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Understanding public transport satisfaction: Using Maslow’s hierarchy of (transit) needs


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Public transport (PT) administrators require mechanisms to prioritise investments for improving their services, not only to maintain existing customers but also to attract new users. Customer satisfaction surveys allow detecting the level of global satisfaction with the PT system in addition to more specific satisfaction with its various attributes. Statistical analyses of these data allow determining which attributes impact more strongly on overall satisfaction. Although several econometric frameworks have been used for this task, we found only three studies loosely based on psychological theories to justify the models obtained. To address this critical gap in the literature, we postulate the existence of a Maslow’s hierarchy of transit needs, with three types of attributes: functional (utilitarian), security (protection) and hedonic. To test our hypothesis, we estimate structural equation models (SEM), SEM-Multigroup, and SEMM (finite mixture) models, and assess their differences in four different cities with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)-type systems in Latin America. Our results confirm the existence of a hierarchy in the different BRT-type system contexts, allowing to derive more generalisable conclusions. Finally, we provide direct policy recommendations by constructing a set of priorities for our case studies, concerning reliability, safety, customer services and comfort; which is generalisable to any PT system setting.

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