Transit-Supportive Guidelines

Section 3.5 Ridership Strategies

3.5.1 Fare Strategies

Provide fare incentives, simplified fare structures and more convenient payment options to make transit more affordable and easier to use.

Traditionally, the most common objective of transit pricing has been to increase revenues in response to actual or forecast increases in operating costs while minimizing the loss of transit ridership. However, as sustainable transportation becomes a more pressing issue, increasing transit ridership and mode share are becoming primary objectives of their own.

To attract and retain transit riders, the cost and convenience of transit use must be competitive with the costs of using an automobile. Adjustments to fare levels, fare structures and fare collection methods can make transit less expensive and more convenient for riders. For example, simplified fare structures, such as flat fares with no differentiation by distance, time or service type, are easier for riders to understand and tend to boost ridership, depending on the price level.

Fare collection cards, partnerships and online payment options can also be incorporated into a broader marketing and promotion strategy (Guideline 3.5.5) and data from these can be used in planning transit services (Guideline 3.2.2).

The use of smart cards programmed to charge the lowest applicable daily fare can ease decision making and promote greater ridership.

The use of smart cards programmed to charge the lowest applicable daily fare can ease decision making and promote greater ridership.

Strategies:

affordability

  1. Make fares more affordable by providing reduced base fares, free transfers, free fare zones or discounts for multi-ride tickets and passes.
  2. Transfers can be simplified by offering short-term (e.g. 90-minute) unlimited, not directionally restricted, ride passes to encourage transit use for quick errands. A day pass that is priced at the equivalent of two or three linked trips can also help to improve rider convenience, minimize fare administration and minimize rider-operator arguments regarding transfer validity.

Transit Loyalty Programs

Edmonton Transit Systems established a transit loyalty program offering recognized air travel points to customers who purchased their monthly passes online. Following introduction of the program, there was a 21% jump in sales of adult monthly passes.

In a variation to the program, Edmonton Transit, along with the TTC, OC Transpo and STM, allow people who collect air travel points to redeem their points by purchasing monthly transit passes.

Partnership with Loyalty Program (City of Edmonton)

convenience

  1. Implement automatic fare collection systems (magnetic cards or smart cards) to improve fare payment convenience and efficiency.
  2. Expand fare card distribution and reloading options. This can be achieved by selling fare media at more retail locations or transit stops, and implementing reloading by cell phone or Internet.
  3. The use of pre-paid fare cards can reduce boarding times, thereby improving transit speed and reliability while providing transit agencies with the benefits of improved revenue control and the financial advantage of receiving payment before the cost of providing service is incurred.
  4. To encourage the use of pre-paid fare cards, offer discounts relative to cash or tickets.
  5. Program smart cards so that they automatically charge the lowest applicable fare. This can help to ease decision making and increase passenger desire to ride.
  6. Account-based automatic recharging of smart cards can provide additional convenience for busy commuters.
  7. Establish a regional integrated fare policy and collection system to allow riders to travel seamlessly on different transit systems across a single region. Integrated fare strategies include: free transfers between systems, discounted fares between systems or use of a common fare card to increase the convenience and affordability of public transit.

programs and incentives

  1. Partner with employers, universities, retail stores and events organizations to offer fare incentives or integrated fare payment options and programs. (Guideline 3.5.3)
  2. Offer loyalty points or partner with a loyalty program, such as a reward miles program so that riders are rewarded for each transit trip they take or given an incentive for accessing certain services (Guideline 3.5.3).

3.5.2 Changing Demographics

Recognize demographic trends and plan to adapt transit services to meet the lifestyle and travel needs of a changing population.

Most Ontario communities undergo continuous demographic change, including some changes that are becoming long-term trends. Many communities will see an aging population, as well as a higher proportion of seniors in the population. Some communities will experience increases in overall population from the settlement of immigrants, while others will see their population stabilize, or even decline.

Communities may see shifts in local settlement patterns, for example, an increase in families living downtown or a shift of new immigrant populations moving away from urban centres to suburban or acreage style developments. These demographic changes will affect travel patterns and demand. By recognizing and accommodating these changes, transit agencies can capture or maintain ridership, while continuing to provide valuable transportation service to the community.

