Satisfaction Levels with the Public Bus Service in Galway
A Research Experience and Learning (REaL) Project
Public transport transforms urban communities and the lives of citizens living in them by stimulating economic growth, promoting sustainable lifestyles, and providing a higher quality of life. The healthiest cities in the world have one thing in common; a public and active transport network that don’t depend on each person owning a personal motorised vehicle. Growing dependence on the automobile created a multitude of problems, many of which public transport can help solve. Increasingly adverse environmental and health effects related to automobile emissions and car-dependency suggests using public transport will result in a reduction of an individual's carbon footprint, will lessen overall CO2 emissions, and can help to alleviate traffic congestion as well as promote more efficient land use. With Galway experiencing persistent chronic traffic problems it is widely acknowledged that any sustainable, long-term solution must entail a significant public transport element. The aim of this student-centred mixed methods research study, conducted in November and December 2017, was to obtain essential baseline information on satisfaction levels with the existing public bus service in Galway City, Ireland. By assessing levels of satisfaction we can build our overall knowledge of the public transport network and thus identify improvements in the service that would lead to an increase in bus passenger travel and result in a reduction in the number of cars on the roads. This is one of several strands of research currently being undertaken by the SSRC to build a more holistic representation of overall mobility practices and behaviours in Galway.
How the data was collected
To capture the users’ views and opinions of the public bus service, a mixed method approach, quantitative and qualitative, was adopted for this study. In November and December 2017 a thirteen question survey of public bus transport users in Galway was conducted with the aim of providing a better understanding of this mode of transport and evaluate satisfaction levels from a service user perspective. A number of these questions were drawn from Transportfocus’s Bus Passenger Survey Report , although it is important to point out that the methodologies used in each body of research differ significantly. The motive for using this particular report as a basis for some of the questions was to allow some degree of comparative analysis between results from the Galway survey and UK results. Data collection was carried out by researchers and undergraduate students from the School of Political Science & Sociology at the National University of Ireland Galway. The desire to connect research and teaching to create a productive and progressive agenda for undergraduate teaching and learning has become one of the most significant areas for academic development in higher education hence this innovative research aimed to satisfy two goals. The positive effect on student learning through the inclusion of real-life, complex and unstructured research-like activities is at the core of undergraduate education and thus students learn through their own discovery, supported by academic advisors and their peers in a research-rich environment. In addition, the research stood to benefit broadly from the addition of motivated and energetic student researchers who bring a positive and cooperative-learning perspective to the project, particularly to the data collection process. Data gathering was initially carried out by the widespread localised promotion of the questionnaire via social media and made available through the free and open source online platform LimeSurvey. Efforts at limiting bias were made including avoiding the assistance of various local transport advocacy and lobby groups. Concerns about the asymmetry of responses and, indeed, the digital divide prompted researchers to limit these online participants to just over half (n=204). After the preliminary online collection phase the questionnaire was then administered through face-to-face interviews in and around Eyre Square in the centre of Galway. The public bus service in the city is mono-centric in nature so all bus services stop off at bus stops at various locations around this specific part of the city centre. A total of seven student researchers collected the data in face-to-face interview with service users over three different days at the end of 2017. Over 360 (n=363) fully completed questionnaires were gathered and 36 incomplete questionnaires; an overall total of n=399. To supplement this questionnaire, a small number of brief interviews were also carried out with service users (n=6) in our attempts to uncover a richer understanding of how the public bus service is perceived in the city. The data was analysed using SPSS (IBM Corp. Released 2013. IBM SPSS Statistics for Windows, Version 23.0. Armonk, NY, USA). A copy of the questionnaire is available to download by clicking here...
Who helped and supported the project
The project team wish to acknowledge the financial assistance provided by EXPLORE which supports students and staff at NUI Galway to innovative and co-create new learning and knowledge. In addition, we wish to acknowledge the help and backing of the Social Sciences Research Centre (SSRC). Details of the project are available on the EXPLORE website; click here...
Cat from the research team congratulating Thomas Chamberland from France who participated in the survey carried out on the run up to Christmas 2017. The prize was a €100 Leap card and the lucky winner was chosen at random from 261 participants approached while using the public bus services in Galway