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March 9, 2011 | 12 Comments

Survey Results: Readers Tell Us How to Encourage More People to Ride MetroBus

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We asked NextStop readers and Metro Facebook follows to answer a short survey on how to encourage more people to ride MetroBus, based on a series of blog comments and interest in the topic.  We had amazing participation, with over 214 responses.  In addition, responders submitted nearly 200 write-in responses to Questions 3 and 4.  The information collected by the survey provides an invaluable snapshot of what interested readers (most of whom ride transit) feel about increasing bus ridership.

Most responders were transit riders, and represented frequent MetroBus riders, those who take buses less frequently or those who have never ridden.  Among the answers provided for Question 3, people most often cited an unfamiliarity with bus routes or the belief that the trip will take too long, with a number of people also choosing concerns about reliability or unsureness of where the bus will stop.

In addition to the answers provided, participants also submitted a large number of write-in responses for Questions 3 and 4. Categorized according to type, readers submitted more than 30 replies, each regarding convenience and concerns about safety and security.  Answers also included 17 mentions of social stigma as a reason why people do not ride MetroBus. Other write-in answers emphasized potential problems with frequency of buses, fare price, bus driver courtesy, and lack of information on bus stop signs and shelters.

“People do not know how to use it mainly because they do not know the routes. Public transit also suffers from a image problem since a lot of middle to upper class individuals do not want to be associated with the lower class. Market it as clean, affordable, and easy to use.”

“Negative perceptions about public transportation.   Many believe buses do not service where they live and/or work.  They feel they can get to their destinations quicker by driving their vehicles.  Motorists do not respect for public transportation because St. Louis is a car city.  Security is a huge factor.”

Question 4 asked participants to determine the best methods to encourage or educate people to ride MetroBus.  Responders most commonly suggested a mobile site for bus routes and scheduling, but information on MetroLink and public outreach also were popular answers.

Almost 90 responders submitted write-in ideas for helping to promote MetroBus use.  Write-in responses most commonly mentioned bus signage, with route and schedule information on stops, benches and shelters, as a means to get more people to try the bus.

“Route maps at many stops and on ALL BUSES. At least put a printed system map in each bus shelter. Times, those are somewhat optional, but at least a map showing how to get there from here.”

Many people also wrote in about how to use technology to improve the convenience of riding the bus:

“Give me a site where I can plug in the stop # and get the next bus arrival.”

“Better marking at signs as to where bus routes go, when they stop, etc. Most signs presently only say MetroBus and a route number–completely pointless information for a novice rider. Large, detailed marking of stops, with limited route maps and timetables, or at the very least a listing of what destinations are serviced by this stop, would go a long way in getting people to ride the bus on the spot, instead of having to plan out an entire route beforehand.  People are also afraid that they will be late–realtime mobile tracking of buses, or at least a smartphone app with schedules and routes, would give riders peace of mind.”

Other common answers included increasing the frequency of buses, creating special routes or shuttle routes that take people directly to major events, working with businesses to include public transit information, improving security and customer interface, and working with local universities to better integrate MetroBus service into student transportation.

Thank you for your time, your input and your comments.  The survey information, including all written responses, will be submitted to Metro management for review and consideration.  Your participation and responses are very important in understanding what is important to Metro riders and potential riders.

What surveys would you like to see in the future?

People do not know how to use it mainly becaus they do not know the routes. Public transit also suffers from a image problem since a lot of middle to upper clas individuals do not want to be associated with the lower class. Market it as clean, affordable, and easy to use.
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12 thoughts on “Survey Results: Readers Tell Us How to Encourage More People to Ride MetroBus”

  1. Awesome work Courtney and all!

  2. I echo Justin’s comment..Nice work.
    It looks as though most of the comments were from “experienced” regular riders who know what needs to be done to get the community more involved & that’s a great start. I had an idea strike me tonight (Wed 3/9) while watching Fox 2 News. As the anchors and weather folks were discussing the “Weatherfest” being held on Saturday at SLU, they mentioned numerous times which exits to take from the highways and where to park but not one mention of using Metro. Obviously this is just one event, but I’m fairly sure that our local news outlets would be receptive to including a quick mention of using transit in their mentions of events. i assume it would have to be some sort of collaborative effort from the events organizers and Metro. I know we’re attempting a “grass roots” type of use of Metro for Saturday’s St. Pats Parade through the efforts of Justin and Transit Turning Point http://on.fb.me/hk1frU. It wouldn’t be a bad idea to educate the public via our local news outlets (TV, Radio & Newspaper). Possibly including the event on the Metro home page with links encouraging transit to and from the evemt and having the media ask the public to access the web site for bus and other details.

