Friday, October 29, 2010

On-Board Surveys Off to Processing

A delivery truck full of surveys (maybe 10,000?) left Community Transit offices last Monday morning after the previous week's on-board survey effort to get information from the passengers on all our buses. We asked questions like "Where did you come from before you got on this bus?" "Why do you use public transit?" and "How did you pay for this bus trip?"

The completed surveys are now in the hands of a vendor which will spend the next two months entering and standardizing the data in electronic format. Their preliminary analysis will provide a wealth of information on bus transfers, what percentage of trips are to or from work, how many of our riders are unable to drive, and other basic rider demographic information.

The final report is due back to Community Transit by Dec. 13.

The data will then be available for further analysis by Community Transit staff. Service Planning and Strategic Planning are big users of the data, but our grants program, communications staff, transportation and others also use the data in many ways.

Survey Project Manager Brent Russell explained that while we do this every three to five years, this year’s survey has several firsts.

For the first time, the survey was developed completely in-house, without a consultant. Also, it’s the first time “origin” and “destination” data will be geo-coded. This will allow easy mapping and analysis of where people come from and go to on our buses.

About 37,000 copies of the survey were distributed on buses for completion on Oct. 20 and 23. Many were turned in on-board, and about 1,000 surveys came back in the mail. We are hoping for a 30 percent return rate when all are accounted for.

Many thanks to all the passengers who took the time to complete the surveys. Our last on-board survey was in 2006, and it will be very valuable to see what has changed or stayed the same since then.

Here are some tidbits from the 2006 survey:
  • The majority of Community Transit riders indicate they got to the bus by walking (57 percent), driving their car (24 percent) and/or riding a bus/train/ferry (11 percent).
  • Lynnwood was the most popular origin for bus trips. Twenty-one percent of riders started there.
  • Youth make up 18 percent of local bus riders based on fare payment. Nine percent of passengers on local buses pay the reduced fare for senior or disabled people.
  • On average, riders had been using the bus for six years. A quarter of all riders had been riding for more than 10 years.
  • More than half of all riders had completed some college or had a bachelor degree or the equivalent.
  • Nearly a quarter of all local bus riders had a total household income of less than $10,000.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Riders Talk About Transit’s Benefits

By Karen Will Johnson,
Community Transit Creative Manager

She looked me straight in the eye and said, “If Community Transit doesn’t go there, then neither do I.”

I couldn’t have scripted it any better.

Her simple statement may have been my first unsolicited storytelling testimonial.  It was Thursday,
July 31, 2007 at a ribbon-cutting event for The Double Tall, our double decker bus. She was wearing a festive sunhat and white gloves. The elegant senior who never learned to drive and has used public transit for her entire life expressed in her own words what Community Transit meant to her.  She was sharing her story.

Storytelling is society’s way of communicating between people. The histories, the hopes, the personal details. We know that people’s lives are affected by what we do, and we’ve asked them to share their stories, in their own words. Unscripted. Unrehearsed. Unaltered.

Storytelling testimonial videos are now an ongoing project at Community Transit. We find storytellers at outreach events, transit centers and at our own children’s birthday parties. They are your co-workers and your neighbors. They wear festive sunhats and white gloves. They have a connection to Community Transit in common, but their stories are as varied and compelling as they are.

And in the process, we’re discovering not only our riders’ stories, but those of business and community leaders whose companies and organizations are enhanced by the services Community Transit provides.

You can hear their stories too. Visit our Storytelling Testimonial page on our website at

On a larger scale, the American Public Transit Association  has just launched their own initiative, Telling Our Story/The Wall, which captures video testimonials from hundreds of people across the country who benefit from public transit. Watching those videos reminded me how grateful I am to work for an industry that performs the important job of connecting people and building communities. 

I imagine there are compelling stories out there just waiting to be shared. If you or someone you know uses Community Transit local or commuter service and would like to tell your story on camera, we’d like to hear from you. Email and tell us how Community Transit helps you connect with work, friends and family. Do you ride public transit for the cost savings or for environmental reasons?  Do you benefit from more personal time or the pleasure of a relaxing commute?

Let us hear from you. Because telling your story is the best way to tell our own.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Seats Filling Up on Commuter Routes

Although the Great Recession continues to bring bad news to transit agencies around the country, the Community Transit board did get some good news last week: productivity on commuter routes is up.
Productivity is a measure of the number of passengers per hour of service on a given route (boardings per revenue hour, in transit speak). It is impacted by ridership and by the length of a route, both in terms of distance and time.
  • Boeing routes have improved from 23 boardings per revenue hour to 26.
  • University routes have improved from 25 boardings per hour to 32.
  • Seattle routes have improved from 26 boardings per hour to 33.
The improvements in efficiency show that while the service reductions made in June were painful, many of them were strategic, just as we’d intended. Commuter buses no longer make slow-speed loops through neighborhoods to pick up a handful of passengers. Instead, we’ve focused service on park & rides where many commuters board at once.

Seattle routes from north Snohomish County with extra capacity (empty seats) now make stops at Lynnwood Transit Center to fill up. That’s brought Route 421 from Marysville up from 16 boardings an hour to 25.
Boeing ridership overall is down because we cut the earliest trips of the day, but the remaining service is being better utilized at lower cost to Community Transit and our taxpayers. Route 247 from Stanwood has gone from 24 boardings an hour last July and August to 35 this summer.

Local routes that were reconfigured in June have also improved in efficiency, though productivity on local routes overall is down along with ridership. Swift bus rapid transit continues to buck that trend, growing in boardings per revenue hour despite having the most time on the street of any route in our system.