thesis

Approaches to customer information for public transportation : application to the San Juan Metropolitan Area

Abstract

Thesis (S.M.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Dept. of Civil and Environmental Engineering, 1998.Includes bibliographical references (p. 227-232).This thesis considers inadequate customer information as a factor contributing to poor public transportation utilization. The goal is to identify what issues transit decision-makers should consider in identifying weaknesses in existing customer information provision, and in defining a customer information strategy to improve upon these weaknesses. To begin, key concepts in public transportation information and its provision are identified from existing literature on the topic. An analytical framework is then developed for evaluating customer information methods, both pre- and post-implementation. This evaluation has three components: method use, benefit, and cost. The evaluation framework is then used as a foundation in formulating a formal decision-making process. Five cases of customer information methods and strategies are studied, both as a demonstration of the ideas developed and to summarize particularly interesting customer information initiatives. The cases studied are the London Transport Countdown and Hampshire County STOPWATCH real-time bus arrival time display systems, both in the UK; the GoTIC integrated information system architecture in Gothenburg, Sweden; four regional information systems in the San Francisco Bay Area; and a general review of transit customer information in Hong Kong. Several key lessons arise from the case analyses. There are significant challenges to providing customer information when transit service is privately operated with little or no regulation, however the government can play a significant role in this. Regional government is particularly appropriate for integrating information about multiple regional transit services. Indeed, integrated advanced technologies can simplify the process of collecting information from multiple transit providers, and allow efficient use of collected information by disseminating it to different segments of the public via a variety of methods. All five cases use the World Wide Web, although each for slightly different purposes, and it is seen as a valuable, cost-effective media for promoting transit service. Real-time customer information at bus stops is successful in terms of benefit to passengers, although technical issues make reliability and accuracy a concern and require considerable technical support resources. The details of the project environment has an impact on the success of such initiatives, particularly the distinction between publicly operated, tendered, and deregulated transit service. The knowledge learned from this research is then applied to the San Juan Metropolitan Area. An evaluation of existing customer information is performed. From this, goals for improvement are identified and a series of recommendations given. It is suggested that a strong focus be placed on the largely ignored owner-operated poiblico van service. Basic, traditional forms of information must be provided accurately and consistently, and should be integrated across all transit modes. Finally, a regional strategy should be developed to leverage the "new age" in public transportation in San Juan that culminates with the introduction of Tren Urbano heavy rail service in 2001. However, the issues of customer information budgeting, further research into customer needs, prioritization of alternatives, and possible changes to the public transportation institutional structure need to be considered in detail by decision-makers in the region.by Mikael Sheikh.S.M

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This paper was published in DSpace@MIT.

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