By Steve Hymon, March 2, 2015
We’ve posted survey results the last few years. The latest results are in the above nifty infographic. The results aren’t terribly different to previous surveys. (Here are the three previous surveys: 2014, 2013, 2012).
A few observations from myself and the survey team:
•The number of riders who own cell phones or smart phones continues to increase. In 2009 — when Metro first asked customers — 30 percent of bus riders had a cell phone and 38 percent had a smart phone for 68 percent total. That number last year was 89 percent (46 percent with a cell phone and 43 percent with a smart phone). On the rail side, the number has jumped from 55 percent of riders with a smart phone or cell phone in 2009 to 94 percent in 2014.
This is one reason the agency continues to make investments in its mobile apps and social media — it’s a good way to potentially reach the vast majority of Metro riders. Here’s a list with links to the mobile apps that Metro offers.
•Car ownership among those surveyed increased 12 percent from 2013 to 2014. Interestingly, the percentage of people driving or being dropped off at transit stations decreased two percent in that same time. That could mean there are more choice riders or it could mean that people don’t want to deal with finding parking at lots at some of the busier transit stations.
•The numbers that always catch my eye are the top ones: the time riders spend until they actually board the first bus or train of their trip. As the graphic shows, it’s about 20 minutes whether riders are using the bus or train — and that jives with my experience that it averages 15 minutes from the time I leave home until the time I’m on a Gold Line train in the morning (I live two miles from the station that I use).
If the goal is to capture more riders, especially those with cars in their driveways, 20 minutes is a considerable amount of time. This is the classic first mile/last mile challenge that all transit agencies face: getting riders to and from stations in an acceptable amount of time.
It’s a challenging issue as there are a lot of variables in play: bus and train frequencies and traffic are two big ones. Pedestrian and bike access is another (even some bus stops aren’t easy to walk to, especially if they involve crossing busy streets). On the rail side, parking or lack thereof at stations can be an issue for some riders. It can also be argued that the times are perhaps a reflection that there isn’t enough housing in our region near established transit lines (both bus and rail).
Making this even more difficult: a lot of this is not under the direct control of transit agencies such as Metro. Generally speaking, what happens on city streets surrounding Metro stops and stations is under the control of that city. So one more complexity.
That said, all this is one reason last year that Metro completed a strategic first mile/last mile plan last year to help cities get residents to our buses and trains. You can read it here — it’s a technical document, but plenty of interesting stuff is in it.
As for the customer survey, feel free to comment. I’m most interested to know what you think of the results and if they reflect your experiences with Metro.