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ON-BOARD AND INTERCEPT TRANSIT SURVEY TECHNIQUES SUMMARY On-board and intercept surveys are highly valuable to transit agencies as a means of obtaining vital information and opinions from a cross section of their customers. Transit agencies use on-board and intercept surveys to collect data on customer trip characteristics, travel behavior, demographic characteristics, and customer attitudes about service. Survey results are used for travel modeling, long-range and areawide planning, route planning and scheduling, service design, marketing, and customer communications. Agencies view the results as being highly useful, accurate, and timely. As used in this report, "on-board and intercept surveys" refer to self-administered surveys distributed on board buses and trains and in stations, as well as interviews conducted in these environments. Such surveys are distinct from telephone interviews, mail surveys, and on-line surveys, none of which involve in person interaction between surveyors and transit riders. A survey of 52 transit agencies found that 96% conducted on-board surveys between 2002 and 2004, with most of this group also having conducted intercept surveys. Large agencies typically conduct five or more on-board/intercept surveys annually, primarily focused on specific routes or geographic areas. Small agencies typically conduct surveys every 1 to 3 years, often involving the entire transit system. On-board and intercept survey methodologies may be the only cost-effective way to gather information from riders where the incidence of transit users in the general popula- tion is low. In major cities with a high incidence of transit users, on-board and intercept methodologies are highly useful for surveys on specific routes or among specific customer segments. On-board and intercept surveys often provide higher response rates than alterna- tive methodologies such as telephone, mail, and on-line surveys, and at lower cost. On the other hand, telephone or other methodologies are necessary for surveys of non-users and when the survey questionnaire is extensive or complex. In carrying out on-board and intercept surveys, transit agencies most often use self-admin- istered surveys that are distributed and collected on board buses and/or trains. In particular situations, however, personal interviews and in-station surveys are also undertaken. Larger survey projects in which 5,000 to 10,000 or more completed surveys are obtained are typically carried out by consultants, whereas smaller-scale surveys are generally con- ducted by in-house transit personnel. For in-house surveys, temporary workers and/or office staff temporarily assigned for the purpose are used in the field work. On-board and intercept surveys generally address two to four of the following research topics: · Where and when do customers use transit? · Who uses transit? · How satisfied are customers? · Why do customers use transit?
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2 · How could the agency attract increased ridership? · How effective are agency communications and information? Survey questions for some of these topics, such as those about ridership frequency and demographics, are widely standardized across agencies. Survey questions on other topics, such as customer satisfaction and why customers use transit, frequently differ between surveys and between agencies. Response rates reported by transit agencies varied widely, from 13% to 90% of riders who were asked to participate in a given survey. Within this very broad range, response rates for the majority of on-board and intercept surveys ranged from 33% to 67%, with one-half of the agencies reporting response rates in this range. Factors affecting response rates include the enthusiasm and diligence of survey workers who distribute questionnaires or conduct inter- views, level of rider interest, whether self-administered surveys or personal interviews are used, length and complexity of the questionnaire, use of incentives, and frequency of surveys being conducted. Other factors, less subject to transit agency influence, are rider income, education and other demographic characteristics, language diversity, and rider literacy levels. As with response rates, costs also vary widely. Overall costs for surveys reported by tran- sit agencies ranged as high as $350,000, although approximately one-fifth of surveys with cost data reported by transit agencies cost less than $10,000. Even surveys employing simi- lar methodologies show widely different costs. Factors affecting costs include the number of completed surveys to be obtained, whether personal interviews or self-administered ques- tionnaires are used, whether survey staff dedicated to the task or bus operators are used to distribute surveys, the density of riders at survey locations, survey length and complexity, response rates, and labor costs. This report documents and summarizes transit agencies' experience with planning and implementing on-board and intercept surveys. This information can help transit staff respon- sible for market research in their agency.