Tasmanian's reluctant to ditch cars - survey says

The results from Metro Tasmania’s customer survey are out suggesting there’s still a lot of work to get motorists choosing bus

Tasmanian's reluctant to ditch cars - survey says
Tasmanian’s reluctant to ditch cars – survey says

By David Goeldner | May 9, 2011

Metro Tasmania’s push to increase patronage is starting to achieve results, although there is still a way to go, says the route service provider’s CEO Heather Haselgrove.

A survey commissioned late last year by Haselgrove to measure customer satisfaction across Metro’s predominantly Hobart and Launceston operations turned up some worrying results – although expected.

While Haselgrove says the survey, conducted by Colmar Brunton Social Research "went really well", there is still a long way to go to increase patronage.

"We have a hard road ahead to get more Tasmanians to choose public transport as their preferred mode of travel," she says.

Haselgrove says the survey found that the car is the main mode of transport for more than three quarters, or 77 percent of the surveyed population overall.

She says one respondent’s comment pretty much summed the report’s findings.

"Tasmanians would drive to the toilet if they could," the respondent says.

The majority of infrequent users and non-users of Metro use the car as their main mode of transport – 89 percent and 94 percent respectively.

"Even among frequent Metro users the car is the main mode of transport for almost a quarter, or 23 percent, of customers," says Haselgrove.

"After the car, Metro was the next most common main mode of transport."

Haselgrove says the results aren’t surprising, given that Tasmania does not have passenger trains or trams and is only in the early stages of constructing a network of cycling tracks.

The survey also found getting to work, university or school was the most common main purpose for using Metro.

‘Going to the city’ was also a common reason for catching Metro in Hobart at 29 precent, with a significantly higher percentage of people from Launceston – 46 percent – using the bus for this purpose.

Some Hobart users complained there wasn’t a service for where they wanted to go, about 17 percent, which was much less of a problem in Launceston.

Taking too long to get people to their destination was an issue for a greater proportion of Metro users in Hobart at 13 percent compared to Launceston at seven percent.

But overall Metro users were generally satisfied with the service, with nearly two-thirds of user likely to recommend Metro to a friend, family member or colleague.

The satisfaction rating from those who did choose to get on board a Metro service was relatively high at 69 percent satisfied.

All up, Metro Tasmania’s patronage is however steadily rising across the network.

"Last year Metro increased passenger numbers by almost half a million compared to the previous year," Haselgrove says.

In 2009 Metro recorded 9,930,349 boardings and this increased to 10,430,320 boardings in 2010, and that trend has continued into 2011.

In 12 months to 31 March passenger boardings were up by 5.9 per cent compared to the previous 12 months.

Haselgrove says some of the gains can be attributed to the successful introduction of Greencard in 2009 with just over half of all boardings made with the smartcard.

"More than 60,000 Tasmanians have been issued with Greencards which demonstrates the success of the new ticketing system," Haselgrove says.

Based on the survey results, Colmar Brunton recommended that to increase usage and grow patronage Metro needed to increase the frequency of services, particularly on weekends, and extend the service times to start earlier in the morning and run later into the night.

The researchers also suggested that reliability of services be improved, including arrival and departure times at stops.

Colmar Brunton also recommend expansion into more suburbs or areas into the bus routes to accommodate people with limited coverage.

Perceptions about value for money need to be addressed, say the researchers, particularly for those infrequently using the service.

And, the sticking point remains promoting the benefits of using Metro over the car.

Haselgrove says Metro Tasmania already has some of these initiatives in hand.

"Over the next two months we’re also bringing eight new buses into service – four new 18-metre articulated buses and four new 12.5 metre buses.

Haselgrove says the expansion will allow Metro Tasmania to address overcrowding on some routes and provide better access for people with mobility issues.

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