Making public transport attractive

Making public transport attractive is an important aspect of encouraging people not to take the car. But it’s not all about making public transport better. A person’s life situation, family make-up, and age can also influence car use. So it’s not just about the infrastructure or service quality as a Nordic study found out.

The car is the preferred mode of transport by many older people. Unsuitable routes and times, having to stand, crowding and long walking distances are some of their reasons.

An orange tram is arriving at the light rail station. Making public transport attractive.

Younger people are more likely to use different modes for the one journey. They use a mix of cycling, driving and public transport. However, if they have a drivers licence they will use the car more than those without.

Families with young children also prefer the car especially if the transpsort mode is not physically accessible. Older children are subject to parent preferences for driving them to school. This is particularly the case if the distance to school is significant. However, as children grow older, they are more encouraged to walk to school if they feel safe and the area is “walkable”.


Distance between home and workplace or the city centre impacts travel choice. The probability of using public transport increases when living five minutes or less from a public transport stop. But this was when the frequency was no more than 20 minutes between departures.

Travellers dislike walking, waiting, and transferring more than spending time in their car. This is especially the case if the wait takes place in an unpleasant environment. Having to transfer more than once was also unattractive.

A young woman is sitting in a bus shelter and looking down the road. The shelter is lit and has an information board.

Station facilities were more important than on-board comfort for shorter trips. Unexpected and unpredictable delays were not viewed well, which means reliability is a key factor. Overall, travellers should be seen in their sub groups because their preferences are decided by different factors. This should be reflected in any marketing campaigns for active travel.

In essence, reliability and frequency are important attributes for making public transport attractive. After all, the car gives both. Car users need to be persuaded that there are benefits for them.

For people unable to afford a car, or physically unable to drive a car, public transport is essential. Norway has made considerable efforts to make their public transport system accessible.

The title of the article is, Factors that make public transport systems attractive: a review of travel preferences and travel mode choices.

From the abstract

Background: Many regions worldwide are struggling to shift from private cars to more sustainable transport modes. There is a lack of a comprehensive overview of the factors that make public transport systems attractive.

Aim: This review aims to offer insights into factors influencing travel behaviour and demand for public transport. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first review with a Nordic focus regarding public transport preferences and travel mode choices. The focus on these countries is because they have ambitious policies for reducing emissions in the transport sector.

Methods: The literature review encompassed international literature reviews and included an examination of results from the Nordic countries.

Findings: Reliability and frequency are important factors for creating an attractive public transport supply. However, there is only limited evidence about the impact of improvements in these attributes on public transport demand. This needs more research. This review highlights the importance of understanding the underlying motivations for choosing travel modes. Recommendations include further investigation to understand the attractiveness of public transport supply.

Accessibility Toolbar