Valuing crowding in public transport: Implications for cost-benefit analysis

Author: Batarce, M., Muñoz, J.C. and Ortúzar, J. de D. (2016)

Journal: Transportation Research Part A, 91, 358-378

Keywords: Crowding valuation, Cost-benefit analysis, Public transport

This paper investigates the valuation of crowding in public transport trips and its implications in demand estimation and cost-benefit analysis. We use a choice-based stated preference survey where crowding levels are represented by means of specially designed pictures, and use these data to estimate flexible discrete choice models. We assume that the disutility associated with travelling under crowded conditions is proportional to travel time. Our results are consistent with and extend previous findings in the literature: passenger density has a significant effect on the utility of travelling by public transport; in fact, the marginal disutility of travel time in a crowded vehicle (6 standing-passengers/m2) is 2.5 times higher than in a vehicle with available seats. We also compare the effects of different policies for improving bus operations, and the effect of adding crowding valuation in cost-benefit analysis. In doing that, we endogenise the crowding level as the result of the equilibrium between demand and supplied bus capacity. Our results indicate that important benefits may be accrued from policies designed to reduce crowding, and that ignoring crowding effects significantly overestimate the bus travel demand the benefits associated with pure travel time reductions.