In this post, I’m providing a short wrap-up of recently published “The importance of ticket price in public transport in non-metropolitan rural areas in Poland”, which I wrote with my colleague dr Łukasz Fiedeń.
The price and its role in transport and mobility are evergreen for many scholars. Naturally, I’ve also followed for a while this path in my PhD project, where I’m unpacking the various aspects of fare-free public transport policy.
In the newly published paper, we’ve decided to see how the fares are important for people living in non-metropolitan areas. While the key feature for us was the price, we also looked at other aspects of public transport qualities like comfort, reliability, and frequency.
The results provide a picture of public transport qualities in peripheral localities and suggest the direction of the further development of the service.
Where & How
The study focuses on 12 peripherally located municipalities with poor public transport provision. There, we conducted a survey of the residents using public transport. Importantly, two municipalities have fare-free public transport, and the remaining ten public transport is paid for.
Why peripheral regions?
It is well documented that the rural areas in Poland are witnessing the gradual collapse of public transport provision. Understanding how this fact is perceived by its user thus could help design instruments that could reverse the degrading trajectory of public transport development and mitigate its consequences (e.g., increasing car dependency, growing social inequalities, and transport exclusion).
So does the price matter?
It does, but not as one would expect. The survey shows that price is still considered an essential factor, but less than in urban areas. This is due to generally lower public transport qualities in examined localities.
Simply put, why “free” public transport if there is a bus twice a day?
Limited accessibility, poor connections, low frequencies and comfort are the main barriers in non-metropolitan areas that currently reduce public transport attractivity. While various public transport pricing policies can improve ridership, public transport with poor qualities is not the case.
In such localities, people have already accepted that public transport is currently not meeting their needs and that they have to pay extra for a car that suits their needs better.
This is unfortunate, as it is not helping to solve the ongoing public transport degradation and represents significant environmental and social challenges in non-metropolitan regions in Poland.
To reverse this, fare-free public transport has the potential to catch the attention and increase public transport popularity. However, improvement of its accessibility has to follow if public transport should not only operate “to some extent” in the future but also be a valid alternative to cars.