Perceived Service Quality of Public Transport Essay

AB213: RESEARCH METHODS Nanyang Technological University| Nanyang Business School| | A Research OnPerceived Service Quality of Public Transport(PART I)| Prepared For:Dr. Sunanda SangwanPrepared By:Ng Choon Heong 081296K05Ng Shi Hui 081047L05Yojit N Govindani 081479G05 Tutorial group: 7Project group: 125 September 2009| | ABSTRACT This report begins with an explanation of the current situation which leads to the formulation of the research problem, which is to conduct a research on the perceived service quality of public transport.

The current situation, as revealed through secondary research, includes the increase in resident population, average daily ridership, economic condition, aging population and the strategic aim of the government. Literature review is undertaken subsequently, which yielded further insights into the determinants of perceived service quality of public transport. These determinants include physical environment, convenience and fares. Our group will examine how these determinants are likely to contribute to the perceived service quality of public transport.

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A conceptual framework which shows all the hypotheses to be tested in this research is included at the end of the report. Following our research findings to be presented in Part 2 of the report, we will make recommendations with regard to quality improvement of public transport so as to achieve our research objective. LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURES Figure 1. 1: Resident Population1 Table 1. 1: Average Daily Ridership (‘000 passenger-trips)2 Figure 1. 2: Old Age Support Ratio3 Table 1. 2: Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Singapore4 Table 2: SMRT Network Capacity12 Figure 2: Conceptual Framework13 CONTENTS

ABSTRACTi LIST OF TABLES AND FIGURESii CONTENTSiii CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION1 1. 1Research Problem1 1. 2Research Objectives6 CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW7 2. 1Physical Environment7 2. 1. 1Crowd Management8 2. 1. 2Cleanliness8 2. 1. 3Passenger Courtesy9 2. 2Convenience10 2. 2. 1Frequency10 2. 2. 2Routes11 2. 3Fares11 2. 4Interfering Variables12 2. 5Conceptual Framework13 BIBLIOGRAPY14 A Research On Perceived Service Quality of Public Transport CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 1. 1Research Problem The idea of an efficient public transport system has many different meanings in different regions of the world.

In the developing countries, efficiency could be simply in the form of ferrying people to their destination. In developed countries like Singapore, it takes on several other complex issues in the form of customer convenience and service standards. With a changing demographic and lifestyle patterns in the Singapore society, there is a need to serve diversified travel needs (Beirao and Cabrala, 2007). Two current demographic trends include an increase in resident population and an aging population (Singapore Statistics, 2008). Increase in Resident Population & Average Daily Ridership Figure 1. shows an 11. 28% increase in Resident Population from 2,013,600 in 1970 to 3,642,700 in 2008. Figure 1. 1: Resident Population | | | Source: Singapore Statistics, 2008 The increase in resident population exerts additional pressure on transport infrastructure (Murray, 2001). Moreover, average daily ridership as shown in Table 1. 1 for MRT has increased over the years from 2004 (709,000 passenger-trips) to 2008 (1,720,000 passenger-trips). On the other hand, average daily ridership for bus has increased since year 2006 (2,853,000 passenger-trips) after a period of decline between 2001 and 2005.

The average daily ridership for taxi, however, has declined at the start of year 2006 (945,000 passenger-trips). This decline coincided with the start of the slowdown in real GDP growth in 2006 as shown in Table 1. 2 (p. 4). Table 1. 1: Average Daily Ridership (‘000 passenger-trips) Year | MRT| % Change (MRT)| Bus| % Change (Bus)| Taxi [1]| % Change (Taxi)| FY94/95 | 709| -| 2,920| -| -| -| FY95/96 | 760| 7. 19| 3,032| 3. 84| -| -| FY96/97 | 873| 14. 87| 3,101| 2. 28| -| -| FY97/98 | 923| 5. 73| 3,121| 0. 64| -| -| FY98/99 | 949| 2. 82| 3,158| 1. 19| -| -| FY99/00 | 1,003| 5. 69| 3,197| 1. 23| -| -|

