A transit agency’s impact goes far beyond moving riders from point A to point B. Public transit provides access to employment opportunities, affordable housing, education and other services. It can spur economic development in a region, leading to more jobs, and commercial and residential development. An agency can help make a community more sustainable, through reducing traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions.
All transit agencies survey customers to understand their satisfaction with the service and priorities for improvement, but many agencies neglect to understand what the broader community values. Because transit systems have such broad-ranging impacts on their communities, it’s important to understand what residents value most. Agencies can use this information to make changes to their service to address these priorities, or to better communicate how they’re already providing value in a specific area.
Here's how one agency uses community surveys to increase overall community value in the region.
For instance, Charlotte Area Transit System learned from their most recent Community Value survey that Mecklenburg residents believe “Providing mobility to low-income families and individuals who cannot afford the costs of owning a car” is one of the most important areas for the agency to focus on to increase community value. CATS already measures access to frequent service in their performance scorecard, but is now considering adding a metric to track how well they’re providing service to low-income residents, particularly in their Corridors of Opportunity, and developing tactics to improve their performance in this area.
An agency might already provide significant value in an area that residents prioritize, but a survey can demonstrate a need to communicate that value more effectively. Another agency’s Community Value survey revealed that residents believe lower fares will help the agency add value. This agency has the lowest fare among its peers, so it’s now working to communicate its low fares to the broader community, beyond riders.
We know transit systems provide significant value to their respective communities, but it is important to understand what residents see as valuable, both to adjust service to provide maximum value to the community, and to ensure the overall community understands the benefits of supporting public transit. As we come out of the pandemic, transit agencies that can measure and articulate value beyond the number of people they move will garner far more support that enables their long-term success.