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40 CHAPTER FIVE SURVEY FIELDWORK AND DATA PROCESSING Data collection is one of the most important phases of on-board Data collection planning must also address the some- and intercept surveys--and also one of the most challenging. times-daunting challenges that are inherent to fieldwork. Fieldwork is challenging because the locus and scope of the Survey staff must be recruited and trained. Supervision and project expands. Although survey planning involves a rela- monitoring must be arranged for geographically dispersed tively small number of people in centralized offices, fieldwork survey workers. Unpredictable events ranging from adverse involves a relatively large number of survey workers, supervi- weather to accidents or other disruptions in transit service sors, and respondents, usually spread over a geographically dis- must be dealt with, often with little or no warning. While parate area. Project staff generally has less direct control and adhering to the sampling plan, survey workers need to be oversight of this phase of the overall survey project than any deployed with an eye toward cost-efficiency. other project phase. Key steps in data collection are: Planning for data collection takes into account four primary considerations: costs, data quality, duration, and Identification and recruitment of survey staff, manageability. Each of these considerations is affected by Survey staff training, the method of data collection. Who will be used as survey Supervision, and workers? How will they be recruited, trained, and super- Safety. vised? How will workers be deployed in the field? How will their safety be ensured? How will the quality of their work IDENTIFICATION AND RECRUITMENT be monitored? OF SURVEY STAFF To some extent choices may necessitate tradeoffs. Data collection can be carried out by in-house transit agency Deploying survey workers in pairs may increase response staff, consultants, or academic institutions. Most transit rates, data quality, and safety but also increase costs. Obtain- agencies surveyed have used both consultants and in-house ing survey workers from a temporary employment agency staff for on-board and intercept fieldwork in the previous may reduce staff time for fieldwork but increase the amount 3 years. Approximately 7 in 10 agencies reported using tran- of training and supervision needed. On the other hand, some sit agency staff, and about the same proportion have used choices may be beneficial across the board. For example, consultants for one or more surveys in the past 3 years. using a pool of experienced part-time survey workers may By contrast, only 8% used academic institutions for any reduce costs for training and supervision while also improv- fieldwork during this period. ing data quality. Looking specifically at the 58 on-board and intercept sur- Planning for survey data collection can leverage the core veys that transit agencies reported on in detail, fieldwork was strength of on-board and intercept surveys; namely, the conducted as follows: direct contact between survey workers and transit riders. Friendly, courteous, and engaging survey workers can By consultants (50%), primarily using a combination of achieve response rates equal to or greater than response rates permanent staff (e.g., supervisors) and temporary work- for other types of surveys. Survey workers can answer ques- ers hired for the purpose. tions and assist respondents as necessary. Survey workers By transit agency staff (34%), primarily by permanent can also disburse small-value incentives, such as free ride staff or, in a few cases, by part-time workers hired coupons, directly to respondents. The survey team can accu- directly by the agency. A few agencies use a combina- rately track the total number of surveys completed as they tion of permanent and temporary staff. are received. Tracking is particularly useful in surveys with By a combination of transit agency and consultant staff route, location, and/or time-of-day quotas, because survey (12%). workers can be kept in the field until the target number of By academic institutions (3%). surveys is obtained for each stratum. Data processing can begin as completed surveys start to arrive, thus speeding the Transit agencies are inclined to use in-house staff for pace of the project. relatively small surveys involving samples of 2,000 or fewer