Southampton Open Data Blog

Study of QR Codes in Southampton Bus Stops

March 27, 2012
by Christopher Gutteridge

Last year, an MSc student called Nick Gammer worked with data.southampton to study the value of QR Codes at bus-stops (linking to real-time data). There’s a few surprises in the results,

The key findings were:

The QR code trial was successful with increasing use over the life of the project.

Unprompted respondent comments were largely positive. The time trend of daily hit counts shows the project gained popularity over the time it was in operation, especially given book-marked hits were not recorded.

QR Code use was unaffected by the day of the week

There was little variation in average daily use and a One-Way ANOVA test confirmed no significant difference in average daily hits.

The QR code system was likely to have been beneficial to both regular, familiar, commuters and irregular, unfamiliar leisure travellers

Use was very consistent between weekdays/weekends and peak/inter-peak times.  Also, survey results asking respondents whether they would be more likely to use the service on a familiar or unfamiliar route were reasonably evenly split (57% to 43% respectively). Furthermore, there was no significant difference in the change of acceptability of wait time between the two groups.

Scanning as opposed to entering the URL in a mobile browser was the preferred access method

Only 0.6% of hits recorded were through typing a URL

It is not beneficial to provide instructions on, or promotion of QR code use as there is no effect on uptake

Use of basic posters was higher in terms of absolute hits and footfall adjusted hits, however t-tests revealed not significantly greater for either data set.

It appears QR code posters placed at stops without a shelter receive higher QR code use

The average hit rate at stops without a shelter was substantially higher (28% greater usage) however due to insufficient without shelter stop numbers and footfall data this could not be formally tested.

There is substantial variation in use by area with the urban, university and interchange areas displaying much greater use that suburban areas.

This is true for absolute average hits per stop in given areas and even more pronounced when data is adjusted for footfall.

The presence of a display does not effect QR code use

Surprisingly the average footfall adjusted hit rate was not significantly higher for stops without a functioning display giving bus arrival times. This is supported by street survey data as respondents did not find wait time significantly more acceptable due to QR code use when a display was not available.

Use of the existing SMS arrival time service is low and could be redundant

None of the 67 street survey respondents used this service suggesting potential for replacement by essentially free and often real-time QR code provision.

The QR code system was easy to use

Eighty one percent of respondents found the system either very or quite easy to use.
Easy of use was not significantly influenced by smartphone ownership, however a significantly higher proportion of respondents aged over 40 found it more challenging.

Observed behavioural change was limited; the majority was in the form of utilisation of wait time.

Due to the methodology and high service frequencies the observed behavioural change was lower than previous studies. The only observed modifications were utilisation of wait time or going to a different stop. Further research is required.

System accuracy and reliability was adequate

Eighty eight percent of respondents believed the difference between their estimated and actual bus arrival times were less than the crucial 5 minutes. There were no system errors during demonstrations or from mobile survey comments and no vandalism occurred.

Arrival time provision through QR code use substantially improved the acceptability of wait time

Sixty five percent of respondents stated receiving wait times make their wait either much or a little more acceptable. There was no significant difference in the change of acceptability of wait time between respondents at stops with and without a display, frequent and infrequent travellers or passengers faced with a short and long wait.

QR code use lead to a valuable increase in feelings of safety

Thirty nine percent of respondents, mostly interviewed during daylight hours, felt safer after receiving wait times. A significantly higher proportion of female respondents exhibited positive changes in feelings of safety.

Potential patronage increases appear large although should be treated with caution

Fifty six percent of respondents stated they would be either a little or a lot more likely to use a bus as a result of QR code use. Previous studies reveal this is likely to substantially over-represent any resulting patronage change.

Knowledge of the difference between real-time and timetable arrival information is very poor and there could be substantial benefits from improving this knowledge

Only 10% of respondents knew the difference between timetable and real-time arrival times. Confidence in the system could potentially be greatly improved by informing passengers which times can be relied upon; confidence is an essential prerequisite for reaping the benefits RTI provision.

You can view the full report here: “An appraisal of QR code use to deliver bus arrival time information at bus stops in Southampton”

Categories: Data Consumers and Research.

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