The optimal integration of different transport modes is a key element in providing a cost-effective and attractive passenger transport system. This can help to reduce congestion and environmental damage, and promote social inclusion by sustaining public transport. Interchange is often the weak link in such integration, as it increases travel time and uncertainty. If transfers between services could be made quicker and easier, then more people could be encouraged to use public transport.
The aim of SWITCH was to demonstrate good practice in the provision of intermodal passenger transport and to assess the impacts on transport operation, traveller behaviour, the environment and economic performance.
SWITCH demonstrated a range of measures to support modal interchange in several cities (Dresden in Germany, Newcastle and Gateshead in the UK, Rotterdam and Dordrecht in the Netherlands, and Venice in Italy). The demonstrations involved land, air and water-based travel, and measures included:
- Improved information to travellers before and during their journey: dynamic trip planning, real-time information, better static signage, and dynamic Park and Ride signage.
- Improved interchanges: redesign of infrastructure, improved access, improved vehicles, integration of taxi services.
- Integrated ticketing solutions to remove the need to purchase multiple tickets.
Based on this experience, a series of recommendations were made:
- Interchange design should take account of identified user needs.
- Intermodality needs to be planned and managed from a network rather than a site-specific perspective, with co-operation between organisations.
- Both pre-trip and real-time information should be provided, and signage should be standardised.
- Access issues must be foremost when designing interchanges, with high quality Park and Ride car parks, Kiss and Ride spaces, and full integration of taxi services with public transport.
The estimated impacts of the measures at the test sites were relatively small, typically around 1-2% in terms of reductions in energy use and emissions. Limited increases in the patronage of public transport were also identified. However, the effects of the packages of measures as a whole were not measured, and longer-term impacts could not be gauged - these are expected to show greater benefits.
SWITCH concluded that further investigation is needed into the acceptability of introducing European standards for interchanges, covering access, intermodal signage and cycle provision.
Three critical barriers to interchange were highlighted:
- Perception. There is an underlying perception that public transport is a second choice option, requiring marketing of door-to-door travel solutions.
- Institutional self-interest. Efficient interchange requires all the involved organisations to co-operate, for instance on timetables, information provision and combined ticketing.
- Technical interfaces. The inter-connection of existing information systems and data into a single co-ordinated framework can often be more taxing technically than building a new system --although SWITCH showed that the problems can be overcome.