FY00/01 | 1,061| 5. 78| 3,257| 1. 88| -| -| FY01/02 | 1,068| 0. 66| 3,214| -1. 32| 871| -| FY02/03 | 1,080| 1. 12| 3,123| -2. 83| 834| -4. 25| FY03/04 | 1,220| 12. 96| 2,972| -4. 84| 801| -3. 96| FY04/05 | 1,276| 4. 59| 2,788| -6. 19| 876| 9. 36| FY05/06 | 1,338| 4. 86| 2,785| -0. 11| 991| 13. 13| FY06/07 | 1,435| 7. 25| 2,853| 2. 44| 945| -4. 64| FY07/08 | 1,564| 8. 99| 2,969| 4. 07| 927| -1. 90| FY08/09 | 1,720| 9. 97| 3,085| 3. 91| 907| -2. 16| Note: [1] Only data from 2001 onwards had been updated when the methodology of estimating taxi ridership was revised in 2003. FY03/04 taxi ridership had been revised. Source: Land Transport Authority, 2009 An Aging Population As can be seen from Figure 1. 2, the number of residents aged 15-64 per elderly resident has declined from 17. 0 in 1970 to 8. 4 in 2008. In other words, elderly dependency ratio has increased, confirming an aging population. An aging population requires our public transport to cater to the special needs of elderly passengers (Liu and Kendig, 2000). Figure 1. 2: Old Age Support Ratio(Number of Residents Aged 15-64 Years Per Elderly* Resident) | | | Source: Singapore Statistics, 2008 Current Economic Condition As shown in Table 1. , real GDP growth of Singapore has declined from 7. 8% in 2007 to -6. 0% in 2009. Table 1. 2: Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Singapore Year| 2004| 2005| 2006| 2007| 2008| 2009| Nominal GDP (S$ bn)| 185| 201| 221| 252| 257| 236| Real GDP growth (%)| 9. 3| 7. 3| 8. 4| 7. 8| 1. 1| -6. 0| (Source: Economist Intelligence Unit, 2009) This economic slowdown has led to an increase in public transport ridership by 8% in 2008 year-on-year as more Singaporeans disowned private cars (Yeo, 2008). Public transport operators need to manage this increase to ensure passenger comfort, amongst other service aspects, is not compromised.

While ridership figures are going up, Transport Minister Raymond Lim hopes that commuters will use public transport even when the economy recovers because public transport is fast, convenient, reliable and comfortable (Yeo, 2008). Strategic Aim The Land Transport Authority (LTA) of Singapore once stated its mission, boldly, as being ‘to provide Singaporeans with a world class transport system’ (May, 2004). Its mission now is ‘to provide an efficient and cost-effective land transport system for different needs (Land Transport Authority, 2009).

In 2008, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong announced that one of the key focuses was for the government to improve on our public transport system. This is to encourage more Singaporeans to switch to public transport. He acknowledged that the government “can do more to make public transport a choice mode of travel” (Giam and Cheng, 2009). The government thus has to undertake strategic development to provide a sustainable mode of transport for the long-term (Phang, 2003) to address these 3 main issues as discussed, which we would like to highlight in general:- * Change in demographic pattern Increase in public transport ridership * A need to encourage permanent switch to public transport A research on the perceived service quality of public transport is, therefore, a crucial step for strategic development, so that improvements can be made to respond to ever-changing commuter needs, as well as to position itself as a world class transportation system. 1. 2Research Objectives Our research objectives are: 1. To examine commuters’ perceived service quality levels of public transport. 2. To use the findings to make recommendations on the quality improvement of public transport in Singapore.

CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW Service quality is a function of the relationship between a customer’s prior expectations of the service and his or her perception of the service experience both during and after the fact. In our research however, we shall focus on perceived quality of public transport. Service quality is judged by both the process of service delivery and the outcome of the service (Fitzsimmons & Fitzsimmons, 2007). To better understand the determinants of service quality of public transport, a literature review of articles, books and journals were undertaken. . 1Physical Environment Service improvements in public services can be made by assessing the quality of service provision using the SERVQUAL model (Brysland & Curry, 2001). In developing the SERVQUAL model, Parasuraman, Zeithaml, and Berry defined perceived service quality as a global judgment, or attitude, relating to the superiority of the service (Heung, Wong & Qu, 2000). The SERVQUAL model measures service quality in five dimensions, namely, tangibles, reliability, responsiveness, assurance, and empathy.

