The knowledge problem of public transport policy

Erik Johansson, doctoral thesis, September 2020

The overall aim of the thesis is to investigate the knowledge problem in regional public transport planning. The knowledge problem is twofold. How do transport policy arrive at the desirable actions they take and how do they assess the alternatives, and what can we say about the contributions of already implemented transport schemes. Paper 1 explores how policy objectives in regional public transport are translated into action and to investigate how public transport measures are evaluated. Paper 2 presents a case study of Spårväg syd, a light rail project in Stockholm, with the ambition to understand the use of appraisal tools and discuss how these can be improved. Paper 3 investigates the links between accessibility, as well as the composition of accessibility and real estate values. Paper 4 analyses the causal effect of a train station on local labour income among current residents as well as the labour income of the residents that the place attracts. Finally, paper 5 explores the association between the accessibility that train stations provide and local labour income more broadly across Sweden. For paper 1, the results indicate that decision-makers ask for knowledge on ongoing trends such as patronage and market share in relation to all motorized transport, an increased interest in understanding the impacts of transport on society, the strategies of PT are connected to long term regional ambitions. Paper 2 highlights that particular projects are tightly connected to long term ambitions. Spårväg syd was on the agenda long before a formal cost-benefit analysis was conducted. The project is also tightly connected to political goals of land-use development. The findings from paper 3 reinforce the evidence that real estate values are positively associated with accessibility. Also, the paper finds that the composition of accessibility, namely the degree to which the accessibility is built up by one or several modes of transport, is positively associated to real estate values as well. The policy implication of this finding is that transport appraisal could add assessments not only of marginal accessibility changes, but also the marginal change in the composition of accessibility. The results from paper 4 indicate an absence of a causal link between train stations on local labour income. Both in terms of the longitudinal analysis and the spatial sorting analysis. For paper 5, accessibility through the national railway network was found to be associated with local labour incomes. The thesis increases the evidence of effects of transport on income and real estate prices. Moreover, the thesis concludes that regional public transport planning seems to be subject to different motivations and trade-offs depending on project and context, which complicates the seeking for a universal appraisal procedure.


Flexibility in contract design: is that possible?

Carolina Camén, Panagiota Tsaxiri, Malin Aldenius and Helene Lidestam, ScienceDirect, July 2020

Public procurement is widely used in order to incorporate competition into public services. Competition in procurement often leads to efficiency but the process can also raise some problems. While providing the procurement documents you do not know who will be your upcoming partner. Another aspect is how flexibility can be managed in contract design while maintaining a high service quality. The aim of this study is twofold. Firstly, the aim is to investigate how flexibility has been expressed and historically described in bus tendering documents. Secondly, to explore how the actors define or describe flexibility and its importance in tendering. Data was collected from ten years of tendering documents in the bus sector in Sweden and from interviews and a workshop. The results showed that flexibility in tendering documents has been and still is low for the operators. However, the actors wish for more flexibility and new forms of contracts can make it easier to include higher degrees of flexibility in future contracts. The paper contributes to the ongoing discussion about how to design contracts and to manage flexibility. The study has potential to create knowledge and contribute to better decision making for future procurement of bus transport.


How much regulation should disruptive transport technologies be subject to?

Göran Smith and Walter Theseira, Research in Transportation Economics, August 2020

In recent years, the advent of disruptive transport technologies has started to transform the transport sector. Governments are therefore challenged to find the right balance in transport governance frameworks that allows new services, practices, and entrants to emerge, but also ensures adequate and equitable service delivery, a fair and competitive landscape, and fulfillment of policy objectives. Workshop five of the 16th International Conference on Competition and Ownership in Land Passenger Transport (Thredbo 16) focused on this challenge. Eight studies of governance approaches to ridesourcing, autonomous public transport, and Mobility-as-a-Service were reported. These examples catered for a discussion on the development status of disruptive transport technologies and on what roles governments have adopted, what types of regulations and policies they have been using, and what is known about the impacts of these approaches. Drawing on this discussion, the workshop advocates transport scholars to work on the theoretical grounding of key concepts and to elicit empirical evidence from trials and operations on disruptive transport technologies’ effects on e.g. equity, employment, and modal shares. To governments wishing to facilitate the development and diffusion of disruptive transport technologies, the workshop offers ten recommendations that in sum describe an explorative, collaborative, and reflexive governance approach.