Consider the demographic characteristics of a community and its people in terms of their influence or impact on transit and transportation demand. This can help to anticipate changing cultural and community expectations, and enable transit agencies to target prospective transit users for marketing or education purposes.

Consider the demographic characteristics of a community and its people in terms of their influence or impact on transit and transportation demand. This can help to anticipate changing cultural and community expectations, and enable transit agencies to target prospective transit users for marketing or education purposes.

Strategies:

assessing trends

  1. The demographic trends in the transit agency’s region should be examined, and the cultural, residential, employment and activity patterns of changing segments of the population should be investigated to develop plans on better serving their travel needs. Developing programs and services to meet transit needs of changing population trends requires anticipating future needs correctly, and the long-range planning and assessment of transit assets and resources to meet those needs.

The proportion of seniors (age 65+) is continuously increasing compared with other age groups. Seniors are showing a tendency to stay longer in their houses, downsizing to smaller households as they get older.

As seniors age and give up driving they become more reliant on transit. The discretionary nature of senior trips, however, means that many of their trips are made during off-peak hours when transit service is lower.

OC Transpo – Seniors Ride Free on Wednesdays

Riders age 65 or older do not pay a fare on Wednesdays when proof of age is shown to the operator. Seniors’ clubs in Ottawa are also using this free transit opportunity to plan activities on Wednesdays and offer additional programs for seniors, as they are able to take advantage of free transit.

Seniors Ride Free on Wednesdays (OC Transpo)

Burlington Transit Youth Ambassadors

Burlington Transit, in association with Burlington Green, is developing the Burlington Transit Youth Ambassadors program in local high schools. Ambassadors coordinate and host a series of information sessions throughout the year and answer questions about Burlington Transit.

Burlington Transit Youth Ambassador Program (Burlington Transit)

aging population

  1. Due to reduced physical capabilities, many older people find using public transit difficult. To meet the needs of the growing number of elderly, consider the following:
    • planning system-wide accessibility improvements, as mandated by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act;
    • planning for greater demand on specialized transit services;
    • assessing whether transit facilities and amenities are comfortable and safe for seniors;
    • assessing the combination of demand-responsive services with conventional routes;
    • assessing whether transit routes and stops are serving destinations frequented by seniors, and whether schedules are meeting their demand;
    • providing targeted services, such as shuttles from seniors housing to shopping and medical centres;
    • working with social agencies and health networks to determine transportation needs of their clients and investigating opportunities for community transportation;
    • providing lower off-peak fares for seniors;
    • providing travel training to familiarize seniors with transit service;
    • designing transit system information to be legible by seniors; and
    • continuous monitoring of demographic changes through study of travel surveys such as Transportation Tomorrow Survey and the Canada Census

Family passes such as those provided by the Toronto Transit Commission are a great way of attracting family riders to use transit on weekends and holidays.

Family passes such as those provided by the Toronto Transit Commission are a great way of attracting family riders to use transit on weekends and holidays.

newcomers

  1. Given the greater propensity of new immigrants to use transit and the fact that immigration is a major source of population growth in large centres, immigrants represent an important market for transit agencies. To capture ridership from new immigrants, consider the following:
    • providing transit information on web sites and in print in the languages of local new immigrant communities;
    • making transit information available to immigrant communities at their workplaces, community venues and shopping areas;
    • providing transit training to inform new users about transit options, fares and system use, with content tailored to immigrant populations; and
    • assessing whether transit routes, service frequency and service hours are meeting needs of neighbourhoods or places of employment with a high number of immigrants.

A 2004 Statistics Canada study has shown that persons who had immigrated within the previous 10 years were about twice as likely to commute by transit than Canadian born residents in the same communities. This greater tendency to take transit continued even after the first 10 years of settlement and after taking income differences into consideration. Recent immigrants in large urban centres are tending to settle away from the core.

