Much has been made of fake news influencing voting behaviour in recent months, but could a similar thing be happening in town and city centres? Research the Institute has undertaken, which will shortly be published in detail, has identified the need to understand more about the town or city centre and what is happening in it before deciding on actions. There needs to be a common, and accurate, understanding of current performance, trends and why the centre functions as it does.

Research in Australia has identified the potential for misperceptions to incorrectly influence decision making in urban areas. Barbara Yen, Matthew Burke and colleagues at Griffith University Brisbane and the University of Sydney, looked at how people travel to three restaurant areas in inner-city Brisbane.

The researchers surveyed almost 400 restaurant users and some 44 restaurant owners over a week about how customers travel to the restaurants and found some stark differences. The surveys asked customers about their actual travel choice on the day, the restaurateurs were asked about how people travel to their restaurant.

Restaurateurs believed that 52% of customers arrived by car, but only 18% of customers actually did so.

Restaurateurs believed that 27% of customers walked and 23% actually did so.

Restaurateurs believed that 11% would arrive by bus but 19% did so and that just 2% would come by train but 17% did so.

Whilst restaurateurs believed that just 2% would arrive by bike, scooter or motorbike, in fact 11% did. Other customers arrived by taxi and ferry.

The research also found that those who did drive were more optimistic that car parking would be available than the restaurateurs who operate in the area.

There were also significant differences between the perception of restaurateurs as to where the majority of their income came from and actual income sources. In the survey, restaurateurs believed 59% of their income came from people who arrived by car whereas the reality was this was just 19%.

25% of the income came from people who walked against a perception from the restaurateurs of just 12%.

41% of income came from people who used public transport to arrive against the perception from restaurateurs that this would be just 19%.

The research article suggests these misperceptions could lead to decisions being made that would not benefit the sustainability of the area or the businesses concerned. Though restaurateurs wanted more investment in parking, the findings of this research suggest that more investment in public transport would see their income rise more, though the authors acknowledge that further survey work would have to be done to understand the potential further.

The article notes that this difference between business perceptions and actuality is not unique to Brisbane, and they cite studies from research in other locations in Graz, Austria, Edinburgh, Scotland and Bristol, England where there were significant differences between business perceptions of mode of transport and how people actually arrived in the city.

Our research on the 4 Rs (Repositioning, Reinventing, Rebranding and Restructuring) will be published in an open access issue of the Journal of Place Management and Development very soon. Making evidence-based decisions rather than depending on perceptions that might be misconceived is, we believe, an essential step in ensuring the sustainability of places.

Taken from:

Yen, B.T., Burke, M., Tseng, W.C., Ghafoor, M., Mulley, C. and Moutou, C., 2015, September. Do restaurant precincts need more parking? Differences in business perceptions and customer travel behaviour in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia. In Australasian Transport Research Forum (ATRF), 37th, 2015, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.