Passengers are the beating heart of all public transport systems, yet when it comes to issues of governance and assessment, the customer is often side-lined in favour of objective performance standards.
UITP’s latest Action Points, Governing for quality and performance, challenges the traditional, one-size-fits-all approach to public transport assessment. The report contends that the success of quality and performance policy depends on context-specific framework that takes account of the uniqueness of cities and passengers.
Context is paramount
When it comes to quality and performance assessment, Public Transport Authorities (PTAs) have often relied on standardised models that begin with an outline of an ‘ideal’ public transport system. With this approach, service quality is seen as a trade-off between revenue and cost, and performance indicators are designed according to static calculations.
However, this model fails to capture the diversity of PTAs, and the dynamic structure of most public transport networks. In reality, there is no ‘ideal’ model, no ‘best’ practice, and indicators must be developed according to local context. The changing needs of the customer must be accounted for, thus standardisation is impossible.
Manchester takes charge of its transport
The customer-centric approach advocated by the Action Points, favours devolution of transport strategy to local and regional authorities. The inaugural election of the Greater Manchester Mayor in May 2017 saw the PTA, Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM), granted larger power over the region, with new responsibilities for long-term transport strategy.
This regional approach exemplifies the move away from standardised performance assessment, towards a context-specific model, that puts the customer first. Indeed the latest strategy document from TfGM sets out principles for, “A More Customer-Focused Transport System”, where “travelling customers – residents, business and visitors – sit at the heart of this strategy”.
The Action Points detail four principles that can help PTAs shift away from the old model of static, top-down, standardised performance indicators, and towards a dynamic, bottom-up, and customer-centric approach.
Passengers as customers should be at the centre of all assessment, where customer satisfaction outweighs abstract trade-off calculations. With this new model of context- and customer-based quality and performance, PTAs can respond to the changing demands of passengers and ensure a high quality of service.