In its efforts to help reduce traffic congestion and pollution, Arlington County in Virginia does something unique: it operates various brick-and-mortar shops called The Commuter Store.
These are actual shops near various transit centers where people can buy transit passes and get free travel information, like bike maps and bus schedules.
A new study by Mobility Lab – in collaboration with WBA Research – found that these stores are many people’s only method of buying transit passes.
There are five Commuter Stores and four “Mobile Stores” that spend most of their time in Arlington’s “Urban Villages,” connected neighborhoods and shopping centers. The Commuter Stores are one tool of many in the transportation demand management toolbox operated by Arlington County Commuter Services.
In a series of surveys, Mobility Lab found that 60 percent of The Commuter Store’s customers exclusively purchase their bus, Metrorail, and commuter rail tickets at the stores. The majority of customers (47 percent) are baby boomers, and most rarely – if ever – purchase tickets online or through their smartphones, according to the surveys.
Nine out of 10 customers are likely to recommend The Commuter Store to others. WBA used this information to find the stores’ Net Promoter Score (NPS), a metric commonly used by large businesses to measure their ability to grow sales through word-of-mouth. The Commuter Store earned a 75. (For comparison, Apple earned 72 and Netflix 62).
The Commuter Store has always been popular among its customers. In 2012, the last time this survey was conducted, 87 percent of customers would recommend the stores to others, as opposed to 90 percent this year. In addition, this year’s survey found that 83 percent of customers can be considered “loyal,” which means that they are highly likely to both return to the stores and recommend them.
However, in addition to being loyal customers of The Commuter Store, baby boomers are Metro’s most loyal riders, too. According to a recent analysis of Metro ridership by the Swiss firm Teralytics, baby boomers and Gen X’ers – The Commuter Store’s second largest customer group – ride Metro the most, with ridership sharply declining among Millennials.
Only 7 percent of Commuter Store customers drive alone to work. This is a huge difference compared to the percentage of commuters in the entire DC region who drive alone, a much higher 61 percent.
Thirty percent of customers changed the way they traveled to work after visiting the stores. This finding suggests that The Commuter Store helps people drive alone less, but we cannot say this definitively because the response rate was particularly low for this section of the survey.
To read our report, click here. For the full findings, click here.
Photo by Sam Kittner for Mobility Lab.