Public Transit Use Among Immigrants, May 2004 (Statistics Canada)

Recommended Resources

Case Study: Small to Mid-Sized Community Transit

A Profile of Canadian Ridership (Canadian Urban Transit Association)

2006 Community Profiles (Statistics Canada)

Census Trends, 2006 Census (Statistics Canada)

Ontario Demographics (Ontario Ministry of Finance)

Your Community in Profile (Ontario Trillium Foundation)

Age-Friendly Rural and Remote Communities: A Guide (Public Health Agency of Canada)

Child and Youth Friendly Land-use and Transport Planning Guidelines for Ontario, Version 2 (Centre for Sustainable Transportation)

Checklist of Essential Features of Age-Friendly Cities (World Health Organization)

Global Age-Friendly Cities: A Guide (World Health Organization)

families & youth

  1. There is growing trend towards more children and youth travelling by automobile than in previous decades which is contributing to lower activity levels within that age group. Car travel has replaced children and youth walking, cycling and riding transit. Transit can be made better for traveling with children and more attractive to youth by:
    • providing family passes that enable a family to travel for the cost of a single pass during evenings or weekends;
    • offering discounted fares or free transit for younger age groups;
    • offering timed transfers to enable multiple stops on one fare;
    • developing programs that welcome children and youth onto transit, such as providing transit information to schools;
    • providing information on school-specific transit routes and schedules;
    • locating convenient services at transit stations;
    • assessing the transit system from perspective of a parent with a stroller; and
    • providing transit services to family attractions.

declining population

  1. Population growth in Ontario will not be distributed evenly to all regions in coming years and some communities will experience no population growth or declines in population, which will reduce overall transportation demand and may result in drops in ridership and lower fare revenues. Transit providers can prepare for these changes by:
    • evaluating service for long-term efficiency and effectiveness;
    • developing plans to shift modal share to transit;
    • assessing partnerships with neighbouring communities to share or contract transit operations and vehicles;
    • investigating opportunities to coordinate community transportation assets such as services offered by hospitals, social agencies and volunteer organizations to provide more integrated and cost-efficient services to a community; and
    • assessing ways to maintain transit services to community members who do not have access to other means of transportation.

3.5.3 Targeting Ridership through Partnerships

Establish partnerships with different organizations to provide and promote transit use among their members, including employees, students or patrons.

Activities and destinations that attract waves of people at the same time, or with similar schedules can result in traffic congestion and the need for large parking lots to accommodate patrons who generally arrive by automobile. By providing convenient transit service to destinations and events, traffic congestion and the need for large parking lots can be reduced.

A mutually beneficial partnership can be established with organizations. Such partnerships help to target specific groups that have high rates of transit use or help to tap into a market with good ridership potential. For example, youth and young adults in the age 15 to 24 age group account for a disproportionate share of total transit ridership – representing 31% of transit riders while making up only 13% of the share of total population.

The Nuit Blanche art event in Toronto established a partnership with the TTC to offer a discounted price for unlimited travel on all regular TTC services as well as extended hours of operation for the subway.

The Nuit Blanche art event in Toronto established a partnership with the TTC to offer a discounted price for unlimited travel on all regular TTC services as well as extended hours of operation for the subway.

Strategies:

employer partnerships

  1. Transit agencies and regional/municipal governments can establish discounted employee transit passes that may be conveniently paid through a payroll deduction. A partnership program with local businesses may include:
    • the provision of transit routes and schedules tailored to meet the needs of employees;
    • the implementation of workplace transportation demand management (TDM) strategies in exchange for reduced employee fares; and
    • the acceptance of employee cards in exchange of typical transit passes.

Tops Free Ride Home Program

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA), and Tops Markets are working in partnership to provide free public transportation to customers that have spent a minimum of $15 at Tops Markets. Participants request a “Tops Circulator Pass” at checkout and if the minimum has been spent, the participant can use the loyalty card to get a bus voucher for the trip home.

Neighborhood Eco (NECO) Pass

Boulder, Colorado offers a reduced cost bus pass program for neighbourhoods that is available for all local bus services. The annual cost for this pass is $75 to $170 per household. There is a 50% subsidy available for first-time NECO Pass neighbourhoods and an ongoing subsidy of 25% to 30% for returning neighbourhoods.

