Increasing Bus Transit Ridership through Technology and Aesthetic Innovations
Liwag, Kenneth E.
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Bus transit has faced a rocky road since the introduction of the private automobile. As cars have become more and more affordable and destinations become more and more spread out, the desirability of bus transit reduced as it constantly lost out to the competitiveness regarding privacy, time, and trendiness that the private automobile offered to its owners. However, as gas prices begin to rise once again, and as land becomes more expensive and less available for the construction of heavy and light rail projects, bus transit is poised to take back control over city transit travel. In fact, in many instances, bus transit is better suited to handle the migration and travel trends that our get-up-and-go society has come to embrace. This paper examines various technological innovations that will enable bus transit to attract ridership on its systems and services without reducing farebox revenues. The paper begins by portraying why busses are poised to handle the growth of the American population and the trends of American migration better than other transit modes. Next we provide the historical downward trend that bus transit has experienced and its current status as a modal option today. We then discuss the myths and untruths that have abetted bus transit’s popularity and usage and provide a number of research findings to help debunk these myths. Given these issues, a number of technological and aesthetic innovations are presented that will help attract ridership to bus transit from a wide range of socioeconomic levels that will enable transit agencies to increase ridership without reducing fares and revenues. We then take these innovations and rank them using a number of criteria such as cost and effectiveness in order to determine which projects are more desirable and to formulate a possible best practices approach to improving bus transit ridership. Finally, we discuss a number of approaches and determine how these innovations can be applied to the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority’s (MARTA) bus transit system to improve its reputation and ridership statistics. With so many transit agencies often resorting to reducing fares or creating discounted fare programs to attract riders, they must also try and find innovative ways to improve their ridership counts without hurting their bottom line in an industry already prone to subsidization and budget shortfalls. Encouraging ridership through innovation and technology may be just the approach to attract the demographics that are on the brink of using transit ridership such as the young urban professional who simply need to be made aware of bus transit offerings and have them simply intrigued by bus service through technology and aesthetic enhancements.