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What Transit Agencies Should Ask Their Customers About

After reading this story about a transit agency surveying their customers, I thought to myself: do riders really want another survey asking whether they are satisfied or how clean the stations are?  Although clean stations are certainly better than unclean stations, I suspect that these are not transit riders' major priorities.  (And when I say "transit riders" I really of course mean "myself").

Michael Lewyn | November 30, 2011, 8am PST
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After reading this story about a transit agency surveying their customers, I thought to myself: do riders really want another survey asking whether they are satisfied or how clean the stations are?  Although clean stations are certainly better than unclean stations, I suspect that these are not transit riders' major priorities.  (And when I say "transit riders" I really of course mean "myself").

A bus is not a home.  A bus (or train) is someplace you spend a few minutes in on the way to home or work (or some other destination).  So the most important thing about a bus or train is whether it gets you to your ultimate destination quickly and reliably.

If I am right, the most important thing about my transit service is whether it stays quick and reliable by surviving the next round of budget cuts.(1)  So maybe transit authorities should be surveying their customers about how to deal with austerity.  For example, a transit authority could ask customers whether, assuming other government agencies will not close a gap between revenues and spending, the authority should solve that revenue gap through:

*raising fares by amount X (X being the amount needed to close the revenue gap)

*eliminating bus routes X, Y and Z (X, Y and Z being the bus routes most likely to be eliminated)

*increasing headways (time between buses), and/or

*curtailing late-night service (and of course whatever other options the transit authority might consider!)

These sorts of questions would certainly be of more interest to me than a survey asking how satisfied I am.

(1) Or, in good times, is improved as revenue grows.

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