Factors influencing the demand for metro services in Lisbon

November 8, 2021

In 2017, according to the IMob 2017 Travel Survey, 59% of all passenger trips in Lisbon’s Metropolitan Area were made by private car, while public transportation accounted only for approximately 16% of trips. The dependence on private car for travelling in Portugal’s largest metropolitan area increased from 21% in 1991, to 40% in 2001, and 54% in 2011. In contrast, public transport use has substantially reduced, dropping from 56% of all passenger trips in 1991, to 38% in 2001, and 28% in 2011.

Promoting the use of public transport over private car usage is increasingly seen as crucial by regional and local policymakers because the later generates strong environmental and health costs, as well as economic costs associated with sprawling and congestion.

To have a better understanding of the determinants of public transport demand, this paper estimates demand models for Lisbon’s metro system in order to identify which factors have had a greater impact on patronage levels since the opening of the metro system in late 1959.

The paper finds that metro demand is more responsive to changes in the price of the service, than to changes in service levels. Increasing metro fares by 10% is associated with a reduction in passengers between 5 to 8 percent, while reducing service levels by 10% is associated with a reduction in demand levels of about 5%. In addition, changes in fuel prices also affect metro demand, indicating there is a clear substitution between the metro and the car.

The paper also finds a strong association between wages and metro demand for poorer individuals receiving the minimum wage, which may be indicative of strong mobility constrains faced by this group of people. Efforts to keep fares accessible are, therefore, crucial for an increase in public transportation usage.

Since the paper was written, the rise in teleworking may imply the creation of more flexible and cheaper travel cards. Debates on post-COVID19 public transportation usage, the comeback of traffic jams or resistance to increases in the price of fuel suggest the reinforcement of measures to improve the perception and support for public transportation.

Click here to go to the paper by Patricia C. Melo, Nuno Sobreira, and Pedro Goulart.


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