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3 CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION BACKGROUND What are effective ways of eliciting meaningful responses on service quality issues? Virtually all transit agencies conduct surveys on board buses What response rates have been achieved? and trains and often in transit stations as well. Agencies sur- What techniques have transit agencies used to increase vey their customers on a wide range of topics, from the response rates? purpose, origin, and destination of their current trip to their How long can surveys be without discouraging satisfaction with the service and service improvements that participation? would prompt them to ride more often. On-board and inter- How often are survey results updated? cept surveys are highly valuable to transit agencies as a means of obtaining vital information and opinions from a These questions involve a broad range of methodological cross section of their customers. issues that must be addressed in planning a given survey. Should the survey be administered on board or in a station As a description of survey methodologies, the terms environment? Should self-administered questionnaires or on-board and intercept are both distinct and overlapping. personal interviews be used? For on-board surveys, how "On-board" means surveys conducted on buses, subway should a sample of routes be selected for surveying? How cars, light rail cars, commuter trains, and sometimes para- large a sample size is needed to ensure a satisfactory level of transit vehicles. On-board surveys can be self-administered accuracy? Should respondents be provided with incentives to surveys that are distributed to customers after they board the complete a survey? What question wording is most effective bus or rail car. Riders are typically encouraged to complete for a given survey purpose? How should surveys be intro- the survey immediately, but may also be offered the option duced and how should the questionnaire be formatted? In of returning the completed questionnaire by mail. On-board what order should questions be asked? surveys can also be conducted as personal interviews, in which case a survey worker asks riders a short series of ques- Implementation of on-board and intercept surveys also tions and records the answers. raises a number of important questions. For on-board bus On-board personal interviews are generally speaking surveys, should self-administered surveys be distributed by intercept surveys; however, the term "intercept" can also be bus operators or by dedicated survey staff? How should reserved for surveys in subway and rail stations, at transfer survey staff be recruited? What training, supervision, and stations or terminals, and at bus stops. Surveys at these monitoring is needed to ensure successful completion of the locations can be conducted as self-administered surveys or data collection? What factors affect response rates and how personal interviews. can response rates be maximized? The term "on-board/intercept surveys" used throughout Finally, what is the likely cost of an on-board/intercept this report refers to self-administered surveys distributed on survey and what factors affect the overall cost? board buses and rail cars and in stations, as well as interviews conducted in these environments. They are distinct from tele- This report documents and summarizes transit agency phone interviews, mail surveys, and on-line surveys, none of experiences with on-board and intercept surveys. Transit which involve in-person interaction between surveyors and agency staff responsible for on-board and intercept surveys transit riders. can use this report to learn from and compare their experi- ences with the experiences of other agencies. Transit agency staff that are responsible for on-board and intercept surveys encounter a number of important issues in METHODOLOGY planning and conducting these surveys. These issues include: Findings in this report are based on a literature review, a sur- What is the most effective way of obtaining a represen- vey of transit agencies, analysis of documentation submitted tative sample of the target rider group or groups? by transit agencies, and interviews with transit agency staff What is the clearest way to word questions and elicit and other professionals involved in on-board and intercept accurate responses? transit surveys.