Fact sheet Public transport trial offer

Public transport trial offers are intended to enable drivers to travel by public transport on certain routes for a certain period of time free of charge or at a discount.

By participating in this type of campaign, drivers can experience for themselves whether public transport is a suitable alternative for them. After the trial offer, a follow-up offer is often made to increase the chances that motorists will continue to use public transport even after the campaign.

Public transport trial offers often apply for several weeks to several months. They are used as a disruption reduction measure in the case of large-scale road works ('Minder Hinder' [Less Disruption] Pass, Accessibility Pass) or in the event of structural traffic bottlenecks (see also the case study onthe public transport trial offer in Maastricht). Participants are recruited through employers, directly via the Internet, or via signs along the roads or at large car parks.

Accessibility effects

A public transport trial offer at structural bottlenecks leads to an average of 0.1 to 0.2 instances of rush-hour avoidance per participant per day. As a measure for disruption reduction in the case of road works, this is an average of 0.04 to 0.5 per participant per day.

The range of the second type of measure is greater because the situations are more diverse (for example, because motorists sometimes find the disruption acceptable). The number of participants and the effects on rush-hour traffic per project are shown in the table below.

number of participants and the effects on rush-hour traffic per project
Context Project Number of participants Rush-hour effects
structural congestion
Accessibility Pass
17,000 1,430 total per day, 0.1 per participant per day
structural congestion
Experience with trial, Schiphol Noord 2016 253 50 total per day, 0.2 per participant per day
For road
Closure of Exit 55,
A2 Maastricht (April/May 2014; see source [1])
284 134 total per day, 0.5 per participant per day
For road
Measures with an impact on mobility during major maintenance, A4, A10 South 30,000 4,500 total per day, 0.2 per participant per day
For road
Mobility measures, Amsterdam Gooi Emergency Act 17,000 1,327 total per day, 0.1 per participant per day
For road
A6 A9 A12 Minder Hinder (Less Disruption) 1,500 60 total per day, 0.04 per participant per day
For road
Accessibility card
for various projects (see source [2])
4,000 962 total per day, 0.24 per participant per day

Long-term effects

The long-term effects depend on the form that the measure takes. With individual trial and campaign tickets, the participants can certainly get to know public transport, but these do not really make them think about using it regularly. A trial offer that allows participants to travel for a month provides a longer experience. If after this month, travellers can travel by public transport for another month (possibly at reduced rates), there is a greater chance that they will break their habit and see the new behaviour (travelling by public transport) as the norm.

There are also reasons for participants to go back to using their car. For example, they might consider that the regular price of public transport is too high or that the employer's travel allowance is insufficient. It may also be that someone would prefer to use the car for commuting because of irregular working hours or because they have to be in different places in one day. In addition, reduced public transport availability in off-peak hours can be a reason to travel by car instead of public transport. One last reason for participants to go back to the car is when, after large-scale road works have been completed, the road capacity has improved so much that the car has become a more interesting alternative than before the project.

Sustainability effects

With regard to public transport as an alternative to the car in rush-hour traffic, we have based our conclusions on the average journey length from home to work by public transport (24 km). This results in the following emission savings per instance of rush-hour avoidance:

Emissions reduction
(savings in kg/instance of rush-hour avoidance)
CO2 NOx PM10
3.7 0.0026 0.00016

Variables affecting effects

In order for the public transport trial offer to succeed as a measure in the event of traffic congestion, there must be a real congestion problem. Moreover, public transport must be competitive with the car in terms of travel time and there should be no better alternatives.

For the average effect per participant, it is very important whether the measure is aimed only at motorists or also at current public transport users. The marketing of this measure requires extensive communication. In recruiting participants, it is important to make participation as simple as possible. For structural effects, it is important to guide the participant in finding an interesting public transport season ticket that makes the cost of switching more advantageous than the cost of driving. The existing travel allowances provided by employers also play a role: the public transport trial offer is not interesting for travellers whose travel by public transport is already fully reimbursed.

In principle, the same variables apply to the use of a public transport trial offer as a measure in the event of temporary disruption caused by large-scale road works as in the case of structural traffic congestion problems on a route. Here too, both departure and arrival points must be easily accessible by public transport, the disruption caused must be major and last for at least a few months, and the public transport capacity must be sufficient to accommodate the additional passengers.

Costs (including VAT)

The average costs of relevant projects from the Optimising Use 1 programme were €525,000 (bandwidth €305,000-€744,000) [3]. The total costs are made up of the costs of the reduction for using public transport. And the production of the public transport.cards to be handed out to people. Where road works last for sustained periods, the measures will have to be deployed for a similar duration, the result of which is higher costs. The extent of the personal contribution is another factor with an influence on the costs. This factor relates to the additional costs that travellers have to pay themselves for the trial offers or follow-up promotions.

More information

See https://wegwijs-beterbenutten.nl/ov-stimuleren

Sources consulted

  1. Evaluatie acties afsluiting Afrit 55. Effect- en duurzaamheidsstudie van E-bike en OV actie (MuConsult, 2014)
  2. Factsheet Fietsparkeren (MuConsult, 2011)
  3. Factsheet OV Stimuleren (Muconsult, 2014)
  4. Evaluatie acties afsluiting Afrit 1. Effect- en duurzaamheidsstudie van e-bike en OV actie (MuConsult, 2014)
  5. Evaluatie probeeractie Schiphol Noord; Onderzoek in het kader van monitoring en evaluatie van Beter Benutten (Muconsult, 2016)
  6. Factsheet MinderHinderpas (MuConsult, 2011)
  7. Onderzoek stimuleringsproducten OV in het kader van het programma Beter Benutten (Significant, 2014)

Rules of thumb

  • effect on accessibility: on average approx. 0.15 instances of rush-hour avoidance per day per participant
  • effect on sustainability: reduction of 3.7 kg of CO2 per instance of rush-hour avoidance
  • cost: an average of about €500,000 per project (highly dependent on type of project)