Public transport has been confronted with numerous challenges since the COVID-19 outbreak. In order to maintain a high level of service and stay attractive, it is currently particularly important for transport providers to know the travelers’ mobility behavior. Passenger surveys play a decisive role here.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, people’s mobility behavior has changed considerably. Walking and cycling have increased significantly, especially in cities, while ridership in public transport plummeted. Despite the fact that buses and trains are now being used more frequently, demand is still lower than before the crisis. The peak travel hours have changed due to mobile working and reduced working hours. And if capacity is to be reduced to ensure social distancing, more buses and trains need to run.

Passenger surveys offer more flexibility

“Local public transport providers have to cope with a completely different planning situation and thus with a wide variety of issues. How many passengers use the bus and train services? How will the number of passengers develop if, for example, more pupils use public transport to go back to school? How should the vehicles be timed,” explains Gunnar Liehr, who is responsible for surveys at PTV Transport Consult. “Passenger surveys help to adapt to the current situation as efficiently as possible and to readjust scheduling quickly.”

Immediate results

Another important aspect: To regain the trust of travelers, public transport providers have to make sure that people feel safe and comfortable when taking the bus, tram or train. For example, it can be helpful to analyze how many people are wearing masks on public transport. “To achieve realistic results, we have to count the number of passengers,” says Gunnar Liehr. “Especially in the current situation, it is particularly important to make the collected data available quickly.”

In an ongoing project for Münchner Verkehrsgesellschaft mbH (MVG), Gunnar Liehr and his team are therefore using a special digital survey app. Gunnar Liehr: “In Munich, we carry out continuous passenger counts at selected underground stations. Thanks to our app, we have a very fast response time and can deliver the processed data to our customer within one hour after the survey being completed. Based on this data, the MVG can react quickly to changes in passenger mobility behavior and optimize service planning.”

How well do you know your demand?

Passenger surveys are a good data basis for efficient public transport planning – not only in times of crisis.

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