Improving Coherence in a Cross-Border Public Transport System: Lessons from the Greater Copenhagen Region

Jean Ryan and Anders Wretstrand, Sustainability, August 2020

Greater Copenhagen is often cited as a good example of cross-border cooperation. Shared historical contexts and socio-political willingness have meant that considerable resources have been invested into the development of infrastructure in this region. The Öresund fixed link constitutes the most important element of this infrastructure, facilitating a cross-border public transport system which ties the region together. This public transport system in turn underpins the social, economic and environmental sustainability of the cross-border region. The aim of this study is to investigate the issues at play with respect to improving the coherence of this cross-border public transport system, in relation to ticketing and public transport information in particular. This study comprises the compilation and analysis of the perspectives of the actors involved in and affected by the development of the cross-border transport system. In total, twelve semi-structured interviews were conducted. Six predominant themes emerged from the analysis of the empirical material: “Focus on the customer”, “The Other Side”, “Tidying up at home first”, “Political challenges”, “Back to basics” and “The low-hanging fruits”. It became apparent that the prioritization of internal and organizational issues in the first instance could mean compromises, not only for cross-border cooperation but also for the customer’s (the passenger’s) experience. Results suggest that improvements to coherence in this transport system will most likely take the form of incremental changes and adopting common standards. This is opposed to the development of common systems, or of a significant departure from existing systems.


Explaining dwell time delays with passenger counts for some commuter trains in Stockholm and Tokyo

Carl-William Palmqvist, Norio Tomii, Yasufumi Ochiai, Journal of Rail Transport Planning & Management, March 2020

In both Stockholm and Tokyo, small dwell time delays of at most 5 min make up around 90% of the total delays for commuter trains. To understand these disturbances, we use high resolution data on dwell times and passenger counts from both countries over the last several years. We find that trains in Tokyo are much more congested than in Stockholm, and that the exchange of passengers is modest at most stations in the latter city. In both cities, the range of dwell time delays is quite narrow, with between 40 and 50 s separating the 5th and 95th percentiles. Most delays are thus very small, and even small adjustments to dwell times can make a big difference overall. We find that the data on passengers explain about 40% of this variation in dwell time delays, if we account for non-linear and interaction effects, which is thus a ballpark estimate for how much the exchange of passenger contributes to delays for these trains. We also produce simple, linear models which can be used in practice to assign more appropriate dwell times. To facilitate such improvements, key stakeholders and practitioners have been closely involved with the research in both countries.


The impact on bus ridership of passenger incentive contracts in public transport

Andreas Vigren, Roger Pyddoke, Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, May 2020

Over the years, passenger incentives have increasingly been used in Swedish public bus transport to increase ridership by introducing passenger incentive contracts. In 2015, half of all active contracts were of this type. In those contracts, operator revenue comprises production-related revenue and a per-passenger–based incentive payment. Using rich passenger data, this paper analyses whether the ridership increase in the Skåne region can be attributed to the introduction of this contract type.

The results cannot prove that passenger incentive contracts have increased ridership more than traditional gross-cost contracts. This is probably because both the per-passenger payment and operator freedom to adjust traffic provision are too low. While simulation studies have previously shown that higher payments and freedoms would increase bus ridership, it is unclear whether public transport authorities should leave the freedom to adjust traffic provision to operators, given the authorities’ social welfare responsibility. Instead, factors outside the contract, such as car-restricting measures and improved bus road space, might be more effective in increasing the number of passengers.


Understanding Mobility as a Service (MaaS)

David Hensher, Corinne Mulley, Chinh Ho, Yale Wong, Göran Smith and John Nelson, May 2020

The widespread adoption of smartphones, ridesharing and carsharing have disrupted the transport sector. In cities around the world, new mobility services are both welcomed and challenged by regulators and incumbent operators. Mobility as a Service (MaaS), an ecosystem designed to deliver collaborative and connected mobility services in a society increasingly embracing a sharing culture, is at the center of this disruption.

Understanding Mobility as a Service (MaaS): Past, Present and Future examines such topics as:

  • How likely MaaS will be implemented in one digital platform app
  • Whether MaaS will look the same in all countries
  • The role multi-modal contract brokers play
  • Mobility regulations and pricing models
  • MaaS trials, their impacts and consequences

Written by the leading thinkers in the field for researchers, practitioners, and policy makers, Understanding Mobility as a Service (MaaS): Past, Present and Future serves as a single source on all the current and evolving developments, debates, and challenges. 


Making Mobility-as-a-Service: Towards Governance Principles and Pathways

Göran Smith, Doctoral thesis, May 2020

Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) is a service concept that integrates public transport with other mobility services, such as car sharing, ride sourcing, and bicycle sharing. The core idea is that intermediary digital services make it easier for users to plan, book, and pay for complementary mobility services, thereby facilitating less car-centric lifestyles. However, although MaaS has gained much interest in recent years, the concept has proven difficult to realize. Accordingly, there is a prevalent demand for knowledge on how to enable and push MaaS developments.