    Again good work on the survey and it’s results..now lets work to implement some of the ideas

  3. Matt Carroll-Schmidt says:

    “What surveys would you like to see in the future?”

    A survey about surveys? Whoa. I mean, whoa, man. That’s so meta.

    Seriously, we’ve got this neat GPS thingy up here that tracks the buses and will text you when the next one is coming to your stop. Most of the time it really cuts down on my waiting time. The rest of the time it encourages me to cut it too close and miss the bus entirely.

  4. Jeff says:

    I really hope that Metro will incorporate some of these suggestions into the system. Does Metro have the funds to adopt some of these great ideas?

  5. Andrew Bolin says:

    If you want to get people to ride the bus, they need to know when they run. I suggest putting schedules at more bus stops. Also, commuter debit card would make it easier for people to hop on a bus without much planning and transfer. Finally, some kind of zoning would really help. It is hard to justify taking the bus a mile down the road for $2. You can ride from one end of St. louis to the other for $2.25, but a short ride without transfers is $2.

  6. Jimmy Z says:

    One interesting question would be increasing frequency versus extending routes or creating new ones? Is it more useful to have hourly service that reaches more destinations or is it more useful to have more-frequent service on existing routes to attract more riders? Especially ones that aren’t transit dependent and are time sensitive?

    A second one could be eliminating the single-seat bus discount, in exchange for free transfers. Keep it simple – I’m amazed that more isn’t being done to look at bus and light rail as an integrated system, not as two separate operations.

    1. Courtney says:

      Increasing frequency versus extending routes or new routes is the age-old question in transit planning, Jimmy, and one I’m sure nearly every transit agency goes through. And I don’t think it is an easy answer, it is certainly a process.

  7. RTBones says:

    Signage? Really? People wrote in about signage? You mean, I’m not alone in this world? 🙂

  8. mike says:

    RTBones’s comment on increased frequencies vs. route extensions is the big puzzle Metro needs to solve. In order to attract more riders, you have to make more service available. People don’t want to deal with waiting in the elements for buses any longer than they have to. Metro will need to sell itself to the public through major service improvements and enhancements, and going public with them. Metro has to now began thinking of service enhancement beyond the current Restoration program in order to attract new riders.

    Also, come on, does Metro really have to spend money on educating people on how to ride the bus? Most people know how to use the buses in this region. The system is fairly simple to use. What Metro needs to really focus on is giving more people a reason to want to give up the convenience of riding in their private vehicles (yes, Metro is not a very convenient system to use) to use public transit.

  9. mike says:

    Correction! My last comment was in response to Jimmy Z’s comment.

  10. Kevin B says:

    Andrew Bolin said: It is hard to justify taking the bus a mile down the road for $2. You can ride from one end of St. louis to the other for $2.25, but a short ride without transfers is $2.

    I would say it’s hard to justify taking a bus a mile down the road when there’s a perfectly walkable road along which to walk. Handicapped passengers obviously forego the two dollars. The simple solution, of course, is to purchase a monthly bus pass, then all your rides (be they five blocks or fifty) are paid for. And the more you ride, the cheaper those rides become!

  11. Mike says:

    I think that’s a great suggestion for Metro to visit schools and universities to teach students how to ride MetroBus. Maybe a new course can be created at the universities called “How To Signal A Stop-101”.

    Let’s face it, this is region is easier to explore by private vehicle because it is more convenient then having to deal with long waits for buses, especially if you have just missed a bus that runs every hour. Also, young people, and not just young Black people, have to be able to get home after exploring, reveling or bar hopping, after MetroBuses have shut down service for the night.

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