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5 cHAprER Two SURVEY FINDINGS METHODOLOGY A survey of transit agencies was conducted to gather in- formation on the nature of transit services and programs being provided to accommodate increasing suburb-to-suburb travel. The survey (see Appendix A) was intended to elicit basic op- erating information from agencies on the type of transit service being provided including such aspects as mode, number of vehi- cles. fare structure, ridership, and hours of operation. The sur- vey also included qualitative questions regarding why the service was developed, performance criteria used for evaluation purposes, agency involvement in site design and land use issues, marketing techniques, and transportation management associ- ation/transportation management organization (TMA/TMO) interaction. RESPONSES The survey was mailed to 37 transit agencies across the United States and Canada, some of which had responded to an earlier 1993 reverse commute survey by the American Public Transit Association (APTA). The APTA survey asked agen- cies to indicate whether they also operated suburb-to-suburb services. Twenty-eight agencies (76 percent) responded to the survey for this synthesis; substantial telephone follow-up was re- quired to obtain this level of response. Of these 28 agencies, 23 provide some form of suburb-to-suburb transit. Four of these agencies were selected for case studies. A complete list of the 23 agencies that provide suburb-to-suburb services is included in Appendix B. SURVEY FINDINGS AND ANALYSIS Key survey findings of the 23 agencies with some form of suburb-to-suburb service are analyzed and discussed next. Detailed responses to each of the survey questions may be found in Appendix C; in many cases, the total number of re- sponses does not equal the total number of respondents since most questions had the possibility of multiple answers (he., "check all that apply"). Service Implementation The majority of respondents (87 percent) indicated that their services were implemented due to increases in suburban travel. About 33 percent of the respondents indicated that they had implemented services due to clean air compliance or trip reduction mandates. Three respondents indicated that suburb- to-suburb services are not new and have been an integral part of their agencies' services for some time. Mode of Service As expected, buses operating on fixed routes were the most commonly used mode for providing suburb-to-suburb transit service with 20 out of 23 agencies using them. Shuttle services frown rail ranked second at 39 percent. Many agencies use both 12.2-m (40-ft) and smaller buses to provide suburb-to-suburb service. For agencies using fixed route buses, system size varied from 4 buses at Clark County Public Transportation Benefit Area Authority (C-TRAN) in Vancouver, Washington to 330 buses at MTA Long Island Bus (LI Bus) in New York; this range is indicative of the variation in size of agencies respond- ing arid the fact that there is not a"typical" operator of suburb- to-suburb service. The range of demand-response vehicles (buses and vans) providing suburb-to-suburb service ravaged from 14 at Space Coast Area Transit in Cocoa, Florida to 316 at PACE in Arlington Heights, Illinois. Appendix D reports the number of vehicles used by responding agencies in both fixed route and demand-responsive suburb-to-suburb services. The majority of agencies reported that their services were initiated in the late 1980s or early 1990s. This coincides with the suburban development boom of the 1980s and the fact that most services were initiated in response to increased suburban travel needs. Target Ridership Eighty-seven percent of respondents indicated that com- muters were their target riders. All other categories ranked a close second with several responses each for shoppers, stu- dents, senior citizens, and transportation disadvantaged. "Other" responses included rail and multi-modal commuters and employees of businesses served, both of which could be grouped in the commuter category above. Thus, for 22 out of 23 agencies, commuters are the target market for ridership. Number of Riders and Ridership Trends Ridership varied greatly due to the variation in size of agencies responding. For example, C-TRAN (with 4 vehicles) reported that 600 passengers were carried on an average weekday. MTA LI Bus reported that its fixed route service (with 300 vehicles) carried approximately 82,000 passengers OI1 an average weekday. Seventy-four percent of respondents indicated that ridership on suburb-to-suburb services was "up"; the category "steady" ranked next. Only two agencies reported that their ridership was on a downward trend. Aver- age weekday ridership, as reported by each transit agency, is found in Appendi>; D.
