As the public transit industry enters a period of recovery, agencies nationwide are vigorously tracking, reporting, and analyzing ridership trends. However, now more than ever, organizations are searching for alternative measures of success. Some transit agencies are shifting focus to the overall customer experience, measuring quality over quantity. These agencies are beginning to ask, “How can we measure and improve the quality of the overall customer experience?” The answer is simple - you ask the customer!
Chicago’s Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) and New York City’s Metropolitan Transit Authority have both recently embraced this approach to recovery. Both organizations conducted customer surveys that provided insight on areas important to the customer to improve the customer experience and increase overall confidence in returning to public transit.
Read on to find out more about surprising rider preferences in Chicago and New York.
The RTA in Chicago executed its first and only region-wide survey of both current and “lapse” riders since the emergence of COVID-19. The results report showed ridership trends that are all too familiar - customers indicate they are inclined to return, but telecommuting will remain prominent. The current rider demographics were also similar to nationwide observations as essential on-site workers, people who identify as Black and Latino, and low-income riders have been most reliant on transit during the pandemic. The survey also highlighted customer preferences: travel time, service reliability, and on-time performance were among the top priorities along with improved connectivity between buses and trains across the three transit operators in the region. The RTA can now use this data to make service changes that could drive increased transit usage.
A survey conducted by New York City’s MTA last month highlighted safety as a top concern for riders. The survey results showed that commuters are more concerned about crime and harassment across the system now than they were six months ago. Decreased ridership due to the pandemic is a possible reason for this increased concern. Empty subway stations and train cars lead to greater opportunity for harassment of a lone traveller. The agency is now working to address the issue as it has become clear that a fear of crime is an impediment to people returning to the system.
The RTA and MTA are just two examples of many transit agencies across the county that are adjusting their approach to measuring success in order to bring greater value to their communities. These survey results demonstrate the power of the voice of the customer. Agencies that choose to focus on quality rather than quantity have the opportunity to achieve greater levels of success on the road to recovery.