FUTURES - Barriers to information use
Full project title: FUTURES: Traveller information services - assessing barriers to their use
Sponsor: EPSRC (Sustainable Urban Environment Programme)
Lead investigator: Professor Glenn Lyons
Principal researcher: Sendy Farag
Project partners: University of Southampton and University of Leeds
Start date: May 2006
Finish date: April 2009
Project briefing sheet: Download the briefing sheet document
FUTURES (Future Urban Technologies: Undertaking Research to Enhance Sustainability) is a major 5-year research programme as part of the EPSRC's Sustainable Urban Environment (SUE) Programme. FUTURES runs from April 2004 until March 2009. The principal academic partners are the Transportation Research Group at the University of Southampton (lead partner), the Institute for Transport Studies at the University of Leeds and the Centre for Transport and Society (CTS) at the University of the West of England. The consortium also involves a number of stakeholder partners. FUTURES is comprised of a number of key elements or activities. There are seven major research activities for which CTS is responsible for three:
- Navigating the city - supporting the unfamiliar traveller
- Traveller information services - assessing barriers to their use
- Teleworking - trends in and causes of location independent working
Statement of Need
Traveller information services in the UK have grown in quality and number, particularly since the transport white paper (DETR, 1998) which identified the provision of better information as a key element to delivering integrated transport. A number of channels of delivery for these services now exist from the long-standing paper-based maps and timetables and telephone enquiry services to the more recent on-street kiosks and websites. At a national level, the Government's Transport Direct initiative symbolises the maturity of the industry and what can be achieved. Transport Direct aims to provide, initially via the Internet, a multi-modal information service to plan, book and pay for journeys and to check for real-time updates. At a local level, many urban authorities now have well developed information services, particularly for public transport.
The aim of such services is to empower people to make more fully informed travel choices. This may include: bringing to their attention choices of which they had not previously been aware; improving their understanding of the relative merits of the choices available; and making it easier to plan and undertake journeys. Achieving this aim can benefit the individual and, where travel choices are influenced by information provision, it can also benefit the transport system by supporting and promoting greater use of public transport and, potentially, reducing car use or enabling more efficient car use in terms of the route and/or timing of travel.
However, travellers can only be empowered to make more fully informed travel choices if they make use of the information services provided. Herein lies a significant problem that the providers of information services face. Many people are not using their services. Market research for the UK's national public transport information traveline service (TNS Harris, 2000) found that half of the UK population do not use public transport information services. A recent survey of rural residents (Social Research Associates, 1999) found that just under three-fifths of people don't have timetables. In spite of receiving in excess of 1 million telephone enquiries a week, a substantial proportion of the national population are unaware of the National Rail Enquiry Service (TNS Harris, 2000 and Lyons, 2001). Recent research for Transport Direct (DfT, 2003) involved a national survey of 1200 travellers and found that 1 in 3 travellers never consult a telephone or Internet traveller information service (of these, 41% consider they 'don't need to' or 'just don't bother'). Other qualitative research has highlighted habitual behaviour as a reason for low information demand, particularly concerning mode choice (Kenyon and Lyons, 2003).
Previous EPSRC research by Lyons (2001) has identified a series of barriers to the use of information services:
- Lack of inclination, motivation or time to seek information;
- Lack of awareness of information availability;
- Lack of the available means to access the information;
- Lack of faith or trust in the information service provider;
- Prohibitive cost of using the information service;
- Poor usability of the information service; and
- Failure of information content to meet users' needs.
The barriers themselves, as listed above, are recognised. However, what is important is to establish the relative importance or significance of these barriers and to understand properly the nature of the barriers in question. Only limited evidence is available in this respect since much research to date has focused on information use rather than non-use. The purpose of this research is to respond to the experiences of, and growing concerns amongst, information service providers, notably in urban areas, and to assess, understand and explore remedies to the barriers to information services use.
- To identify situational and psychological factors that govern individuals' propensity to use (urban) travel information services;
- To investigate the extent to which and why each of these factors is currently inhibiting higher levels of information services' use;
- To identify whether and which non-users, if converted to users, could yield benefits (in terms of informing and influencing travel behaviour) for the individual, service provider and the urban environment;
- To identify measures that have the potential to address and overcome barriers to information services' use;
- To trial one or more (or a combination of) such measures in a case study city;
- To produce guidelines and recommendations for information service providers.
Cartledge, J. (1996). What sort of information do passengers really require? Public Transport Information, Feb/March, 9-13.
DETR (1998). A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone. Transport White Paper, TSO, London.
DfT (2003). MR04: Phase 2 report: public consultation. Transport Direct Market Research Programme.
Kenyon, S. and Lyons, G. (2003). The Value of Integrated Multimodal Information and its Potential Contribution to Modal Change. Transportation Research Part F - Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 6(1), 1-21.
Lyons, G. (2001). From Advanced Towards Effective Traveller Information Systems. In: Hensher, D. Ed. Travel Behaviour Research The Leading Edge, Chapter 47, 813-826, International Association for Travel Behaviour Research, Pergamon.
Social Research Associates (1999). Rural Public Transport Issues - Survey of Residents. Social Research Associates, November.
TNS Harris (2000). Potential Demand for National Integrated Transport Information and Local Transport Information Line Trip Generation. Summary Report, TNS Harris, March, Richmond.
Werner Brog (2003). Reducing Car Use? Just do it.. In Thomas, S. (Ed.) Sharing in Success - Good News in Passenger Transport, Chapter 8, 69-80, Cambridge, CICC, March.