Transport Focus research about young people and their experience of using buses reveals their frustration at ‘outdated and antiquated’ experience

‘Why can Domino’s or whoever it is do all of that?’

 

Young people want the bus user experience to be as easy as ordering pizza or booking cinema tickets on their phones.

Focus group research conducted in England by Transport Focus identified barriers to using buses, and these included poor access to information about services.

Speaking at an event in Glasgow last week, Louise Coward, the passenger watchdog’s acting head of insight, explained: “A fear of getting it wrong and looking silly was enormous among young people. It came out really strongly in the groups.”

The research revealed that young people want an experience that is as easy to navigate as the one provided by other retailers.

“Young people challenged us with things like, ‘if I want to order a pizza or I want to go and see a film, all I need to do is get my phone out go into an app’,” she said. “I can have a gluten-freebase, I can have half vegan topping, I can have half meat feast, I can choose my size,  I can apply my discount code …  I can pay,  I can then monitor the  progress of my pizza, it’s going in the oven,  now it’s on a bike, all I have to do is open the door and take it from a delivery driver.

“Why can Domino’s or whoever it is do all of that and yet I can only find out how much it costs to get the bus if I was going to pick up my pizza myself by getting on board and asking how much is it to the pizza place bus driver? How does that feel right in today’s day and age?”

Coward added: “[Young people] are so used to using technology and to have things designed in ways that feel intuitive to them. When that is their benchmark, some of these challenges that come through you almost can’t argue with them.

[In comparison to] all of these other industries and sectors that they are used to dealing with and interacting with, the bus industry and public transport more generally feels really outdated and antiquated to them

“[In comparison to] all of these other industries and sectors that they are used to dealing with and interacting with, the bus industry and public transport more generally feels really outdated and antiquated to them. 

Representing the bus industry, George Mair, director, Scotland for the Confederation of Passenger Transport, expressed frustration that the industry-funded Traveline Scotland app does not receive greater recognition.

“What fails need a wee bit is the apparent lack of ability to use the technology that is there,” he said. “Traveline Scotland is an app, it is multi-modal, it gives fares – everything is in there. Why for the life of me the young kids can fathom out to get the app to order the pizza but they can’t do the same thing for a bus, I don’t understand that …  I find that really interesting.”

Mair maintained that Traveline Scotland isn’t perfect but it is the best information service of its kind in the UK.

“We don’t shout enough about these things,” he said. “Even within Transport Scotland, the people that I work with there, some of the people don’t understand it.

“We have a communication problem. We just don’t shout about the good things. Maybe it has been because we have been battered down too many times.”

Transport Focus’s research found that the most commonly cited way for young people to find information about journeys was asking friends and family (51%), followed by Google Maps (46%). A smaller percentage (37%) use local transport operator apps or websites.

David Sidebottom, passenger director at Transport Focus, said that young people wanted a one-stop-shop for information.

Recalling the feedback from focus groups, he said: “Why do we need a bus operator app, a train operator app, a Transport Authority app? As a young person with a certain tariff on my mobile device, having three or four apps all churning away in the background is eating my data.

They want one source of truth, one source of information – and for young people it is Google Maps.

“They want one source of truth, one source of information – and for young people it is Google Maps.”

The Transport (Scotland) Bill will improve information provision, according to Pete Grant, interim head of bus and concessionary fares policy at Transport Scotland. He believes that the most exciting aspect of the bill are its open data requirements, which will compel bus service operators to provide information on timetables and fares in a specified format.

Sharon Morrison, commercial manager at West Coast Motors, acknowledged the need for the bus industry to do more.

“I was a bit disappointed hearing the findings regarding young people,” she said. “I think one of the key things is information provision … We need to raise the bar in terms of trying to get information out to younger people by working collectively.”

Further coverage appears in the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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