and its potential contribution to modal change. Transportation Research Part F Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 6 (1). pp. 1-21.

Lamont, D., Kenyon, S. and Lyons, G. (2013) Dyslexia and mobility related social exclusion: the role of travel information. Journal of Transport Geography, 26. pp. 147-157

Lyons, G. (2006) The role of information in decision making with regard to travel. IEE Proceedings Intelligent Transport Systems, 153 (2). pp. 199-212.

Lyons, G., Avineri, E., Farag, S. and Harman, R. (2007) Strategic Review of Travel Information Research: Final report to the Department for Transport for contract TDT/149 (R201)

Ortuzar, J. de D., and Willumsen, L. G.: ‘Modelling transport’ (Wiley, 1994).

SEU (2003)  ‘Making the connections: final report on transport and social exclusion’ (Social Exclusion Unit)