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Users' preferences for BRT versus LRT in Nantes
Research and Innovation
In order to better understand passenger perceptions of BRT and LRT, Steer Davies Gleave carried out research in Nantes, France which has an existing and relatively modern network of both.
Although much is known about the differences in construction and operating costs for Bus Rapid Transport and Light Rail, less is known about how passengers perceive them, and which they prefer. In order to understand these passenger perceptions better and provide our clients with greater insight on this subject.
Steer Davies Gleave have been carrying out internal Research and Innovation (R&I) projects to develop our knowledge in this area, in Nantes, France.
How we did it
Nantes in France was considered a good case study because of its relatively modern LRT and BRT networks. We carried out focus groups with people who had experience of using both systems in Nantes, followed by Stated Preference interviews with 515 people who had recent experience of using both systems. The questionnaires explored people’s use and experience of both modes, while the Stated Preference offered them choices in which the characteristics of each system were traded off against each other.
We found that while the overall preference was for LRT, this was largely due to the better network coverage provided by the tram (there are three tram lines in Nantes and one BRT, known as BusWay). By contrast, Busway did better on comfort and security. Once these factors were allowed for the residual preference was in favour of the BusWay.
This finding seems to be quite robust when we look at people with different levels of experience of each mode. While the strength of belief varies with frequency of use of each mode, the overall conclusion holds:
- BusWay did better than tram on comfort;
- Tram did better than BusWay on service level and network coverage; and
- When these are both allowed for there was a residual preference for BusWay over tram.
These findings are specific to Nantes, deriving from the services implemented there and the views of the local population. However, what we can deduce from the views expressed by passengers is that there is no reason to think that BRT is innately inferior to tram. In fact, the research shows that a well-designed and operated BRT system can be at least as attractive to passengers as tram, if not more so.