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Can SMU Switch its Auto Commuters to the Mustang Express Bus Service? PROJECT REPORT Prepared by Professor RAJ SETHURAMAN January 2002.

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Presentation on theme: "Can SMU Switch its Auto Commuters to the Mustang Express Bus Service? PROJECT REPORT Prepared by Professor RAJ SETHURAMAN January 2002."— Presentation transcript:


2 Can SMU Switch its Auto Commuters to the Mustang Express Bus Service? PROJECT REPORT Prepared by Professor RAJ SETHURAMAN January 2002

3 TABLE OF CONTENTS TITLESLIDE NUMBER Executive Summary3 - 6 Introduction and Research Objectives 7 – 10 Survey Research Design and Sample Characteristics` Survey Research Findings Estimate of Market Potential Recommendations


5 4 This research is motivated by the desire for SMU Mustang Express bus service to increase bus ridership and reduce the number of cars parked on campus The purpose of this study is two-fold : (i) to estimate the number of auto commuters who would be willing to ride the bus, and (ii) to identify the steps needed to influence them to ride the bus The research findings are based on survey of 654 auto commuters (Students, Staff, and Faculty)

6 5 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (Contd.) It is estimated that approximately 820 auto commuters would be willing to switch and ride the bus if a conveniently scheduled bus service is available to them from their residence. However, with the current bus service and a slightly modified schedule, it is estimated that approximately 230 auto commuters can be switched to riding the bus, if appropriate steps are taken to attract them.

7 6 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY (Contd.) Key recommendations for increasing ridership are: (i) Target undergraduates and graduates during their first year at SMU. (ii) Educate community more effectively about bus routes and schedules. (iii) Exploit the auto registration database for routing, scheduling, and direct marketing. (iv) Advertise the free service and route schedules in prominent places.


9 8 RESEARCH BACKGROUND SMU started the Mustang Bus Service in It runs two routes : Route 527 and Route 768. The objective is to encourage use of public transportation and discourage bringing cars to campus. Ridership so far has been modest with about 300 riders per day. SMU believes it has managed to keep cars off campus using its bus service, below their goal of reducing registered cars by 500. SMU would therefore like to explore the possibility of developing proactive strategies for influencing the auto commuters to ride the bus.

10 9 RESEARCH PURPOSE To determine if the members of the SMU community who currently bring their cars to campus can be persuaded to ride the Mustang Express bus service. If there is potential demand, to determine steps that need to be taken to increase bus ridership. The ultimate goal is to reduce the number of cars parked on campus during weekdays.

11 10 RESEARCH OBJECTIVES To determine : 1The time range when auto commuters arrive and leave campus. 2Their level of satisfaction with SMU parking facilities. 3 The level of awareness of Mustang Express (ME) among auto commuters. 4The percentage of auto commuters who are aware that ME is free 5The percentage of auto commuters who are likely to switch to ME. 6The reasons why commuters are not willing to ride the bus. 7Some creative ideas that would be appropriate for influencing auto commuters to ride the bus.


13 12 SURVEY RESEARCH Paper and Pencil Survey designed to address all the objectives Survey administered by MKTG 3342 (Undergraduate Marketing Research) students during November Quota Sampling technique was used to ensure adequate number of undergraduates, graduates, and staff/ faculty in the sample.

14 13 SAMPLE CHARACTERISTICS Total = 654 GENDER Males = 303 (46%) Females = 351 (54%) STATUS Undergraduates = 399 (61%) Graduates = 137 (21%) Staff / Faculty = 118 (18%)

15 14 SAMPLE CHARACTERISTICS (CONTD …..) PLACE OF RESIDENCE On Campus = 131 (20%) University Park = 79 (12%) Highland Park = 33 (5%) Greenville Area = 79 (12%) Village = 59 (9%) Uptown / Oak Lawn = 59 (9%) Other = 216 (33%)


17 16 A majority of commuters bring their cars to campus on all weekdays.

18 17 About 80% of commuters arrive by noon with the majority arriving between 8 AM - 12 noon

19 18 About 80% leave campus between 12 noon and 8 PM, but nearly 20% of commuters leave after 8 PM !

20 19 See next slide for details

21 20 % OF CARS ON CAMPUS- CALCULATION If a commuter arrives before 8 AM and leaves between 4-8 PM, he/she is on campus before 8 AM, 8 AM-12 noon, 12 noon-4 PM and 4 PM-8 PM. Data then weighted by number of days they bring car to campus. # of Registered cars = 7,595 (based on report from parking/auxiliary services). A maximum of 83% of the registered cars are on campus between Noon and 4 PM. This works out to 83% of 7,595 = 6,304 cars.

22 21 Over 60% of commuters are dissatisfied with parking facilities. Presents a potential opportunity for getting them to ride the bus.

23 22 Expectedly, non availability of parking space is the biggest concern. Parking fees is also considered high.

24 23 Lack of Awareness does not seem to be a reason why ridership is low.

25 24 The big red bus is ubiquitous and advertises itself. All other forms of communication appear to have only a modest impact.

26 25 Nearly 30% believe it is not free. Room for advertising the free service.

27 26 60% would not switch to Mustang 20% are likely or very likely to switch to Mustang

28 27 Lack of flexibility and inconvenience are main reasons for not riding the bus – could be partially overcome. Not wanting to ride is the next main reason – difficult to overcome

29 28 Posting bus Schedules and more frequent service are the most popular suggestions.

