This winter, Ontario was hit with a series of late snow storms, which wreaked havoc with traffic and snow removal. The City of Barrie transit agency was also experiencing delays, and encouraged riders to check MyRide, their real-time information smartphone app, to see where the buses were. Buses were running behind and couldn’t adhere to the posted schedule, but with the app, riders could track vehicle location and arrival time.
Passenger information systems like MyRide help improve customer experience through some surprising psychology.
Everyone knows that waiting for the bus in bad weather is anxiety-inducing, frustrating and unpleasant. And it seems like the bus takes forever to show up. Research has consistently shown that people view transit negatively if they have to wait.
Time can be measured in two ways: objectively (as measured by a clock) or subjectively (as perceived and experienced based on different events). Transit users’ experience of subjective time when waiting for a bus to arrive feels significantly longer than it really is. The numbers vary from 1.2 times to 4.4 times longer than objective time. Let’s say the weather was bad, so the subjective time ratio was high – a 2 minute wait feels like 8.8 minutes. These negative perceptions can color a rider’s overall feelings about public transit, making them judge transit as a less viable option.
Given all of these hurdles, how can real-time transit information systems help make waiting less painful for riders? Being able to look up the arrival time of the next bus can make wait times feel shorter. One study found perceived wait times for users were 30% less than non-users.
Riders who use real-time information systems (RTIs) actually wait for less time, on average 1 to 2 minutes less, presumably because they are better able to time their arrival at the bus stop.
In the end, it comes down to giving riders back a portion of control over their transit journey and with real-time information, they aren’t endlessly waiting in the dark for late or missed buses.