Guangzhou BRT transforms perceptions of bus service

Passenger satisfaction rates increase from 24% to 81%; sustained over time

15 March 2014 [updated with December 2014 survey results]. Article by Karl Fjellstrom, for ITDP.

BRT impact analysis surveys in Guangzhou show a dramatic improvement in BRT passengers' perception of public transport since the BRT opened in February 2010. Passenger satisfaction in the BRT corridor has increased from 24% to 81%, and dissatisfaction has fallen from 25% to 3%.

Responding to the question about how they rate the overall bus service, bus passengers in the non-BRT corridor showed a fairly consistent response over the survey period. The percentage of dissatisfied bus passengers has remained low, falling from 6% to 3% from December 2009 to December 2013. People who view the overall bus service in the non-BRT corridor as 'good' or 'very good' was also fairly constant, increasing from 49% to 52% over this period. In the BRT corridor, however, dramatic changes took place in bus passengers' view of the overall bus service. Before the BRT, in December 2009, more bus passengers in the BRT corridor had a negative than a positive view of the bus service: 25% viewed it as 'bad' or 'very bad' while only 24% viewed it as 'good' or 'very good'. After the BRT opened, a huge transformation in passenger perceptions of the bus service has occurred. 81% of bus passengers in the BRT corridor view the bus service as 'good' or 'very good', and only 3% view it as 'bad' or 'very bad'.

Moreover, in a somewhat surprising result, the improvements in passenger satisfaction in the Guangzhou BRT have been sustained over time. A drop in satisfaction rates might have been expected as passengers start to take the BRT improvements for granted, but so far the opposite has occurred. Satisfaction rates have continued to increase, with an all-time high achieved in December 2013. Dissatisfaction rates have remained extremely low, and have never exceeded 4% in the four years since the system opened. One reason for the sustained and even increasing satisfaction rates may be that due to Guangzhou's 'direct service' operations BRT passengers are regularly exposed to the often heavily congested conditions for buses outside the BRT corridor, which reinforces the benefits of the BRT.

Question to bus passengers:

In a related measure, bus passengers were asked to rate the conditions inside the buses, in the BRT corridor before and after the BRT opened, and in a non-BRT corridor for control & comparative purposes. The results are shown below, and indicate a large improvement in the BRT corridor at the same time as a large deterioration in the non-BRT corridor. In the BRT corridor those rating the conditions inside the buses as 'good' or 'very good' increased from 33% before the BRT to 64% in the survey in December 2013. Over the same time period the percentage of those satisfied with conditions inside the buses in the non-BRT corridor has fallen from 50% to 25%. Thus in the BRT corridor the rate of satisfaction with conditions inside the buses has doubled, while in the non-BRT corridor it has halved. Dissatisfaction, defined as those giving a 'bad' or 'very bad' rating, has fallen from 19% (before the BRT) to 4% in the BRT corridor and risen from 12% to 25% in the non-BRT corridor over the same period. This result is somewhat surprising given the high bus occupancy and peak hour crowding in many of the BRT buses.

The dramatic attitudinal improvements achieved by the Guangzhou BRT far exceed what is possible under more incrementalist approaches to bus service improvements.

For the results outlined above, around 1,100 bus passengers were surveyed by ITDP in each of the survey periods listed.