2004 Arlington County Public Perceptions of Transit Study

This project was a component of a semi-annual psychographic and behavioral study of Washington area residents. The purpose of this study was to determine Washington area residents’ behaviors and attitudes toward transportation, in particular toward the private car, Metrobus, and Metrorail.


Private Car Usage:

  • Use of the private car was quite prevalent in Arlington County.  The vast majority of all trips taken by Arlington residents were by private car (74%), with more than one-half being by private car occupied by the driver alone (55%).
  • Private vehicle only users tended to be older and have a higher household income than did transit users.  They also were more likely to be married and not employed full-time, than were mass transit users.  Mass transit users were significantly more likely to have a post-graduate or professional degree.
  • Residents tended to be neutral in their opinions of the private car as a mode of transportation.  They did, however, show concern about cost, safety, parking, and other issues.


  • Use of Metrorail, particularly for commuting to and from work or school, was fairly strong among Arlington County residents – there is still room for growth, though.  Virtually every resident (97%) had used Metrorail at some point in the past.  More than half of Arlington County residents said that they are using Metrorail less often now than they did in the past.
  • Metrorail users tended to be younger, single, employed full-time, and have a college degree, compared with non-users.  The household income, gender, and ethnicity of Metrorail riders were comparable to those of the general public.
  • Arlington County residents had generally positive opinions of Metrorail as a mode of transportation – lifestyle, parking, and safety issues were factors impeding greater use.


  • Use of Metrobus appeared to be limited among Arlington County residents, although, almost three-quarters said they have used Metrobus at some point in the past.  Only 4% of Arlington County residents’ trips are typically made by Metrobus.  A large proportion of area residents said they use Metrobus less often than they did in the past – primarily because of a preference for the car or Metrorail.  Almost nine in ten residents said they live within four blocks of a bus stop.
  • Arlington County residents held less positive opinions of Metrobus as a mode of transportation – safety, convenience, comfort, available, and meeting transportation needs were areas of concern.

Other Issues:

  • 73% of Arlington County residents were aware of SmarTrip – 30% were currently using it.
  • About four in ten of those employed were aware that their employer offers Metrochek or SmartBenefits.
  • When asked what sources they have used to plan trips, the large majority said they used maps or signage at Metrorail stations the most.  The Internet was the most popular information resource respondents would consider using as a potential option.
  • More than two-thirds of respondents reacted favorably to the idea of video monitors on Metrobuses and Metrorail cars.
  • More than one-third reacted favorably to the idea of animated advertising within the tunnels of the Metrorail system.


  • Mode of Data Collection – Random Digit Dialing Telephone Survey
  • Completed Surveys – 503 Respondents Total: Private vehicle only – 274, Mass transit – 206, Ethnicity – 78% white
  • Survey Population – Residents of Arlington County and those who may live elsewhere but work in Arlington County, Must be at least 18 years of age
  • Survey Instrument – Questionnaire and CATI Interviewing


Full Presentation (PDF):  Public Perceptions of Transit June 2004–Report

Technical Summary (PDF):  Summary – 2004 AC Public Perceptions of Transit STUDY


Contact the ACCS Research Team for more information.

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