In this section, we shall examine, illustratively, the first dimension on ‘tangibles. ’ The dimension on ‘tangibles’ includes the condition of the physical surroundings as a tangible evidence of the care and attention to detail that are exhibited by the service provider (Fitzsimmons & Fitzsimmons, 2007). As such, we shall examine “crowd management” and “cleanliness” of our public transport. The ‘tangibles’ dimension can also extend to the conduct of other customers in the service (Fitzsimmons & Fitzsimmons, 2007), and as such, we shall examine “passenger courtesy. With a good physical environment on our public transport, passenger’s perceived service quality at the end of the ride will be a positive one. This will form our first hypothesis: H1: Physical environment of public transport is positively related to its perceived service quality. 2. 1. 1Crowd Management As a city state, Singapore is the second most densely populated country in the world. Demands on our land transport system are set to increase by 60 percent, from our current 8. 9 million daily journeys to 14. million by 2020 (Land Transport Authority, 2009). As Singapore aims to increase the population from 4. 5 million to 6 million, the situation of crowding in the public transport will get worse. The population is also aging. The movement of elderly is much slower and this increases the likelihood of congestion (Chua et al. , 2007). Moreover, Singapore is welcoming record numbers of immigrants. Last year, 20,513 foreigners became citizens, while 79,167 took up permanent residency (Li, 2009). This will lead to an increase in the usage of public transport.

As such, a good crowd management is important to reduce overcrowding so as to ensure a good physical environment. This leads to our hypothesis as follows: H1a: Crowd management is positively related to physical environment of public transport. 2. 1. 2Cleanliness Chasing Dirt, written by Hoy (1995), documented the Americans’ pursuit of cleanliness with an adage that cleanliness is a virtue ‘next to Godliness’ necessary for a healthy environment. Connex, a public transport provider in Melbourne, has been marked by a series of public relations disasters as a result of dirty trains, leading to its demise.

This is in contrast to the sleek and clean look of MTR in Hong Kong, which is now leading the Metro Trains Melbourne Group following a successful bid (Gardiner, 2009). Likewise, Tokyo Metro – the world’s largest metro, is renowned for its cleanliness (Stevens, 2006) with an aim to provide a high quality service that accurately meets the needs of people in Tokyo (Tokyo Metro Group, n. d. ). In Singapore, the SMRT Corporation Ltd. (“SMRT”) started cracking down on commuters eating or drinking on trains, where a woman, being a first-time offender, was fined $30 for eating sweet (The Straits Times, 2009).

This effort is aimed towards keeping our trains clean so that commuters have a good physical environment, thus leading to our hypothesis: H1b: Cleanliness is positively related to physical environment of public transport. 2. 1. 3Passenger Courtesy The National Courtesy Campaign was a campaign launched in June 1979 by Singapore’s Ministry of Culture as a means of encouraging Singaporeans to be more kind and considerate to each other, so as to create a pleasant social environment (Tham, 1983). As mentioned in Section 1. 1, the aging population in Singapore means an increase in public transport commuters who are elderly.

The elderly, in addition to pregnant women and children, may require special assistance by fellow passengers, such as those who are willing to give up their seats. In Hong Kong, the MTR Corporation (“MTR”) has forged strategic partnership with schools in delivering passenger education. MTR believes that school headmasters and teachers are in a unique position to inculcate courteous behaviour in young people at an early age, which is key to ensure a safe and quality transportation service that meets the needs of the communities (MTR Corporation, 2009).

