In brief

In brief

  • Transit operators are scrambling to win back passengers who abandoned public transport during COVID-19. But will original passengers come back?
  • Accenture research has found that ridership will likely return to pre-pandemic levels, but the passengers will be fundamentally different.
  • Four passenger types have emerged—each looking for services that address their needs, fears and new realities.
  • Transit operators can attract prior and new passengers with personalized services based on trust and a deep understanding of the people they serve.

Trust in Transit

Accenture surveyed 6,200+ transit users, interviewed ten industry experts, and conducted passenger focus groups in three cities to better understand how COVID-19-induced behaviors and circumstances are impacting public transit. While 50% of passengers surveyed globally anticipate frequent public transit trips in a post-pandemic world, the ways and times they use public transit, their expectations, and their intentions for traveling are different.

Rebuild ridership by rebuilding trust

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Ridership may return to previous levels, but the riders will be fundamentally different. Operators have the opportunity, if not the obligation, to create passenger experiences that address the values, preferences and even fears of new traveler types.

Reliant passengers (20% of riders)

These passengers are anxious. They depend on public transit and use it often but are stressed by the prospect. To gain their trust:

  • Take visible actions to alleviate health fears
  • Engage in micro-interactions that create high-trust moments
  • Create environments that alleviate stress

Reflective passengers (23% of riders)

These passengers are rethinking their lives and their health. They aren’t changing travel patterns —but are being more careful. To gain their trust:

  • Address health fears
  • Craft short-distance travel offerings
  • Partner with others to create seamless, enjoyable travel experiences

Resilient passengers (28% of riders)

These passengers fared well during lockdown. They worked from home and focused on hobbies and online interests. They were (and are) infrequent transit users. To gain their trust:

  • Give them a reason to leave their homes
  • Offer more perks
  • Offer new services and enhanced experiences

Resigned passengers (28% of riders)

These passengers are likely retired or non-city dwellers. They didn’t travel much before and have little desire to do so now. To gain their trust:

  • Focus on affordability and convenience
  • Offer services—alone or with other providers—in these passengers’ new communities

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Make trust the final destination

Passenger strategies must be built on trust and actions that convey transit operators’ understanding of the people they serve. There are three things operators can do to rebuild trust.

Meet passengers where they are. Collect passenger data to understand what passengers want. Traffic statistics, passenger satisfaction scores, app-based ratings, and video analytics offer valuable insights that can be used to segment passengers and personalize experiences.

Don’t fix what isn’t broken. Innovating and improving the transit experience is important. But transit users are actually quite satisfied with much of what their public transportation operators offer. Zero in on those areas that passengers care about most.

Invest differently to advance a purpose. Before changing passenger strategies, operators should rethink their purpose. That purpose now extends beyond providing reliable, convenient transport services. It’s about helping passengers achieve other goals of safety, security, sustainability, mental well-being and equality.


of passengers do not expect radically different services from their transport operators.


of passengers are satisfied or very satisfied with their current transit services.


of passengers are neither satisfied nor dissatisfied with transport services. This suggests a lack of engagement—and an opportunity to enhance services.

Get passenger experiences back on track

Public transport agencies and operators can attract new and returning passengers by putting trust and experiences first. Most importantly, they need to position themselves as partners to their users—not only in their travels, but in their journeys to wholeness, wellness and our collective new normal.

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