The relationship between norms, satisfaction and public transport use: A comparison across six European cities us-ing structural equation modelling

Jesper Bláfoss Ingvardson*, Otto Anker Nielsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

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Understanding the motivators of travel satisfaction is essential for designing attractive public transport systems. This study investigates the key drivers of satisfaction with public transport and their relationship with travel frequency and willingness to recommend public transport to others, hence contributing specifically by analysing the influence of social norms in travel use. A large-scale passenger satisfaction survey collected in six European cities and structural equation modelling validates the framework across different travel cultures. The study found that travel satisfaction is positively related to i) accessibility measures, e.g. extent of network coverage, travel speed and service frequency, ii) perceived costs, e.g. reasonable ticket prices, and iii) norms, i.e. perceived societal and environmental importance of public transport. These findings were consistent across all six cities and across different user types based on use frequency of public transport and private car. Specifically, the willingness to recommend public transport to others was significantly related to public transport use at a similar level as overall satisfaction. Finally, the study found significant differences in satisfaction across respondents’ socio-economic characteristics as young respondents and students were less satisfied with service quality than middle-aged and elderly respondents despite more frequent use. This suggests structural problems in public transport because travel habits formed in early life shape travel behaviour throughout life. Hence, it is important to address the needs of these user groups to ensure public transport ridership in the future. The results bear important policy implications for planners in not only focusing on traditional measures for optimising operations, but also branding public transport as an environmentally and socially important transport mode in metropolitan areas.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTransportation Research. Part A: Policy & Practice
Pages (from-to)37-57
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Public transport satisfaction
  • Structural equation modelling
  • Knowledge propagation
  • Public transport recommendation
  • Norms, service quality


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