The aim of this contribution is (i) to highlight the importance of research on user acceptance for demand responsive transport in rural areas; (ii) to explore specific conditions for transport services in rural areas based on a case study in Austria, and (iii) to identify factors for use and non-use of public transport related to that specific context.
In recent years, the expansion of public transport has received considerable attention as a means to reduce carbon emissions. This is applicable to urban areas, but not as easily to rural areas, partly reasoned by the low current share of public transport use. Demand-responsive transport (DRT) services are handled as potential solution, yet, successfully implementing DRT in rural areas appears to be challenging. We believe user acceptance to be a key issue in this regard. Prior research on user acceptance of public transport has mostly concentrated on urban areas, and produced inconclusive results regarding identified factors influencing user acceptance, calling for a more differentiated elaboration in the specific rural setting. To address this research gap, we conducted three online focus groups in three different rural municipalities in Austria, accompanied by expert-interviews.
We present results explaining the particular conditions for public and demand-responsive transport in rural regions referring to the perspectives of different stakeholders (users, providers, policy makers), inter alia, (i) insights on the specific, mountainous topography as influencing factor; (ii) artificial boundaries of the transport system that are legally, politically and economically originated; (iii) the dilemma of the interdependence of user satisfaction, provider costs and driver payments. Furthermore, our findings on strengthening and limiting factors for user acceptance include reasons to use public transport or DRT and reasons for not using public transport or DRT. Moreover, the lack of information about existing transport services is presented as essential aspect.