Satisfaction doesn't come cheap for transit riders

Updated 6/11/2012 6:17 PM
  • Overall, commuters say transit service is fine in the region. But there's room for improvement with timeliness, cleanliness and parking.

    Overall, commuters say transit service is fine in the region. But there's room for improvement with timeliness, cleanliness and parking. Daily Herald file photo

A majority of transit riders are satisfied with Metra, Pace and CTA service, according to a survey that cost about $435,000 and took three years to generate.

More than 32,000 passengers responded to the Regional Transportation Authority study conducted by consultants Resource Systems Group of Vermont.

Among key findings were that 60 percent of commuters called themselves satisfied with transit service while 23 percent were very satisfied for a total of 83 percent. More than 90 percent said they would recommend the transit system.

Suburban Cook and collar county riders gave lower marks for coordination of schedules for transfers between CTA, Pace and Metra -- expressing 69 percent satisfaction.

Availability of parking for transit also caused some angst with just 68 percent to 70 percent of suburban Cook and collar county passengers saying they were satisfied.

Yet, 79 percent of riders were satisfied with the ease of transferring from one transit service to another, with 22 percent highly satisfied and 57 percent satisfied.

"This is the first time we've done something like this and hopefully it will form the basis for marketing efforts," RTA Chairman John S. Gates said at a May board meeting.

Here's a look at priorities for riders by individual transit agency and how they performed.

• Metra commuters were least satisfied with overall trip times, train cleanliness, train temperatures and whether they could hear announcements. They were most pleased with safety, conductor courtesy, availability of seats and getting to destinations on time.

• Pace riders were satisfied with safety on buses, easy-to-understand routes and schedules, driver courtesy and performance, and travel times. They said notification of service changes, buses running on time, overall access to transit and frequency of rush-hour buses needed improvement.

• CTA commuters were least satisfied with availability of seats, the appearance of stations and stops, and cleanliness of buses and trains. They were satisfied with on-time performance, availability of transit, safety on buses and trains and employee courtesy.

"This is a basis to build further," RTA communications director Diane Palmer said. "Comments where people said, 'Hey, this could be better,' are being dealt with."

RTA officials said they saved about $500,000 by conducting the study in cooperation with the CTA, Pace and Metra instead of having three separate surveys.

The RTA started planning for the survey in 2009 and paid Resource Systems Group $83,000 to come up with a methodology through a Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning grant.

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