MDB Insight Blog


How Do We Make Public Transport More Efficient?

While public transport used to be primarily an issue in larger centres, more and more smaller cities and towns are exploring the possibilities. Connecting small towns with each other, or with larger nearby cities, opens up to residents many more opportunities for education, work, and entertainment.

Increasingly, people want access to public transit, for a variety of reasons. A common motivation is the desire for environmentally friendlier ways to move around. Efficient public transit systems can make a huge change in the environmental impact of vehicles in a region. But that word, “efficient”, is one that Canadian transit systems seem to struggle with. It’s no secret that Canada’s transit systems don’t generally top, or even rank well in, lists of great transit systems in the world.

The Challenges for Public Transport

Both Vancouver and Ottawa have recently experienced challenges with late or no-show buses and trains, trips taking longer than they’re supposed to, and schedule changes (resulting from the implementation of a new transit system) that have significantly inconvenienced riders. These three challenges seem fairly small, but they have had large negative impacts. Ridership has decreased in both cities, and costs for running transportation have risen quite dramatically.

How You Can Deliver Better Public Transportation Service

In order for citizens to use public transportation it needs to be convenient and reliable. This means that buses or trains need to be adequately scheduled for peak use hours, and they need to be on time all the time. For regional systems to be of use to citizens in multiple communities, the service hours need to be convenient. It’s a great idea, in theory, that buses running to another town mean someone can work in town B and live in town A. But problems can arise:

  • If the first bus doesn’t get to town B half an hour, at a minimum, before that person needs to start work, the system is useless to them.
  • If the last bus in the evening leaves at 8:45, when a retail position ends at 9:30 pm, they can’t use it.
  • If buses are running every half hour during non-peak hours, they’re wasting significant resources and money.
  • If someone lives 2 kilometres from their workplace, but they have to walk 1 kilometre to get to a bus stop, they might opt to walk the whole way.

Effective implementation of a public transit service needs data collected from market research to inform scheduling, locations, and service needs. Modelling a transit system off another city will not work. Each community has unique needs.

MDB Insight’s Citizen Satisfaction IQ™ survey can collect representative real-time data about the needs of your community. Whether you want to improve your existing transit service or implement a new service, it's important to build your transit plan based on solid data, not anecdotal evidence. With the results of your Citizen Satisfaction IQ™ survey you’ll be able to decide if your community is ready for public transit, or if your existing system could use some adjustment.

After you’ve reviewed the expert analysis you’ll receive from survey results, you can use the Tax Sensitivity Calculator™ to run a follow-up survey with taxpayers. Our tax sensitivity survey allows taxpayers to see, in real time, how changes to public transit could potentially affect their tax bill. With a clear display of how service changes affect individual tax rates, your constituents can make informed decisions about which programs they would support. You can then use that data to show that Council is not just guessing about what the community wants.

Public Transit Alternatives and Supporting Infrastructure


Supporting a diverse range of transportation methods is a great way to set your community on the path towards a much greener future. Expanding public transport is not the only way to improve transit and transportation options in your community.

The sharing economy is making waves in the way we move people around. Sharing-based services, like car shares, bike shares, or even scooter shares, are proving popular in cities around the world. Services like Lyft and Uber have changed the way people get around and have made life without a vehicle much more viable.

Perhaps one of the most important, and possibly simplest, options for promoting greener transportation is to improve walkability with a great path system in your community. Path systems are shared by all sorts of green transportation options from walking, to biking, to scooters. Paths that are safe, well lit, well maintained, and placed on common desire lines will encourage more and more green transportation. If it's faster to walk or ride a bike on paths than it is on the sidewalk or street, your residents are more likely to do it.

Identify the Services Your Community Needs

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