The transit industry is watching ridership trends closely, hoping to predict the future of transit in the US. While ridership is one metric of success, examining customer priorities is critical in improving customer satisfaction and gauging customers’ confidence to return to transit.
According to most recent APTA ridership reports, total transit ridership is only 40% of 2019 levels. Large agencies are slightly below the average at 38%, while mid-sized agencies have recovered ridership the most, but are still only experiencing 48% of 2019 levels. Despite continued vaccination efforts, ridership remains stubbornly low, with a slightly positive overall trend since September 2020. While ridership may be difficult to influence, transit agencies can still respond to changing customer priorities to improve customer experience.
Read on to see what we learned.
According to preliminary results from surveys we’ve completed since the pandemic began, one-third to almost one-half of customers stopped or reduced transit use due to concerns about health and safety. Most customers would return to transit if appropriate cleaning measures, face masks and social distancing protocols were consistently implemented.
In terms of customer priorities, on-time performance and frequency remain the most important factors for fixed route customers, even post-COVID. Along with on-time performance, paratransit customers value drivers being friendly and helpful, and safety on the vehicle.
As we continue to develop surveys in the post-COVID environment, we’ll understand more about the priorities of customers who are still riding the system, and those who stopped riding but may return in the future.
Even if ridership continues to stagnate, agencies can still exert influence over the quality of service by focusing on customer priorities.