Case Studies

Case Study: Small to Mid-Sized Community Transit

Tops Free Ride Home, Cleveland (Transit Cooperative Research Program)

Chicago Metra Ravinia Service (Ravinia)

Partnership with Loyalty Program (City of Edmonton)

Recommended Resources

Marketing Transit in Canada: Meeting the Ridership Challenge (Canadian Urban Transit Association)

Elements Needed to Create High Ridership Transit Systems – Chapter 6 (Transit Cooperative Research Program)

educational partnerships

  1. Establish partnerships with schools, colleges and universities to provide free or discounted student transit passes that may be conveniently paid through student fees. Student identification cards may then be used as transit passes, and routes may run on campus. Work with universities/colleges and schools to provide convenient schedules, stop locations and hours of service for students and employees (Guideline 2.6.5).

retail partnerships

  1. Establish partnerships with retail stores or shopping centres to provide free or reduced fares to or from their services, or store discounts upon presentation of a transit ticket or pass. This alleviates the need for additional parking, provides riders a means of avoiding parking and congestion, and serves as a promotional tool for transit.

other partnerships

  1. Work with local services such as child care and medical care providers at and around transit hubs to increase cross marketing of respective services, for example, providing transit information, promoting family transit passes, indicating services on transit maps.

large events

  1. Consider partnerships with special events and tourist destinations to provide free or reduced fares. This alleviates the parking and congestion concerns, provides convenience to tourists and event-goers, and serves as a promotional tool for transit. Transit agencies should adjust schedules and boost service to meet increased demand at the opening and closing of special events, and provide local transit connections to regional service during tourism and festival seasons.

building loyalty

  1. Establish partnerships with popular loyalty programs to award points for each transit ride or each dollar spent on transit.
  2. Establish partnerships with developers to provide welcome kits to new residents, including information on transit service and passes for free rides. Transit service should be established as early as possible in new developments, before new residents develop automobile-based commuting habits.

3.5.4 Promotion and Education

Develop promotions and education campaigns that engage current and potential transit riders, and are based on input and suggestions from the public, stakeholders and transit employees.

Many travellers are entrenched in long-standing automobile-based commuting and travel habits, and may be unaware of the availability and convenience of transit services in their area. Promotion and education strategies can be used to encourage transit use by informing existing and potential riders about the availability and benefits of using transit, special incentives being offered to try transit and service schedule changes.

Promotion and education can attract and retain riders by improving public awareness and perception of transit. Effective marketing begins with an understanding of clients’ needs and interests, and requires a variety of outreach methods aimed at reaching a broad base of existing and potential customers.

Promoting the benefits of transit services such as this example from Thunder Bay can help to publicize new service improvements or technology enhancements while raising awareness amongst key target user groups and other road users.

Promoting the benefits of transit services such as this example from Thunder Bay can help to publicize new service improvements or technology enhancements while raising awareness amongst key target user groups and other road users.

Strategies:

gathering information

  1. Transit agencies should continually collect and analyze information on public opinion and travel behaviour to understand local travel needs and develop promotional strategies to effectively engage the public. Possible strategies include:
    • involving the public in transit planning through community advisory groups, public hearings, open committee meetings, public information sessions and workshops to obtain input regarding service options and other transit initiatives;
    • conducting surveys (telephone, internet) and focus groups to identify needs, suggest opportunities and measure success;
    • use input from environmental groups, cycling community, seniors, people with disabilities, diverse populations to develop the survey, in order to gather a wide-range opinion;
    • collecting complaints, enquiries and suggestions from the public as input and feedback;
    • identifying concerns regarding transit initiatives early in the decision-making process (both individual concerns and concerns of environmental, political, business and other groups);
    • encouraging transit staff to provide suggestions for service improvement; and
    • using market research tools, such as interviews, surveys, travel diaries and trend assessment to better understand customer needs, preferences and concerns.

“Society in Motion” – Société de transport de Montréal

When the Montreal transit system (Société de transport de Montréal) wanted to re-brand itself it didn’t want to be known as just another transit system. Its campaign sought to build an emotional connection with consumers by speaking to concerns surrounding mobility, the environment and sustainable city development.

A new website enables riders to express their opinions about new projects underway and act as a forum for the Société de transport de Montréal to publicize new programs aimed at enhancing service and the environmental friendliness of the system.

