2006 Arlington County Teen Transit Initiative Study

The purpose of this study was to provide a marketing information foundation for the Arlington County Teen Transit Initiative, a teen-led task force charged with planning additional transit-oriented services for Arlington County teens.


Teen Demographics:

  • Just over half the respondents were female.
  • The majority were 16 and 17 years of age, white, and born in Arlington County.

Opportunity Audiences:

  • Teens fell into three broad segments: 53% non-riders (of ART or Metrobus), 24% light riders (ride ART or Metrobus a few times a month or less), and 23% heavy riders (ride ART or Metrobus at least once a week).
  • Teens who were not transit riders were most likely to be 14-17 year olds who have lived in Arlington County for a long time.
  • Heavy riders tended to be Hispanic or African American and new residents in the County.
  • Heavy riders skewed older (18) and light riders tended to be younger teens (15-16).

The Need for Teen Transit:

  • Those who said it was easy to find a ride (56%) tended to use transit less than other teens.
  • One out of five Arlington County teens said finding a ride was hard.

Where Teens Go, What They Do & How They Get There:

  • Teens went everywhere.  Most popular destinations were North Arlington & Ballston.
  • Heavy riders appeared to go to all of Arlington County destinations more regularly than did light riders and non-riders.
  • Teens frequented malls, movie theaters, and friends’ houses.
  • Non-riders and riders did the same activities at these destinations, with the one exception being “work.” Teen transit riders cited “work” more often as a travel destination than did non-riders. – Twice as many heavy riders as non-riders or light raiders said they were going to work.
  • Most teens get to places with their parents’ help or by walking.
  • Transit had light penetration (use) among teens.
  • ART and Metrobus served less than 10% of teens who were engaged in any one activity – going to the mall, to the community center, to jobs, etc.
  • Only 19% of all teen respondents said they use ART and/or Metrobus as the way they “usually get there.”

Families Experience/Use of Transit Lifts Teens Interest/Use in Transit:

  • There was a direct and positive correlation between family experience with ART and/or Metrobus and teen use of ART and/or Metrobus. The Arlington County Teen Transit Initiative can have a long-term positive impact – any conversion to transit would potentially create another “pro-transit influencer” on extended family members in this and future generations.

Making Transit More Attractive:

  • Among teens who indicated they used ART & Metrobus, convenience, dependability, and costs (fares) were most important considerations (expectations).  Teens’ expectations were not being met by existing services – there were significant “performance gaps.”
  • Light riders, when compared to heavy riders, had greater expectations of what convenience and dependability meant to them – this creates an even bigger “performance gap” to close.
  • The “cost factor” was a bigger issue for heavy riders than for light riders perhaps in part because heavy riders experienced fares (cost) more often.
  • No single barrier or over-arching issue made transit unappealing to non-riders. Multiple issues appeared to be important – lack of information, high fares, lack of convenient and dependable service and schedules, overall “lame” image, and parents’ permission.
  • These barriers also arose when non-riders were asked what it would take for them to ride the bus – the barriers (real or perceived) limited the overall appeal of transit.
  • Parents appeared to have many of the same issues with ART and/or Metrobus that teens did – high fares, lack of convenience and dependable service and schedules.
  • Some parents were also concerned about safety.
  • Parents did see the benefit of ART and/or Metrobus helping teens get to work.


  • Mode of Data Collection – 10-minute Paper Research Survey for Teens; Online Qualitative Input for Parents and Educators
  • Completed Surveys – (698 Teens) 8th Grade = 111; 9th Grade = 188; 10th Grade = 169; 11th Grade = 230
  • Survey Population – 13 high schools were represented in sample.  Respondent distribution across schools closely monitored Arlington County School Statistics; Survey respondents’ ethnicity distribution closely matched Arlington Public Schools’ demographic profile, as well.
  • Survey Instrument – Paper hand-out survey
  • Criteria for Participation – Arlington County 8th – 11th graders


Full Presentation (PDF):  2006 AC Teen Transit Initiative FINAL REPORT

Technical Summary (PDF):  Summary – 2006 AC Teen Transit Initiative STUDY

Survey Questionnaire – Teens (PDF):  2006 AC Teen Transit Teens QUESTIONNAIRE

Survey Questionnaire – Parents (PDF):  2006 AC Teen Transit Parents QUESTIONNAIRE

Survey Questionnaire – Teachers (PDF):  2006 AC Teen Transit Teachers QUESTIONNAIRE

Data Tables (PDF):  2006 AC Teen Transit DATA TABLES


Contact the ACCS Research Team for more information.


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