How to nudge people into using public transport

Not solving private vehicle congestion is a disincentive as long as a public transport alternative is provided priority lanes and moves faster than the private vehicles.

Private vehicle growth has choked cities and caused massive loss in productivity. With a growing population, moving to mass transport is the only way to avoid further congestion. But there are inconveniences in choosing public transport. One is the need to make multiple changes which means the transition needs to be smooth. Second, Public Transport never drops you at your doorstep. There is always a last mile which would have to be covered by walk or some other mode. Let’s for a moment assume this last mile segment is solved; as a choice architect, what can the state do to nudge people away from private vehicles, into public transport?

  1. Mention ‘walk time’ to the nearest bus/train station at the exits of prominent landmarks and heavy foot traffic areas. This makes the people consider taking the bus/train before deciding to step into an Auto/Taxi or calling a driver. For example, at a mall exit, one could add a signboard to indicate the distance to the nearest bus stop, and perhaps even which areas are connected to it: “2 minutes to BDA bus stop; Connections to Outer Ring Road and Jayanagar”
  2. Private transport disincentive is a key strategy. This can be in the form of congestion pricing and high parking fees. This has worked very effectively in most countries. Even not solving private vehicle congestion is a disincentive as long as a public transport alternative is provided priority lanes and moves faster than the private vehicles.
  3. Show the true cost of private vehicle use, including pollution and time wasted in traffic, as an index (calculated daily) on TV/Radio/Newspaper prominently, that people could check before leaving for work.
  4. Encourage employers to provide bus/train pass as a part of the salary. Employees need to opt out of the pass every month if they want to claim the money instead.
  5. Make public transport stations attractive with facilities surrounding them. Stations/stops with information on things to do in the neighbourhood and utilities like ATM/Restaurants/Bike stand etc. incentivise people to use it.

Sathya Sankaran is the Bicycle Mayor of Bengaluru and advocates for cycling and non-motorised forms of transport. This article was written as part of the AIC community media project at Co Media Lab, in partnership with Deakin University and IdeoSync, first published on Co-media Lab and republished here with required permissions.

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