Society in Motion (Société de transport de Montréal)

Clean Air Commute Campaign

Clean Air Commute is a week-long campaign sponsored by Pollution Probe that challenges companies, organizations and governments to compete with another by collecting points for employees who commute in smog-reducing transportation modes. Participating companies promote telecommuting, commuting by transit, walking, cycling, and carpooling through posters, events, prizes and other incentives. An estimate of the amount of pollution saved from entering the environment through employee participation is calculated at the end of the event. In 2009, an estimated 314 tonnes of pollution was prevented in the Greater Toronto Area.

increasing awareness

  1. Develop promotional programs to increase awareness of transit services, for example:
    • develop special promotions, such as Transit Week, theme days, information sessions, community discussions, raffles, fare-free days and other activities to raise transit awareness;
    • develop marketing campaigns to reach new residents, such as transit welcome packets with system information and coupons for free rides provided to new residents through direct mail, developers or apartment leasing offices;
    • develop marketing campaigns, including social marketing strategies, to reach high school, college and university students, such as welcome packets for incoming students and advertisements in the school newspaper, popular student websites, and social media;
    • develop individualized marketing that informs individuals and households of their alternative transportation options for the trips that they typically make;
    • develop promotions and services for tourists, and advertise at local shops, hotels and tourist attractions;
    • use education/marketing campaigns targeting children and youth through schools and organizations to help younger generations gain experience in using transit and to build future ridership;
    • use social network methods such as Twitter and/or Facebook that target the core values of specific user groups such as a concern for the environment;
    • develop a community based marketing campaign to identify barriers to individuals using transit and provide solutions to overcoming those barriers; and
    • include carbon footprint calculators on transit agency web sites to raise awareness of sustainable transportation and transit’s contribution to lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

Grand River Transit has developed a curriculum on transportation alternatives for Grade 3 students to inform students of the impacts of transportation on the environment and familiarize them with using the transit service. Totally Transit Program is a hands-on transit education program that teaches Hamilton’s elementary school students how to use transit and make the connections between transportation choices, the environment and human health.

Grand River Transit has developed a curriculum on transportation alternatives for Grade 3 students to inform students of the impacts of transportation on the environment and familiarize them with using the transit service. Totally Transit Program is a hands-on transit education program that teaches Hamilton’s elementary school students how to use transit and make the connections between transportation choices, the environment and human health.

community outreach

  1. Consider programs to engage the public in transit issues and increase the profile of transit in the public view, for example:
    • develop branding to increase transit profile, either in general or for certain routes or services;
    • engage the public in the design of the logo or slogan; and
    • provide travel training tailored to demographic groups (older adults, people with disabilities, students, newcomers) to increase awareness of transit services and availability of accessible conventional transit and increase ridership.

Free Transit on Smog Days

In 2001, Windsor City Council approved the concept of offering free transit service on smog days. The City provided $30,000 to cover Transit Windsor’s operating costs on free transit days, an amount that was matched by Environment Canada. This funding enabled four free transit days in July 2003.

Transit Windsor observed significant ridership increases of up to 50% on free transit days, and received positive public feedback and media coverage.

Ride to Read

In July 2010, eight local libraries in Durham Region partnered with Durham Region Transit to allow children from kindergarten to Grade 8 who have library cards to ride public transit for free in Durham region. Free bus rides take them to libraries across the region in the summer as part of summer reading program.

media relations

  1. The transit agency should have a designated staff member in charge of media relations to deliver a consistent, coordinated message. That person should develop advertising campaigns to reach a large audience of potential riders. Examples of marketing strategies include:
    • advertising events and services through press releases newsletters, brochures, direct mail, web and email;
    • contacting media outlets to propose story ideas and provide information and updates;
    • building relationships with key community figures and the media in support of transit;
    • advertising economic and environmental benefits and features, such as avoiding high fuel prices, reducing air quality impacts and the use of clean fuel vehicles; and
    • partnering with special events to trade advertising space. For example, the transit agency may advertise on event tickets and brochures, and in exchange, the special event may advertise on transit vehicles. The partnership may be expanded to include discounted transit service to and from the event.

