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Promoting public transport as a subscription service: Effects of a free month travel card


  • Thøgersen, John


Newspapers, book clubs, telephone services and many other subscription services are often marketed to new customers by means of a free or substantially discounted trial period. This article evaluates this method as a means to promote commuting by public transport in a field experiment and based on a solid behavioural-theoretical framework. By measuring important antecedents and mediators, the applied approach offers important insights not only on what behavioural outcomes were produced by the intervention, but why they were produced. Copenhagen car owners received a free month travel card, either alone or together with a customised travel plan or a planning intervention. A control group receiving no intervention was also included. Attitudinal variables, car habits and travel behaviour were measured before and immediately after the intervention and again six months later. The only intervention that had an effect was the free month travel card, which led to a significant increase in commuting by public transport. As expected, the effect was mediated through a change in behavioural intentions rather than a change in perceived constraints. As expected, the effect became weaker when the promotion offer had expired, but an effect was still evident five months later. Possible reasons and implications of this are discussed.

Suggested Citation

  • Thøgersen, John, 2009. "Promoting public transport as a subscription service: Effects of a free month travel card," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 335-343, November.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:trapol:v:16:y:2009:i:6:p:335-343

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Cohen, Tom, 2009. "Evaluating personal travel planning: If it is prohibitively expensive to get a robust answer then what should we do?," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 344-347, November.
    2. Jörgen Garvill & Agneta Marell & Annika Nordlund, 2003. "Effects of increased awareness on choice of travel mode," Transportation, Springer, vol. 30(1), pages 63-79, February.
    3. Bonsall, Peter, 2009. "Do we know whether personal travel planning really works?," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 306-314, November.
    4. Thøgersen, John, 2006. "Understanding repetitive travel mode choices in a stable context: A panel study approach," Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, Elsevier, vol. 40(8), pages 621-638, October.
    5. Ajzen, Icek, 1991. "The theory of planned behavior," Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 179-211, December.
    6. Satoshi Fujii & Ryuichi Kitamura, 2003. "What does a one-month free bus ticket do to habitual drivers? An experimental analysis of habit and attitude change," Transportation, Springer, vol. 30(1), pages 81-95, February.
    7. John Thøgersen & Berit Møller, 2008. "Breaking car use habits: The effectiveness of a free one-month travelcard," Transportation, Springer, vol. 35(3), pages 329-345, May.
    8. Chatterjee, Kiron, 2009. "A comparative evaluation of large-scale personal travel planning projects in England," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 16(6), pages 293-305, November.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tørnblad, Silje H. & Kallbekken, Steffen & Korneliussen, Kristine & Mideksa, Torben K., 2014. "Using mobility management to reduce private car use: Results from a natural field experiment in Norway," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 32(C), pages 9-15.
    2. Schmitt, Lorelei & Currie, Graham & Delbosc, Alexa, 2013. "Measuring the impact of unfamiliar transit travel using a university access survey," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 30(C), pages 301-307.
    3. Redman, Lauren & Friman, Margareta & Gärling, Tommy & Hartig, Terry, 2013. "Quality attributes of public transport that attract car users: A research review," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 25(C), pages 119-127.
    4. Chowdhury, Subeh & Ceder, Avishai (Avi), 2016. "Users’ willingness to ride an integrated public-transport service: A literature review," Transport Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 183-195.


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