In Singapore, SMRT unveiled new priority seat signs as part of its annual Courtesy and Safety Programme (CSP). The SMRT’s CSP aims to inculcate personal responsibility for graciousness and safety when taking public transport so as to make travel a delightful experience for everyone (SMRT Corporation Ltd, 2008). We can, therefore, hypothesize that displaying passenger courtesy will lead to a pleasant and safer physical environment. H1c: Passenger courtesy is positively related to physical environment of public transport. 2. 2Convenience

The convenience of passengers is of utmost importance to helping build a positive image of the public transport system (Chan, 2009). This includes aspects such as frequency of services and service routes outlining. It can also include facilities, such as lifts at MRT stations for handicapped passengers and wheelchair friendly buses and trains. Not to forget campaigns such as the “Reserved Seating” for the benefit of the elderly and pregnant women. [May, 2004] All this shows the focus on making public transport convenient for the aged and other similar groups, especially since Singapore is facing the threat of an ageing population.

H2: Passenger convenience is positively related to perceived service quality of public transport. 2. 2. 1Frequency In statistics comparing the public transport system in Hong Kong with Singapore (Chan, 2009), it was evident that the transport services in the former were extremely reliable and followed the schedules with accuracy even though the load of passengers was a lot more. The Hong Kong system also enables passengers to reach their destinations faster. In 1996, the LTA was formed, and had an ambitious plan to make the Singapore public transport system “world class” (LTA, 1996a and May, 2004).

Has the LTA delivered on its vision? By comparing frequency with the commuters’ perceptions of the same, we should get a good idea. H2a: Frequency is positively related to convenience of public transport. 2. 2. 2Routes The routes covered by the road and rail transport network in Singapore may also give rise to different perceptions from different commuters (Public transport can be better than cars if… , 2009, paras. 10-18). Some may be well served by the routes from their home to places of work and recreation. Others may be living in an area where just one bus service operates to ferry them to and from a major MRT station.

Many bus services have routes such that they do not replicate those of the trains on the 3 major lines, namely, North-South, East-West and North-East lines. H2b: Available route is positively related to convenience of public transport. 2. 3Fares Monetary aspects of transportation are perhaps the single most important factor in determining commuters’ perceived level of satisfaction with a service. Commuters will compare their costs to benefits ratio to come to a conclusion as to whether it is value for money. Recently, there have been several reviews to the fare system undertaken by the Public Transport Council. Lay, 2009]. This is especially due to the volatile situation of oil prices, which peaked in late 2008. Cheaper fares now in a bid to help commuters tide over the tough times However, taxis still continue to hold firm on their original prices which were raised for the high oil prices. (Mathavan et. al, 2009) Apart from scrapping the 30 cent fuel surcharge, taxi fares are unchanged. This might lead to discontent among commuters, which we will aim to investigate in our research. These fare revisions may affect commuters, especially those who are on a low income budget, to finance their transport expenses.

Fares may thus play a crucial role in determining commuters’ perceived level of service quality. H3: High fare is negatively related to perceived service quality of public transport. 2. 4Interfering Variables We shall examine the interfering variables between frequency and crowd management of public transport. Based on SMRT’s 2007 annual report (see Table 2), the number of passenger-trips has increased by 10% from 2003 to 2007. However, the number of car kilometres operated actually decreased by 14%. This explains how average car occupancy has increased by 23% in that same period.

Would this contribute to overcrowding problems? Table 2: SMRT Network Capacity (Source: SMRT Annual Report 2007, p. 77) With a higher frequency of trains or buses, problems of longer waiting time and overcrowding will be reduced and thus contributing to better crowd management. We shall, therefore, test the following hypothesis: H4: Frequency is positively related to crowd management of public transport. 2. 5Conceptual Framework The conceptual framework shown in Figure 2 summarises the hypotheses to be tested in this research. Figure 2: Conceptual Framework Independent Variables Dependent Variable

H4 H3 H2 H1 Perceived Service Quality of Public Transport Fares Convenience * Frequency (H2a) * Routes (H2b) Physical Environment * Crowd Management (H1a) * Cleanliness (H1b) * Passenger Courtesy (H1c) BIBLIOGRAPY Beirao, G. , ; Cabrala, J. S. (2007). Understanding attitudes towards public transport and private car: A qualitative study. Transport Policy, 14 (6), 478-489. doi: 10. 1016/j. tranpol. 2007. 04. 009 Brysland A. , ; Curry A. (2001). Service improvements in public services using SERQUAL. Managing Service Quality, 11(6), 389-401. doi: 10. 1108/09604520110410601 Chan, P.

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