Dept. of Transportation
Metro Transit Division

King Street Center
201 S Jackson St
Seattle, WA 98104
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Appendix: Smart Bus On-Board Passenger Survey Report

Purpose: In the fall of 2001, King County Metro and Sound Transit began the joint Regional SmartBus demonstration project to evaluate on-board bus electronics and data systems. The project implemented SmartBus technology on two transit coaches (one KC Metro and one Sound Transit); and included visual and audio announcements of the route number, destination, major stops and landmarks. In order to obtain feedback and to assess customer satisfaction with these features, an on-board passenger survey was conducted. Of particular interest was the reaction of regular riders to the automated announcement features. While not formally a SmartBus feature, feedback was also solicited on the brighter exterior route destination signs.

Methodology: The SmartBus on-board survey was fielded during weekdays from December 3-17, 2001. Twenty-five SmartBus trips from 11 blocks of work were sampled for the study. The sampled trips included AM, Midday and PM time periods; operating on Metro routes 5, 54, 55, 7, 7E and 167 and Sound Transits Route 570.

King County Metro hired a consultantNorthwest Research Groupto handle the on-board data collection. The questionnaire was designed by Metro staff (see Appendix A). Distribution of questionnaires to/from passengers and collection, occurred on both in-bound (coaches traveling toward downtown Seattle) and out-bound (coaches traveling away from downtown Seattle) service; with no data collection occurring within the Ride Free Area. The number of surveys collected was 479, which yielded an overall response rate of 69.7 percent.

Caveats:

  • The SmartBus technology was installed on both 40 and 60 coaches. Review of the survey results has shown that the difference in coach type was not a factor in the results; so the findings will not be broken out by type.
  • After the surveying was completed, a problem was found with some of the questionnaires. Specifically, some of the questionnaires omitted question #3b, "Where on the bus did you sit?"

Summary of Key Findings:

  • Respondents tended to be regular riders, taking an average of 10.4 one-way rides per week.
  • The vast majority of respondents (89 percent) were riding their usual route.
  • Overall, the passenger survey indicated that the respondents liked the SmartBus features.
  • Its important to note that the change in the outside signage, which was both larger and brighter than standard signs, was considered very helpful by 72 percent of the respondents.
  • Seventy-seven percent of the respondents reported the volume of the bus announcements outside the bus was just right. Half (51 percent) of the respondents said the announcements were very clear, but 17 percent said they were "not at all clear."
  • The vast majority of respondents found the interior next stop announcements and displays and the exterior route and destination announcements very or somewhat helpful.
  • The interior announcements were reported by the vast majority (87 percent) of respondents to be made at the right time.
  • When the respondents were asked for their preference if only one of the SmartBus features could be added, the interior display signs were chosen by 43 percent of respondents, with 26 percent selecting the exterior route destination signs.
  • The survey identified some areas for improvement, such as fine tuning the timing of next stop announcements and clarity of external route and destination announcements.

Detailed Results

Respondent Characteristics:

The vast majority (91 percent) of respondents indicated they were frequent riders, taking 3 or more one-way bus rides per week. Respondents took an average of 10.4 trips per week.

The vast majority (89 percent) of respondents indicated they were riding their usual route. Eleven percent of respondents were not riding their usual route.

Over half (56 percent) of respondents reported taking more than one ride on a SmartBus. Respondents took an average of five rides on a SmartBus demonstration coach.

The majority (64 percent) of respondents said that the purpose of their trip was to commute to or from work. Another 15 percent of respondents were traveling to or from school.

SmartBus Features:

A large majority (72 percent) of respondents strongly agreed that the larger, brighter signs outside the bus were more helpful than on a regular bus.

The vast majority (86 percent) of respondents said the exterior route and destination signs were very easy to see.

Respondents generally had a positive reaction to the SmartBus announcements and signs. About 90 percent of respondents found the interior next stop displays and announcements and exterior route and destination announcements very or somewhat helpful.

Almost 80 percent found the exterior route and destination announcements very or somewhat helpful.

Three-quarters of respondents indicated the volume of the exterior route destination announcements and interior next stop announcements was "just right."

Sixty-eight percent of respondents said that the interior next stop and landmark announcements were very clear. Half (51 percent) of respondents indicated that exterior route destination announcements were very clear, and 17 percent rated the announcements as "not at all clear."

The vast majority (87 percent) of respondents said the interior announcements of major stops and transfer points were made at the right time. Eleven percent of respondents said the stop announcements came "too late."

The interior announcements were rated as accurate by 82 percent of the respondents. Sixteen percent of respondents said they "dont know" if the information was accurate.

Preferred SmartBus Feature: When asked if only one feature of the SmartBus were added, 43 percent of respondents chose the interior display signs. Notably 26 percent of respondents selected the exterior route destination signs, and 20 percent selected the interior next stop announcements.

Updated: Sept. 2002