Radically increasing IAH express bus ridership and revenue
As I mentioned last week (first item)
, ridership on Metro's spiffy new IAH express bus service has been a little anemic, averaging only 1 or 2 people per bus trip. But I think there's a way that could be substantially improved. Continental represents the vast majority (~85%) of the traffic at IAH. Their web site already allows passengers to prepay for checked luggage, rent cars, and hotels. Why couldn't it also offer pre-paid express bus tickets when somebody buys a plane ticket either starting or ending in Houston? That's the time to grab people. Not only does Continental already have their credit card at that point, making the transaction easy, there's also the opportunity to really sell the value of the express bus right there on the web page:
- Point out the speed, including access to the HOV lane to avoid traffic congestion.
- Show small pictures of the interior and exterior of these luxury coaches, as well as the luggage service, so potential riders know they won't be stuck schlepping their luggage on a normal city bus.
- Compare vs. the cost of taxi, both to go downtown and even for other trips where they have to connect to light rail or a taxi downtown. I'd do this with a small map and two sets of numbers at each major core destination: the taxi cost (in red) vs. the bus cost (in blue or green) for Downtown, bus+LRT for TMC or Rice, or bus+taxi for UH, Greenway Plaza or Uptown (realistically, few will connect to local buses after they get downtown, although I suppose that option could also be priced into the map). Also mention the $6 cab fares for within downtown.
Of course, for Continental to have an incentive to do this, they'll need a cut of each ticket sold. And to incentivize pre-payment, there might also need to be a discount vs. the walk-up price. Maybe the walk-up stays $15 one-way while the web site advance price is $12, of which Continental keeps $2-3 dollars. That might not sound like a lot of incentive for Continental, but you'd be amazed how thin the profit margins are on the average plane ticket. Even a couple-dollar boost is significant, especially since it costs Continental absolutely nothing to provide the service. And even with the discount and margin for Continental, Metro would vastly increase the number of riders and overall revenue from the service, which, in the long-term, will be critical to keeping it.
Labels: aviation, Metro, mobility strategies, transit