Establish a board of customers and use their advice in planning and evaluation of performance of the system and complaints.
A High Quality Public Transport system is one that fulfils as far as possible the (potential) passengers’ needs and expectations. An advisory board of customers or a customer panel can be of great assistance in creating and maintaining HQPT. Given the local knowledge and contacts in the community, they can both provide valuable input from the (potential) user’s perspective and at the same time communicate and promote the bus transport system to the (potential) user groups they represent.
The board can be asked to give advice and comment on all aspects of the public transport system: planning, performance of the system and evaluation of complaints and suggestions. It depends on the local circumstances which organisations or individuals should be involved.
Possible members of a board of customers can be seen in the following organisations / groups:
Public Transport Passengers Organisations: In many EU countries there are clubs of public transport users. On the European level they are represented by the European Passengers Federation (EPF). Very often the national public transport passenger organisations have regional / local branches. Given their expertise in the field of public transport and their knowledge of the passenger needs they are helpful partners.
Chambers of commerce,
Organisations of elderly and / or handicapped persons,
Major employers or schools,
Organisations of car owners, like ADAC (Germany) or ANWB (The Netherlands)
Non-organised regular users: individual passengers (e.g. season ticket holders) will provide information from their daily experience with the public transport system.
It depends on city size and the local circumstances who is invited to take part in a board of customers and which strategy to select representatives is applied. In bigger cities it can be advisable to go for non-organised individual members only to gather a representative profile of everyday users and to tone down pressure groups. The participants can be recruited by public announcement in newspapers or in vehicles. Based on their application, a segmentation based on different criteria (sex, city district, age, occupation) is made to get a representative profile of users.
Further approaches to maintain public relations with usersas well as special interest organisations can be:
Regular meetings between the management and organisations with special interest in urban bus services (organisations as given above, where applicable: representative of political parties),
Introduction of a user group of one line or corridor,
Regular workshops between management and citizens in city districts.
A board of customers bears some risk of unbalanced discussions among representatives, because experience shows that certain user groups (e.g. rail enthusiasts, PT user associations) tend to dominate the discussion. It is reported that single persons involved in such a board tend to overestimate their role with regard to decision-making or consulting.
In order to create a positive and long lasting involvement of the board of customers, a co-ordinator of the board should be assigned, responsible for the regular meetings, information exchange etc. The co-ordinator has to communicate clearly the role of the board which is defined as an advisory body in terms of a customer perspective.
Oxford (UK): The 'Oxford Bus Company' set-up a Stakeholder Board to create a forum for anyone with a stake in the business. Management, staff, unions, customers, local authorities and even major employers within the city are invited and encouraged to attend. This example is not part of the PROCEED case study analysis.
Sweden: Many Swedish public transport authorities have a board of customers, who meets regularly to discuss important issues. In Jönköping, there is a special board dealing with security issues.
The Netherlands: In The Netherlands in each public transport region (12 provinces and 7 larger city regions) there is one regional public transport platform (= board of customer organisations), giving advice (both requested and unsolicited) to the public transport authority. There are several local and regional consumer organisations involved. The obligation of installing a regional platform of consumers is regulated in the national Public Transport law.
Translink (UK): The organisation, which operates nearly all public transport in Northern Ireland, has set-up nine regional, independently-chaired passenger groups which meet regularly to give feedback on bus and rail services. Each member of a group fills in a questionnaire every week about their travel experiences. The input both from the meetings as well as from the questionnaires is used to improve the services. This example is not part of the PROCEED case study analysis.
Reinders. M.J., van Hagen, M. and Frambach, R.T. (2007) The customer evaluations of self-service technologies in public transport.Proceedings from European Transport Conference. Download: www.etcproceedings.org/paper/download/2989