Conceptualizing MaaS developments as an innovation process that might contribute to a sustainability transition, this thesis sets out to improve the understanding of how public sector actors can facilitate action in the early phases and steer the innovation trajectory towards addressing long-term sustainability goals. The public transport authority in Västra Götaland (Sweden), and its attempts to facilitate MaaS developments, is used as a starting point. Three of its MaaS-related activities between 2016 and 2019 are analyzed based on participatory observation and stakeholder interviews. Additionally, the thesis draws on two qualitative studies of MaaS developments situated in Finland and Australia.

The thesis’ contribution to the research field of MaaS is threefold. Firstly, it explores expectations of MaaS. A majority of the actors involved in the studied MaaS developments reckoned that MaaS will support a modal shift away from private car use. Still, while some actors were confident that this will lower the negative externalities of personal mobility systems, others feared that it will reinforce social and environmental problems. Of note is that none of these views are yet backed by any extensive empirical evidence, the shortage of which is an ongoing challenge for MaaS developments. Secondly, the thesis identifies institutional factors that shape MaaS developments. The studied developments were enabled by novel information technologies and motivated by the need to lessen the negative impacts of private cars. Yet, the developments brought together actors that had not previously collaborated and challenged models of collaboration, business, and customer relations, which made them contingent on complex modifications within and beyond personal mobility systems. Thirdly, the thesis examines how the public sector governs MaaS developments. The governance approaches varied across Sweden, Finland, and Australia in terms of leading actors, methods of intervention, and underlying motivations, but were yet to deliver much tangible results for citizens in all three countries.

Based on these findings, the thesis proposes principles and pathways for MaaS governance. The principles advocate a broad set of activities to address all the institutional factors that impede MaaS developments. In contrast to the observed governance approaches, this includes activities aimed at strengthening mobility services and active mobility, and at weakening the private car regime. The pathways describe four roles public sector actors can take in MaaS developments – MaaS Promoter, MaaS Partner, MaaS Enabler, and Laissez-Faire – and illustrate how the method(s) of intervention can be adjusted between innovation phases. The principles and pathways thereby provide a comprehensive tool for understanding and enhancing public-private dynamics in MaaS developments.


Access to public mobility services and health in old age: a cross-sectional study in three Swedish cities

Carlos Chiatti, Yngve Westerlund, Agneta Ståhl. Journal of Transport and Health, Vol. 7, 2018


Little evidence is available on how public transport features can impact on older people's health. The overarching aim of this paper is to evaluate socio-demographic, health and mobility-related factors correlated with health-related quality of life among people aged between 75 to 90 years old in three Swedish Municipalities.


Within the SEBEM study, a cross-sectional survey using a self-administered postal questionnaire was conducted among 2398 older people aged between 75 and 90 years. Primary outcome of the study was health-related quality of life measured using the SF12 which distinguishes two dimensions of health, i.e. the Physical Composite Score (PCS) and the Mental Component Score (MCS). Descriptive statistics were used to analyze the variability study outcomes. Multilevel regression models were used to investigate factors independently correlated with health, controlling for the influence of potential confounders.


Higher physical and mental self-reported health is associated with walking more than 500 m on a daily basis, use of a private car and frequent engagement in social activities. Access to the car is only associated with physical health. Mental health scores are significantly lower among those living far from the closest bus stop and never using public transport.


We provide evidence of epidemiological associations between access to public mobility services and good health in older age. Given the cross-sectional design of our analyses, and the related limitations, the associations found should be investigated more thoroughly by future studies using longitudinal and/or experimental designs.


Bus Stops and Violence, Are Risky Places Really Risky?

Manne Gerell. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 24. 2018.

Geographic forecasting of crime can be done by considering prior crime or by considering spatial risk factors, e.g., using risk terrain modeling (RTM). The present paper tests both methods, but primarily focuses on RTM and on increasing our understanding of forecasting by attempting to compare the spatial risk factors for where the number of crimes is high with the spatial risk factors for where the risk of victimization is high. This is performed by fitting negative binomial models on crime around bus stops and comparing them to the same models with the number of bus passengers as exposure variable. The models also take the surrounding environment into account by fitting multi-level models with neighborhood level predictors of concentrated disadvantage and collective efficacy. The results show that some types of facilities are risk factors for crime, but not for victimization. This results in new insights into how flows of people impact on forecasting, as for instance a school is a spatial risk factor for crime, while not being associated with an elevated risk per person. The results also show that the neighborhood level of collective efficacy is a stable and significant risk factor both for crime and for risk of victimization, highlighting a potential for better crime forecasting by combining different spatial and theoretical perspectives.

The aim of this paper is thus to add to the crime forecasting literature by considering differences between risk factors for crime and risk factors for crime per population at risk. The paper uses the methodological concept of risk terrain modeling (RTM), but for forecasting purposes the findings should be relevant more generally.