Together with my former colleague Pete Dyson, we have spent a lot of time over the past number of years looking at what transport can learn from behavioural science.
Transport, like many industries, is dominated by reductionist metrics, and as a result it is particularly prone to being over-optimised for things that we can easily measure and quantify (such as speed, time, capacity, duration, and punctuality) while being grossly under-optimised towards many other things that humans care deeply about.
As Einstein famously said “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”
For example, many hundreds of millions were spent on new rolling stock for Thameslink. They got several things right - there is no more three-abreast seating, and the lack of partitions between carriages reduce localised overcrowding. But there is one extraordinary omission - when they launched, there were no seat-back tables. So if you were on a long journey from London to Brighton, you couldn't work on the train.
But in many ways the single greatest benefit of travelling by train is that you can get on with things when in transit.
While I accept that time is important, it is far from being the decisive factor in my choosing to travel from, say, London to Paris via train rather than by plane. Eurostar delivers more than just transportation. It offers some quality time sitting in the same place, with a table, and wi-fi, and a few hours to get into something productive or enjoyable.
When we stop to learn about what people really value, we can unlock insights that may be hard to measure, but add huge value to people's everyday lives nonetheless.
If you neglect these more subjective, hard-to-measure factors, you will rarely be able to produce a service or product which customers actively choose rather than merely tolerate.
We'll be sharing more on what keeps Transport For Humans moving....
A brief history of human locomotion and communication - what came first, the wheel or written communication?
What can we learn from Concorde becoming the Tyrannosaurus Rex of extinct transport species?
What is 'Park and Pedal' and what if cars came with a folding e-bike in the boot?
Why is the 'carrots and sticks' metaphor going to be a problem for sustainable travel behaviour change?