3.5.5 Transportation Demand Management (TDM)

Transportation demand management (TDM) policies can encourage the use of transit, along with other travel alternatives. Implement TDM policies that promote and facilitate the use of transit modes and share the responsibility of encouraging transit use with employers, developers and other organizations.

TDM strategies manage the demand for transportation infrastructure and services by affecting people’s choice of location, timing, means of reaching an activity and even whether to make a trip or not. These policies aim to reduce travel, distribute trips more evenly, and shift trips from private automobile to transit or other more active modes of transportation. Promoting the use of transit as an alternative to driving is one aspect of TDM.

Policies that increase the convenience and affordability of transit relative to the private automobile will make transit more attractive. Regions and municipalities can implement some of those policies, but encouraging actions by, and providing incentives for, employers, developers, schools and other organizations can often have a more direct impact on people’s travel choices.

Conveniently locating transit stops to serve high employment areas, such as this example from Mississauga, can help to generate demand for transit services in areas that are not currently transit-supportive.

Conveniently locating transit stops to serve high employment areas, such as this example from Mississauga, can help to generate demand for transit services in areas that are not currently transit-supportive.

Strategies:

increase transit use

  1. Increase transit use by creating various incentives to use transit for commuting and other trips, including :
    • encouraging employers to provide discounted transit passes to employees, shuttles between the workplace and transit stations and free taxi rides home in case of emergency for employees who take transit to work;
    • providing incentives to developers during the site plan review process such as reduced development charges or parking requirements for incorporating transit stops into designs and providing transit passes to new residents;
    • working with transit agencies to change bus stop locations and route schedules, where needed, to better serve high-employment areas;
    • encourage school boards and schools to undertake school-based TDM approaches which support the use of public transit, active transportation and carpooling by students and staff.

University Health Network, Toronto

The University Health Network has developed a holistic approach to promoting sustainable commuting practices at its three hospitals, Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital and Princess Margaret Hospital. It provides shuttle services from the GO commuter rail Union Station, as well as a proprietary carpool database for all staff. UHN also provides covered and secured bicycle parking facilities and the UHN’s Cycling Advisory Committee developed a Cycling Master Plan in 2008 outlining more plans to promote and facilitate bicycle commuting.

University of Ontario Institute of Technology

The University of Ontario’s Institute of Technology (UOIT) and Durham College partnered with Durham Region to develop a shuttle service providing connections between local transit and GO Bus service. This gave students a convenient and affordable commuting alternative.

Recommended Resources

TDM Grant Program (Ontario Ministry of Transportation)

Employer Success Stories (Smart Commute)

Carpool Zone (Smart Commute)

Commuter Options: The Complete Guide for Canadian Employers (Transport Canada)

Impact of Transit Improvements on GHG Emissions (Transport Canada)

Improving Travel Options with Transportation Demand Management (Federation of Canadian Municipalities)

increase transportation alternatives

  1. Increase the use of other transportation alternatives such as carpooling, active transportation, and alternative work arrangements. Strategies could include:
    • providing free and easy-to-use rideshare matching systems to assist commuters in coordinating carpools.
    • encouraging employers, schools, and property managers to provide incentives for carpooling, such as priority parking locations;
    • encouraging flexible work starting times, compressed work weeks, telework, or working from satellite locations; and
    • encouraging employers to provide facilities that make using active transportation a more attractive option, such as secure bicycle parking and shower facilities.

reduce single-occupant vehicle use

  1. Reduce single-occupant vehicle use through various disincentives, including:
    • encouraging employers to reduce the amount of free parking for employees or to implement charges for parking;
    • reducing development charges for new developments that include reduced parking, provide a mix of uses or that encourage use of transportation alternatives;
    • changing zoning by-laws to define a maximum number of parking spaces, instead of a minimum; and
    • reducing parking availability and increasing parking fees in municipal lots and on municipal streets in areas with good transit access.
  2. Implement parking pricing at a district level and adjusting prices periodically to achieve desired levels of demand.
  3. Encourage the use of daily parking rates instead of discounted passes and set hourly prices to exceed or equal transit fares.

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