30 29 ANALYSIS BY STATUS (Undergrad Vs.Grad Vs. Faculty/Staff) Graduates are slightly less aware of Mustang Bus. 84% of graduates are aware compared to 92% for undergrads and 90% for staff/faculty 57% of Staff/Faculty are satisfied with parking; Only 32 –35% of undergrads and grads are satisfied with parking.

31 30 Relationship between parking satisfaction and likelihood of riding the bus Satisfaction with Parking and Likelihood of Riding Bus 333 (81%) 378 (19%) 196 (81%) 47 (19%) Unlikely Likely Dissatisfied Satisfied No relationship between parking satisfaction and likelihood of bus ridership


33 32 FORECAST OF ADDITIONAL DEMAND (TOTAL) # of Auto Commuters likely to Switch to Mustang Bus ASSUMPTION 1Top 2 box rule : 80% of those (7.7%) stating Very Likely and 40% of those (11.5%) stating Likely would switch. 2Total # of registered auto commuters = 7,585 Forecast of Market Potential (overall) = 816 (10.8% of 7,585) (# of registered auto commuters who can be switched)

34 33 Table 1: FORECAST OF POTENTIAL BY STATUS STATUS# REGISTERED (a) % WILLING TO SWITCH (b) # SWITCH Undergraduates Graduate Staff/Faculty (a)Based on data provided by Auxiliary Services. (b) Based on Top 2 box rule Interestingly, Graduates and Staff/Faculty appear to be high potential segments.

35 34 TABLE 2: FORECAST OF POTENTIAL BY RESIDENCE RESIDENCE# REGISTERED% WILLING TO SWITCH # SWITCH On campus University Park Highland Park Greenville Area Village Uptown/Oak Lawn Other Commuters from other (far away) areas show the highest potential, though they may not be currently served by DART/ME.

36 35 REALISTIC ESTIMATE ASSUMPTIONS: Because of inadequate DART/ME connections, only 10% of potential in other areas can be realized. 50% of potential in areas around SMU can be realized. Realistic Estimate of reduction in Cars = 228. Realistic range: 200 – 250 Cars.


38 37 RECOMMENDATIONS 1.Potential Exists. There is potential for switching about 800 auto commuters to the bus service if a conveniently scheduled bus service was available from their place of residence. About commuters can be switched with slight modifications of existing routes and proactive marketing. 2.Catch Them Young. Undergraduates represent the largest segment of auto commuters, but they are the least willing to switch. It may not be possible to change the minds of Juniors and Seniors because they are used to driving to campus. The Mustang Express program must get the students in their first year. Sessions during orientation, AARO, flyers in their orientation packets, making parents aware of the free bus service, involving Greek houses, advertising in first year dorms, using buses to take students to ball games may be some ways to create awareness and influence them to ride the bus.

39 38 RECOMMENDATIONS (Contd.) 3.Targeting. While undergraduates represent the largest segment in terms of number, graduates and staff/faculty appear more willing to switch to the bus service. Therefore, all three groups are appropriate for targeting the bus service. 4. Educate Community about Routes and Schedules. Several auto riders felt they could not get access to the routes and schedules when they wanted. When they could get one, it was hard to understand. Routes/Schedule information must be made easier to understand. Information on routes/schedules must be made more easily accessible through distribution in Hughes Trigg (already exists), posting each bus stop, and other places of high student traffic, and even directly mailing to target customers. Information should also be accessible on the web and by calling a phone number. The availability of information on the web and by phone should be advertised in the posters and flyers.

40 39 RECOMMENDATIONS (Contd.) 5.Database Marketing. There is a significant amount of data available from the registration card on the commuters place of residence, year in college etc. However, even basic information, such as a their breakdown by college status and place of residence, is currently not available. This database has to be successfully exploited. Routes and schedules could be modified to some extent based on a study of areas of student concentration. The database can also be used for direct marketing (see Recommendation #9). 6.Routing, Frequency, and Stops. Obviously, commuters want more stops closer to their residence or destination, greater frequency, and quicker transportation. Not all of this may be feasible. As stated earlier, the registration database may be used to determine a more desirable routing and location of bus stops. A specific suggestion was that the bus should go deep into the Village.

41 40 RECOMMENDATIONS (Contd.) 7.Advertising Objective/Media. Awareness is not a major problem for low bus ridership -- about 90% are aware. Advertising must create interest and desire: (i) Use huge banners to generate interest and put them in Hughes Trigg, parking lots, and during student orientations. (ii) Advertising in Daily Campus can help to a limited extent. (iii) Place flyers on cars parked on campus. 8.Advertising Message. (i) Advertise that the bus is free – about 30% believe it is not. (ii) Should emphasize that bus riders are no different from auto commuters. May be use a typical student as a spokesperson for riding the bus. (iii) Advertise the hassles of parking but only in a subtle manner – there is no correlation between dissatisfaction with parking and willingness to ride the bus. (iv) The communication should also alleviate any fears that students may have about riding the bus – that it is safe to ride the bus.

42 41 RECOMMENDATIONS (Contd.) 9.Direct Marketing. For a given route, it is easy to identify the auto commuters in the vicinity of the bus stops using the registration database. It is recommended that a direct marketing campaign launched to attract these target consumers. Such campaign could include mailing flyers, schedules to them and offering incentives such as coupons for free food if they ride the bus or dinner for two if they bring a friend.

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