Kathmandu Valley belongs to Bagmati Province and extends into three administrative districts of Nepal, namely, Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, and Lalitpur, with a total area of 899 sq km (Fig. 1). The three districts have two metropolitan areas, the metropolitan city of Kathmandu and the metropolitan city of Lalitpur, and sixteen municipalities. Kathmandu is the capital of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal and is the country’s most important political, administrative, educational, cultural, and commercial center. In the 2011 census year, the total population of the Kathmandu Valley was 2,517,023, with an annual growth rate of 4.63%. This represents 9.32% of the country’s total population, in just 0.49% of the country’s area. The Central Bureau of Statistics of Nepal predicts that the population of the Kathmandu Valley will reach four million by 2035 (CBS, 2018, JICA, 2017).
The road transport system provides the main mode of mobility in Nepal. Rapid urbanization and increasing economic activities in cities have dramatically increased the demand for vehicles in urban areas. Due to ineffective public transport services, people are attracted to private vehicles, and the number of private vehicles is increasing rapidly compared to that of public vehicles. In the last 15 years, the number of motorbikes and low occupancy modes of public transport, that is, minibuses and microbuses, have increased rapidly. Although the government has invested in the expansion of roads in the city of Kathmandu, the increasing number of private vehicles means that the traffic situation remains unchanged. This shows that expanding the road alone is not a sustainable solution for improving public transport. Considering the geographic area and the distance of the city from business and official areas, it is necessary to offer reliable public transport and nonmotorized transport even in cities such as Kathmandu. The Kathmandu Valley is completely dominated by motorbikes, which constitute 79.1% of the total fleet, followed by private vehicles (cars, vans, and jeeps) at 12.42%, heavy-duty vehicles at 4%, and public transport vehicles at 2.67%, and others, with an overall annual growth rate of 14% (DOTM, 2019). The share of low-occupancy vehicles, that is, minibuses and microbuses, represents 94% of all public transport vehicles, and large buses make up only 6% (JICA, 2017). For the past decade, the road transport service in the Kathmandu Valley has been affected by insufficient road length, narrow and busy roads, unattended traffic, poor traffic management infrastructure, a mix of old and new vehicles, and a multimodal public transport system. The quality of service of the current public transport system in Kathmandu is poor, and public transport involves more travel time than private modes of travel. A mass rapid transit (MRT) system should be implemented to reduce congestion, decrease fossil energy consumption, and decrease air pollution (Dhakal, 2006, JICA, 2017, KSUTP, 2017, MoUD, 2017 and IBN, 2017, Bajracharya and Shrestha, 2017 & ICIMOD, 2017). The current public transport system in the Kathmandu Valley is complex, and the quality of service is poor (World Bank, 2019).
Transport is the most important social and environmental issue in the world (Kingham et al., 2001). Transport is the infrastructure of infrastructures (Acharya and Pokharel, 2015) and is considered fundamental for urban development. The government of Nepal has prioritized the development of the transport sector. The main objective of the “National Transport Policy is to develop a reliable, cost-effective, safe, facility oriented and sustainable transport system that promotes and sustains the economic, social, cultural and tourism development of Nepal as a whole” (National Transport Policy 2001). Chen and Chai (2011), using the theory of planned behavior, the technology acceptance model, and the concept of habit, studied the intentions of commuters to switch to public transit in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan, and found that the habitual behavior of private vehicle users obstructs a commuter scheme to switch from private vehicles to public transit. JICA (2017) recommended the appropriate timing for the commencement of MRT system operation in Kathmandu, based on the introduction of mass transit systems in 24 Asian mega-cities and related to the gross income and population of the city. In each of these cases, the first MRT operation was launched when the respective city’s gross product was $3 to $30 billion. In the Kathmandu Valley, the population is projected to be four million, and per capita GDP will exceed US$ 900 by 2030. Thus, “based on experience in other Asian megacities, it shall be appropriate to introduce the 1st MRT system in the Kathmandu Valley between 2020 and 2030” (JICA 2017, p. 122). Shrestha et al. (2013) found that increasing vehicle speeds would reduce vehicle emissions, and that increasing urban mobility would improve the overall quality of life in the Kathmandu Valley. Das et al. (2018) stated that technological change may play an important role in minimizing vehicular air pollution in Kathmandu. Ashalatha, Manju, and Zacharia (2013), applying multinomial logistics (MNL), found various factors affecting particular modes of transport. In a case study in the city of Thiruvananthapuram, India, the main reason for shifting from buses to two-wheelers or cars was that bus transport service was inefficient and unreliable. Jain, Aggarwal, Kumar, Singhal & Sharma (2014) identified reliability, comfort, safety, and cost as the main criteria for the modal shift from private vehicles to public transport, with Delhi as a case study. Using the pairwise weighing method (analytical hierarchy process), they found that safety was the most important criterion (36%), followed by reliability (27%), cost (21%), and comfort (16%). Liu and Guo (2015) studied the utility and weight of factors related to bus transit service quality in Nanjing, China, by applying conjoint analysis.
The private sector is responsible for almost 99% of the investment in public transport services in Nepal. There is no integrated policy for the management of public transport services. Government regulations and monitoring capacities are weak. Along with reducing the attraction of private vehicles, encouraging Non-motorized Transportation and the use of public transport is an urgent agenda item for sustainable urban mobility. For the effective implementation of such an intervention, it is best to know users’ preferences. This study examines the main attributes affecting commuters in the modal shift to public transport service in Kathmandu. Mass transit systems help to connect communities, support local economies, and improve the living standards of disadvantaged individuals. Therefore, a wide range of studies have been conducted in the field of public transport around the world. Researchers are constantly studying ways to improve public transport. They have focused mainly on the infrastructure sector, the behavioral sector, and the psychological sector. The current study was designed to understand the preferences of Kathmandu Valley commuters regarding the modern transport system before implementing future public transport policy, through a case study that provided a unique opportunity to investigate people’s perceptions of potential new services and their willingness to implement them.
The main objective of the choice-based conjoint experiment in this research is to examine the attributes affecting the choices and behaviors of commuters for improved public transport services in Kathmandu by answering the following questions: What factors are associated with commuters’ adoption of an improved public transport service?; Which attributes of the public transport service cause a modal shift?; How does each attribute affect the probability of various preferences?; What is the interaction with the passenger and the causal effect of the attribute?
To answer these questions, we have generated attributes of hypothetical improved public transport services that have numerous external impacts on the surrounding environment.