Public transport is slow, right?

Over the past 50 years, levels of mobility have increased greatly, raising concern about increasing car use, and resultant implications of congestion and pollution. There has also been a paradigm shift in transport policies, from merely accommodating demand, to managing demand and reducing the need for travel.

Psychologists have been investigating what makes people use their cars vs. public transportation, shedding light on some of the mechanisms that could be used to encourage a switch. Here are just a couple….

How long does it actually take to commute using public transport?

Van Exel and Rietveld (2009) looked at the factors influencing the travel decisions of commuters in Amsterdam and found that the main thing keeping people in their cars was the perceived time it would take to complete their journey. Interestingly, car travellers’ perceptions of public transport travel time were further found to exceed objective travel time estimates by 46%. Van Exel and Rietveld conclude that if perceptions of travel time were more accurate, two out of three car travellers that currently do not see public transport as a realistic alternative would include it in their choice-set of travel options, and use it from time to time. This, and other, research highlights the need to address misconceptions about the time it takes to commute via public transport if we are to encourage people to travel via such means.

Not sure how long taking public transport will take you to reach the University? Travel South Yorkshire allows you to plan your journey and gives you an estimated journey time based on the time of the day you’re travelling.

Cars are bad vs. Public transport is good, which is the better motivator?

Beirão and Sarsfield Cabral (2007) observed that although awareness of the need to consider alternative transportation is created by information about negative environmental impacts (i.e. the cons) about using cars, in-of-itself such information tends to be insufficient to change people’s car-use behaviour. Their research indicates that campaigns aimed at reducing car use should instead focus on environmental benefits (i.e. the pros) of using public transport. Also, reducing the negative perceptions of public transport that some drivers have by having them experience using it first hand can be effective.

Fed up of queuing traffic and considering trying out public transport? Do you know that the University offers discounted ticketing scheme, offering discounted monthly travel passes to both students and staff?

More from the PEET tomorrow!


Van Exel, N. J. A., & Rietveld, P. (2009). Could you also have made this trip by another mode? An investigation of perceived travel possibilities of car and train travellers on the main travel corridors to the city of Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice43(4), 374-385.

Beirão, G., & Sarsfield Cabral, J. A. (2007). Understanding attitudes towards public transport and private car: A qualitative study. Transport Policy14(6), 478-489.

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1 thought on “Public transport is slow, right?”

  1. I’ve used both public transport and car (more of my life by public transport)… shockingly, if I have the choice, I would choose the car for most journeys.

    Public transport is slow. It takes me at least three to four times as long for my journeys than driving. 15 minutes to my parents by car, an hour by bus (not including waiting for the departing bus — a maximum of two per hour).

    You can’t carry large and heavy items by public transport. You can’t escape other passengers, their tinny music, their smells, their rudeness, being squashed up against them, their disturbing behaviour, and so on. You have to stop at every stop you don’t want. You have to walk to and from stops, even in crappy weather or late at night.

    It’s not just about money and time. Most people don’t really care about the environment, when it comes to it. “I recycle, so I’m doing my part!” Individual impact is minimal, considering global resource consumption and use. One plane trip totally destroys any ‘carbon’ savings by not driving for a year.

    Convenience and comfort are king, even if it does take longer for a particular journey. Cars are unquestionably more convenient and comfortable for practically every use, except if you want to travel whilst drunk or on drugs.

    Public transport is only good for nights out, and jobs if you live and work on a reliable and relatively quick line. For everything else, it is extremely undesirable to use public transport at all.

    Investment in a car is the only thing that keeps most people away from driving more or at all.

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