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7 CHAPTER THREE CURRENT STATE OF PRACTICE FOR WEB-BASED TRANSIT SURVEYS This chapter details what was learned from, and discusses surveys are distributed relatively evenly by size, indicating the results of, the web-based survey done for this synthe- that not just large transit agencies are conducting such sur- sis study. The survey was completed by 36 transit profes- veys. Table 2 shows the breakdown of respondents to the sionals (25 transit agency employees and 11 other transit synthesis survey by region and agency size and by whether researchers). It is worth noting that this was a survey about or not they currently use web-based surveys. surveys, or a meta-survey, which aimed to understand how research is being conducted by transit researchers. The sur- For the most part, web-based survey use appears to be vey has a relatively small sample and, as mentioned in specialized for many agencies as a result of coverage con- chapter two, used convenience sampling owing to the rel- cerns and because agencies are moving into the technology atively small number of researchers in the field and to the slowly (e.g., using the web as a tool on small, specialized limited scope of the synthesis project. As also mentioned studies before using it on major research surveys such as in chapter two, this survey likely has some nonresponse origindestination studies). However, there are some excep- bias that might overstate the amount of web-based survey tions where transit agencies are using web-based survey research currently occurring in transit. Even with these research on significant studies. In general, trends indicate caveats, the survey provides a basis for understanding what movement toward the increased use of web-based methods, is occurring in the transit industry with regard to transit with more than 70% of those currently not using the web web-based surveys. This chapter describes what is and noting that they are "somewhat likely" (44%) to "very likely" what is not happening with web-based research and ana- (28%) to begin using web-based surveys within two years. lyzes the reasons for the current state of practice of transit agencies and other transit researchers regarding web-based The primary reason provided in the synthesis survey in survey research. The topics covered in this chapter include: support of the use of web-based surveys is the efficiency with respect to time and money. Seventy percent of respondents Current use of web-based surveys in the transit industry; currently using web-based surveys made favorable comments Frequency, types, and areas of usage of transit surveys about the technology, citing its effectiveness and efficiency in currently being conducted (web-based and not web- being able to reach certain target populations. Respondents based); stated that they believe that web-based surveys increase Areas where web-based survey techniques are most response rates because they are convenient and "provide an effective for the five types of surveys explored in this option for those who wish to use it [to] reach a certain group synthesis (origindestination, customer satisfaction, of people." Those using web-based survey technology also mode choice, planning, and other); and appreciate the "ability to present complicated subject matter, Methods being employed for web-based surveys, question design, and graphics." They value the opportunity including advice and concerns. for "fast turn-around and cost-effectiveness." Respondents recognize that the cost savings derived from conducting web- CURRENT USE OF WEB-BASED SURVEYS based surveys stems not only from the efficient manner of IN TRANSIT INDUSTRY data collection that does not require significant on-the-street fieldwork, but also because data are brought in consistently The use of web-based surveys is limited in the transit indus- and easily with real-time data validation providing a clean try, although there are a significant number of respondents data set more quickly than other survey methods. One partic- from transportation agencies and other transit professionals ipant stated, "Respondents tend to answer more questions and using this method, which could be somewhat overstated as a work at it longer," which further improves data quality. result of the previously mentioned limitations of the sample. Those using the web in some form comprised 39% (14 of 36 When asked about possible disadvantages to using the tech- completed questionnaires) of our survey sample. Agencies nology, nearly all respondents currently using web-based sur- that responded to the survey varied in size: 40% large (more veys cited their concern over a coverage bias resulting from than one billion passenger miles annually), 30% medium limited Internet penetration in the target population. (One (between 75 million and one billion passenger miles annu- respondent asserted that "it [web-based surveys] can only be ally), and 30% small (fewer than 75 million passenger miles used as an optional response mechanism because of limited annually). Responding agencies currently using web-based penetration.") Survey respondents worry that they may not be