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6 Service Evaluation Criteria Fifty-seven percent of the agencies surveyed use the same criteria to evaluate their routes. One of the agencies that use separate criteria to evaluate suburb-to-suburb services is BC Transit in Surrey, British Columbia where lower levels of performance for suburban services are acceptable. BC Transit considers suburb-to-suburb services to reinforce regional pol- icy. Metropolitan Council Transit Operations (Metropolitan Council) in St. Paul, Minnesota provides a $4.00 maximum subsidy per passenger for suburb-to-suburb service, versus a subsidy of $3.25-$3.85 for local radial, all-day express. and peak express services, when suburban services do not meet such performance criteria as passengers per trip and passen- gers per platform hour. When the maximum subsidy is reached, the agency evaluates services for redesign or termi- nation. Seattle Metro uses passengers per trip and passengers per platform hour to evaluate suburb-to-suburb services, which are placed in a separate class from other services as well. Individual routes are compared to others within the sub- urb-to-suburb class and the bottom 10 percent are evaluated annually for possible termination. Destinations Served The most common destinations for suburb-to-suburb serv- ices were shopping centers/malls and office parks as types of developments proliferate in the suburbs. Other destinations that were closely ranked included industrial parks, schools/training centers, residential developments, and medical facilities. Sub- urban mixed-use developments being served by transit may account for the close rankings of the four distinct types of development. Recreational centers/parks were ranked last, probably because suburban parks are generally auto-oriented, and public green space is a rare commodity in many U.S. suburbs. Fares Flat fares used by 43 percent of the responding agencies were the most common type of fare structure for suburb-to- suburb services. Distance-based or zone fares ranked second. "Other" responses included new service promotional fares, a paratransit zone fare, and a free fare for shuttle service to rail stations. Respondents were asked to provide fare ranges by mode and to note whether ranges differed by mode. The fares ranged from free to a high of $3.00 per trip; the average was $1.25. Higher fares tended to be for more customized, demand- responsive, and express services. A complete listing of fares by transit agency is provided in Appendix D. Incentives Provided Most agencies provided some incentives to encourage rid- ers to use their service. Eighty-three percent of agencies sur- veyed use transit pass programs. Nearly 66 percent conduct outreach to the business community and nearly 33 percent provide guaranteed ride home programs. The Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) in Detroit has a "get a job/get a ride" program, which provides one month of free bus service for new employees and an unconditional moneyback guarantee on all services. Involvement in Site Design and Land Use More than one-half of the agencies surveyed (14 out of 23) indicated that they are involved in site design and land use is- sues on a routine basis. Several agencies, including the Mass Transit Administration (MTA) of Maryland in Baltimore; C- TRAN in Vancouver, Washington; PACE in Arlington Heights, Illinois; Metropolitan Council in St. Paul. Minnesota; and New Jersey Transit (NJ Transit), in Newark, have pro- duced guidelines for site design/access criteria, which are dis- tributed to the development community. NJ Transit's guide- lines contain a transit friendly checklist, which is included in Appendix E. Use of Technologies Respondents were asked to indicate whether they used any specific technologies such as timed transfers, priority treat- ments, advanced public transit systems (APTS), or route de- viation to provide or enhance service delivery. Seventy-four percent of the respondents used timed transfers. Priority treat- ments were used by only 26 percent of the respondents, but ranked second in terms of technologies used. NJ Transit noted its flex routes, preferential access to rail stations, and new services, including fixed route. route deviation, and de- mand-responsive services. OC Transpo cited its ability to determine the time of the next bus via an automated tele- phone system, schedule display monitors at major stations, printed timetables at many bus stops, marketing targeted specifically at employers in these areas, and seamless integration of sentences with the rest of the regular route network. Marketing Techniques Two-thirds of the respondents reported using different mar- keting techniques for suburb-to-suburb services from those used to promote regular fixed route services. GRATA reported using many of the same marketing techniques for its suburb- to-suburb and fixed route services, but also indicated the ne- cessity to target marketing efforts to the business community for flew suburban circulator routes. NJ Transit reported several marketing techniques. including working through seven TMAs in the state as well as sending direct mail to employers and employees to inform them of suburb-to-suburb services. Sail Mateo County Transit District (SamTrans) in San Carlos, California reported that marketing plans are submitted by employers with various marketing techniques for its regional rail shuttle bus program. Westchester County Department of Transportation (WCDOT) in White Plains, New York reported greater employer-based efforts and campaigns to highlight its "family of services" concept.
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7 Relationship with Transportation Management Associations More than one-half of the agencies surveyed have ThIAs/TMOs in their suburban service areas. Transit agencies had mixed responses regarding whether the TMAs/TMOs were important to the success of the agency's suburban serv- ice. The MIA Long Island Rail Road (LIRR) provides techni- cal assistance to the TMAs on Long Island. MTA LIRR staff serve as members on several TMA boards. The seven TMAs on Long Island help promote MTA LIRR services. The Mont- gomery County Division of Transit Services in Maryland op- erates a transportation management district (TMD), which ac- tively markets and promotes service in its business district. WCDC)T reported that "The TM() is a very important element in terms of marketing and service development. There is a formal relationship between the county and the TMV." Seattle Metro reported that the "TMA is helpful in service issues. Two TMAs are proactive in promoting and advertising transit service to employees. Metro has had successful cooperation in financing and production of marketing information." On the negative side, one transit agency responded, "We have nixed results with TMAs. They are not an important element in marketing and have not generated any significant ridership for us. We do maintain formal membership with them. We have concerns over TMA marketing practices and have not encouraged them to market our services." Another agency responded, '1MAs are new to the local scene where our services have been around for a long time. Due to fiscal constraints, we are not able to respond to most service requests." Additional Information Requested At the end of the survey, additional information that could not be readily obtained through the survey questions was re- quested, including the following: details on materials that di- rectly relate to suburb-to-suburb services such as marketing materials, service descriptions, newspaper articles, photo- graphs, and customer-oriented information; and information on innovative practices. Many agencies provided additional information, which was then used to help select the case studies described in Chapter 3 and to discuss elements of suc- cess in Chapter 4. Analysis The surveys and discussion held with transit providers fo- cused on the changes made to meet suburban service needs, such as the development of marketing strategies, special advertising, access to employers, and special fares and services. It was found that many of these new services were lacking a common system for describing and under- standing suburban consumer behavior, and there appears to be no uniform performance monitoring methodology among the transit agencies surveyed for detailing travel activity and transit service response with regard to funding implications. There is lack of a reporting process for the service changes made to record the specifics of the physical changes made, such as changes in service frequency, fares, area coverage, schedule adherence, vehicle configuration, and service quality. There is also lack of a more rigorous process for measuring the actual travel activity and its financial consequences. Many agencies reported a sense of success in that they discerned greater popularity of their servicers), i.e., greater use of the system. However, detailed ridership and financial statistics were not often