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Comparing Modes of On-Board Transit Passenger Surveys: Assessing Trade-Offs between Data Quality and Cost
Mineta Transportation Institute (2015)
  • Asha W. Agrawal, San Jose State University
  • Stephen Granger-Bevan
  • Gregory Newmark, University of Chicago
  • Hilary Nixon, San Jose State University

This project will investigate the relative costs and quality for three different modes of implementing transit rider surveys. Transit agencies invest tremendous financial and time resources into surveying their customers. These efforts are justified as the data collected are fundamental inputs for a range of purposes including “travel modeling, long-range and areawide planning, route planning and scheduling, service design, marketing, and customer communications” (Schaller 2005). In addition, these surveys are, as of Fall 2012, required by a new Federal Transit Agency circular to ensure participation from minority and low-income populations who have historically under-participated in such efforts. Despite the critical value of transit surveys, they are also very costly to agencies, easily running $500,000 to a $1 million for a large agency. Thus, there is a need to identify the lowest cost survey mode options that can still produce quality results. The results of this research, comparing cost and quality for three different modes of surveying transit riders, will provide transit agencies a quantified assessment of the tradeoffs in terms of cost and quality of the distinct surveying modes. The three modes to be compared with be determined as part of the project, but are highly likely to be: (1) a paper-based, self-administered survey, (2) a paper-based self-administered short survey followed by a computer assisted telephone survey, and (3) a paper-based self-administered short survey on a postcard followed by an internet survey. For each survey mode, this project analysis will: Identify the cost per completed survey. Derive response and completion rates. Quantify any statistically significant demographic differences in participation. Describe associated logistical challenges and pitfalls. Transit agencies and their surveying consultants will use this information to more effectively determine their surveying methodology. The results of this study will enable more realistic survey planning through improved anticipation of response rates, revealed participation biases of different social groups, and described logistical difficulties.

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Asha W. Agrawal, Stephen Granger-Bevan, Gregory Newmark and Hilary Nixon. "Comparing Modes of On-Board Transit Passenger Surveys: Assessing Trade-Offs between Data Quality and Cost" Mineta Transportation Institute (2015)
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