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43 Conclusion instrument. Metrolink uses this method to test new wording or the format of survey questions, or to reduce the length of the Web-based longitudinal panel studies provide timely, statisti- survey each respondent is asked to complete. cally robust, and relevant data for customer satisfaction studies. They can use innovative techniques to minimize respondent Each wave of the Metrolink Rider Poll consists of a set of fatigue and attrition and can provide valuable data to customer- tracking questions that monitor changes in usage character- oriented transportation service organizations. NJ TRANSIT istics and perception over time. Question topics include: was able to implement actions directly in response to the results of the feedback from the ePanel study. Specific actions Frequency of usage, included impetus for the "back to basics" campaign and ensur- Fare media usage, ing seating availability for overcrowded trains. Satisfaction ratings (both overall and item satisfaction), Loyalty measures, and METROLINK RIDER POLL, LOS ANGELES, Safety awareness. CALIFORNIA Sample screenshots showing survey questions on the The Southern California Regional Rail Authority's Metrolink Metrolink line used, satisfaction with the service, and a Rider Poll is comprised of Metrolink riders who have volun- follow-up question comparing the respondent's impression teered to participate in a longitudinal research panel. The of Metrolink's current service with that of a year ago can be Metrolink Rider Poll, which was created in 2001, tracks seen in Figure 25. Metrolink customer satisfaction and travel behavior through several survey waves over time, utilizing both web-based and Each survey wave also contains one or more sections with telephone methods of data collection. Participants are recruited questions related to current issues and areas of interest to through the Metrolink website. To ensure that the panel com- other departments within the agency. The 2003 survey wave position is proportionally representative of Metrolink ridership, featured a range of psychographic and attitudinal questions onboard survey and customer data are sometimes used to tar- about commuting to support market segmentation and mode get new and infrequent riders for recruitment. choice analysis. The same questions were also used in a sur- vey of non-riders, which allowed Metrolink to better under- The purpose of this rider panel was not to replace, but to stand motivations behind mode choice and to contrast riders supplement other ongoing research programs, such as the and non-riders based on their perceptions of commute modes. biennial onboard survey. Specifically, Metrolink wanted to utilize several distinct advantages the web-based research Another example of special issues studied in Metrolink's panel design offers. web-based panel surveys is a study of rider preferences for electronic signage. That survey took advantage of the web- First, the online, longitudinal panel affords Metrolink the based survey's capabilities to display photographs and illus- opportunity to survey riders who have stopped using their ser- trations to help the respondent evaluate proposed concepts. vice. Metrolink can therefore examine reasons why riders decrease or stop using the service and the factors that may con- TRI-COUNTY METROPOLITAN tribute to the decision. Additionally, the online panel gives TRANSPORTATION DISTRICT OF OREGON Metrolink access to a constant group of participants to include INTERACTIVE MAP STUDY in focus groups and studies of specific ridership segments and niche markets. The online panel also ensures rapid data col- TriMet, the municipal corporation that provides public trans- lection and analysis. This is reflected in Metrolink's decision portation to the three counties in the Portland, Oregon, metro- to conduct a fifth wave of the survey in Spring 2005 following politan area (Figure 26), conducted a "pulse-taking" study in the January 2005 derailment and the Spring 2005 on-time per- July and August of 2005 on the functionality of the TriMet formance problems to help determine the impact on ridership website's Interactive Map. The TriMet Interactive Map first decisions. Metrolink also takes advantage of web-based sur- went live in August 2003 and is considered an integral part of veys as an efficient way to collect natural language data: com- trip planning on the TriMet website. TriMet's Interactive Map ments and opinions expressed in the respondents' own words study in 2005 was intentionally designed to be offered to a can be valuable for understanding changes in rider behavior. small population to acquire voluntary feedback from cus- The anonymity associated with filling out a web-based survey tomers on the Interactive Map for planning and directional also reduces the social desirability bias and allows text analy- purposes. The results from the survey were not intended to sis to identify underlying factors and associations. Open-ended direct a complete website or Interactive Map redesign. questions and comment boxes have become a part of all Metrolink web-based surveys and help improve the design of The purpose of the TriMet survey was to gain customer future surveys. Finally, Metrolink uses its longitudinal feedback regarding the TriMet Interactive Map and to deter- research panel for the cost-effective implementation of split mine if the map contained any severe flaws that required sample research designs to test different versions of the survey immediate correction. Consequently, TriMet sought to gather

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44 FIGURE 25 Sample screenshots from the Metrolink rider poll online survey (Southern California Regional Rail Authority) (continued on next page). from survey respondents their purpose for visiting the TriMet through August 29, 2005 (Figure 27). The survey respon- website, their success in finding what they were looking for, dents were recruited by displaying a static web link at the their ease or difficulty in doing so, any problems encountered top of the Interactive Map webpage, which led to a pop-up on the website, their use of the Interactive Map, and their loy- survey for respondents to complete. TriMet originally alty and use of TriMet. intended to have the survey appear or pop up automatically when a user of the website exited the Interactive Map page, The Interactive Map survey was hosted by SurveyMon- but was unable to implement this owing to the additional key.com, and 210 respondents completed the voluntary technological and logistical constraints. For future sur- survey for TriMet covering the period from July 25, 2005, veys, TriMet will maintain the static web link, which leads

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45 FIGURE 25 Sample screenshots from the Metrolink rider poll online survey (Southern California Regional Rail Authority) (continued ). FIGURE 26 TriMet service area, Portland, Oregon. to a pop-up survey to ensure comparable results between many visitors to the TriMet website. Despite this, customers studies. have not hesitated in suggesting improvements to the Inter- active Map, some of which are possible, some of which are More than half of the study respondents (58%) indicated not, within the current system and technology. that they wanted additional features available on the Interac- tive Map. Of these, approximately two-thirds (62%) were Of the improvements to the Interactive Map where respondents who did not find the information they were seek- changes are feasible, TriMet aims to create a simplified map ing while using the Interactive Map. Many respondents with greater clarity, less color, and more detail. Additionally, requested specific additional features, some of which were TriMet proposes to have clear help indicators to guide web- unavailable and some of which were present but were missed. site users to the information they seek. Lastly, although the TriMet Interactive Map study did result in an initial look at The TriMet Interactive Map study results indicated that, customers' experience using the Interactive Map, it was rec- although not perfect, the map meets the information needs of ommended that TriMet undertake an in-depth study.

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46 FIGURE 27 TriMet Interactive Map screen shot.