Arlington Transit (ART) Ridership Study 2013

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Stephen is research director for Mobility Lab. He specializes in the latest research, best practices for urban planning, and analysis of current events in transportation.
December 18, 2013

The Arlington Transit (ART) Ridership Study is a regular assessment of who ART’s customers are, how they use ART bus service, their satisfaction with current service, and changes that ART could make to improve that satisfaction. The study had the following objectives:

  • Determine characteristics of bus use, such as frequency of transit use, route utilization, trip purpose and reason for trips.
  • Gauge primary and alt mode preferences.
  • Measure awareness and perceptions of transportation options in Arlington County.
  • Assess satisfaction with, and attitudes towards, ART against critical performance factors.
  • Understand service use and communications preferences.
  • Develop demographic profiles of rider segments.

    ART Ridership Study 2013 Origin/Destination Map Section Top Image

    Section of a map that describes the trip origins and destinations of ART riders participating in the 2013 survey. See “Documents for Download” below for a high-resolution version.

This study is a follow-up to the 2008 ART Rider Study, and, where possible, the study sought to track trends from the 2008 study. Both the 2008 and 2013 ART Rider studies were designed and executed in close cooperation between ACCS, ART senior staff, and two consulting firms: the Southeastern Institute of Research (SIR) and LDA Consulting.

KEY FINDINGS

Satisfaction with current ART service is high among riders

The vast majority of those surveyed said that they were happy with overall existing service (90 percent gave a “5 – Very satisfied” or “4″ rating on a five-point scale). That value is an increase from the 2008 study, when 85 percent gave ART service the same overall satisfaction rating.

Very few participants rated Metrobus or “Other Transit” (four percent and three percent) as superior to ART in terms of general quality. However, when asked to make the comparison to “Other Transit,” 50 percent responded with “Don’t Know” indicating that it may have been difficult for respondents to compare ART with an un-named service. When compared with Metrorail, 75 percent rated ART as superior or the same in overall quality. This finding is notable given that, generally speaking, consumers view rail rapid-transit service (like Metrorail) as superior to local bus service (like ART).

Finally, when asked whether or not they would recommend ART to others, 64 percent of riders responded with a 9 or a 10 on a 10-point scale, where 10 was equal to “very likely.” The average score for likelihood to recommend ART was 8.53.

Trip purpose is skewed towards commuting, but riders use ART for a variety of trip purposes

When asked about all trips taken on ART (not just the trip during which participants took the survey) in which participants were allowed to select more than one trip purpose, 78 percent said that they used ART for commuting. A plurality of respondents also said that they rode ART five times per week, which corresponds with commuting for a typical five-day work week. However, respondents listed an average of 2.5 types of trips taken on ART. As one example, 44 percent of riders use ART for shopping trips.

Proportion of respondents who gave each trip purpose for both the trip they were on when surveyed and for all trips on ART. Note that the original question structure was: "For what types of trips do you ride the bus?  And what is the purpose of this trip?"

Proportion of respondents who gave each trip purpose for both the trip they were on when surveyed and for all trips on ART. Note that the original question structure was: “For what types of trips do you ride the bus? And what is the purpose of this trip?”

ART riders want more service frequency and span so that riding the bus is more convenient

When asked how ART performs on eight service attributes, “[m]y wait time is short” and “[t]he bus runs when I need it” ranked lowest in satisfaction. In open-ended comments on why the current schedules do not meet their needs, participants mentioned a lack of weekend and evening service, as well as frequency.

What do "span" and "frequency" mean when we talk about transit? Definitions re-stated as simple questions. Source: Jarrett Walker. 2012. Human Transit. p. 27.

What do “span” and “frequency” mean when we talk about transit? Definitions re-stated as simple questions. Source: Jarrett Walker. 2012. Human Transit. p. 27.

ART serves customers that are diverse in terms of age, ethnicity, income, and access to different modes of transportation

Survey respondents ranged, in age, from 14 to 83. Those 30 years old or younger made up 42 percent of respondents, while 35 percent were between 30 and 50 years old. The remaining 23 percent were 50 or older. Slightly more females than males participated in the survey (55 percent versus 45 percent).

In terms of ethnicity and race, ART serves a diverse population as well. Whites were the plurality, but at only 32 percent of respondents. Both African Americans and Hispanics or Latinos comprised 25 percent of respondents, while Asians represented 11 percent, and those identifying as some other race made up 9 percent. Note that, unlike US Census Bureau surveys, Hispanic/Latino was given as a race to select, not as an ethnicity to be selected in addition to race.

Finally, researchers classified nearly two-thirds of respondents as “choice riders” given that they did not select “I don’t have a driver’s license – It’s my only means of transportation” when asked “[f]or what reasons do you take ART buses?” This could explain, in part, the high customer-satisfaction ratings seen among riders; given that many riders have a choice between transportation options, it is more likely those selected from a population of riders will be satisfied with their service.

Almost all ART Riders Have Options; Only a Few Would not Have Made Their Trip if ART Were Unavailable

The modes that surveyed riders would have taken for their trips if ART were not available

METHODOLOGY

Researchers distributed self-administered paper questionnaires to riders on ART buses during the months of May and June of 2013. The sample was stratified, with quotas set for respondents by route number, weekend versus weekday ridership, and time of day, such that the sample distribution across routes was representative of ridership across the ART system.

Sample Quotas by ART Route

Researchers stratified the sample to reflect the geographic and time distribution of riders on the system.

The surveys, designed by the Southeastern Institute of Research, LDA Consulting, and ART staff, were available in both Spanish and English, and . In order to maximize response rates, researchers created and distributed two versions of the survey questionnaires; “Version A” included questions on overall travel patterns, while “Version B” asked more questions about service performance. In all, 2,905 riders returned surveys, with 1,977 returned fully complete; many participants were unable to finish surveys before reaching their destination.

DOCUMENTS FOR DOWNLOAD

Full Presentation of Findings from the 2013 ART Ridership Study [PDF, 3.6 MB]

 ”Top 12″ Findings from the 2013 ART Ridership Study [PDF, 2.7 MB]

ART Ridership Study Presentation to Arlington County Board on December 17, 2013 [PDF, 0.5 MB]

Trip Origin & Destination Map for the 2013 ART Ridership Study Participants: Small [PDF, 0.7 MB]; Large [PDF, 5 MB]

2013 ART Ridership Study Data Tables [.XLSX, 0.8 MB]

On-Board Survey Questionnaires (Versions A and B, English and Spanish) [PDF, 0.6 MB]

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