Identifying resident preferences for bus-based and rail-based investments as a complementary buy in perspective to inform project planning prioritisation

Author: Hensher, D.A., Ho, C. and Mulley, C. (2015)

Journal: Journal of Transport Geography 46 (2015) 1–9

Keywords: Bus rapid transit, Light rail, Buy in, Random regret, Elasticities, Simulated scenarios

Much of the debate associated with the development of new public transport infrastructure appears to have an emotional bias with communities in favour of one mode, especially rail. This, in turn, carries much sway at the political level as if there is no budget constraint or consideration of value for money and coverage. This paper presents a stated choice experiment to investigate this context as two unlabelled options described by 20 potential drivers of community preferences for improved public transport. Each choice scenario is conditioned on a given route length but with different costs, reflecting different modal investment options for the same route length. To establish whether a modal bias exists within and between geographical jurisdictions, the choice scenario is followed by a labelling of each investment option to reveal whether the option is bus rapid transit (BRT) or light rail transit (LRT). Data from all eight capital cities of Australia, collected in mid-2014, form the empirical setting. Mixed logit random regret models provide new evidence on the nature and extent of community modal bias in this choice setting. The paper also proposes a complementary tool to benefit-cost analysis that uses the residence preferences model to show, through scenario analysis, the potential gains in public support for BRT over LRT. The results suggest that BRT should be in the mix of candidate projects if more than one mode is considered and not ignored, as is so often the case in developed economies.