A recently completed survey of bus riders on six systems in Southeast Michigan will help transportation planners and system operators learn what's needed to better serve riders.
The last survey, a project of SEMCOG (Southeast Michigan Council of Governments) was completed in 2002 and much has changed since then.
"With all of the economic impacts that have happened recently, it's changed travel patterns, especially with transit," says Tom Bruff, transportation manager for SEMCOG's Plan Policy Development Group.
"By performing this survey we get to better understand what these travel patterns are and use the information to design a system-wide transportation plan."
While the focus was on bus riders, the information gathered could factor into planning for other forms of mass transportation and transportation dollars, especially as plans for light rail, train and similar transportation in Detroit, metro Detroit and Ann Arbor are moving further along.
The survey, conducted in person, asked 18,500 people their views on topics such as destinations, purpose of trips, and transportation methods to starting and ending points, as well as personal attributes. Surveys were taken from riders on Detroit Department of Transportation, Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation, Ann Arbor Transportation Authority, University of Michigan Transit Service, Detroit People Mover, Blue Water Area Transit and Lake Erie Transit.
"By performing this survey and getting more information on our fixed route system we're able to utilize it for other purposes, such as how it could be applied to light rail…We need to have the proper information to apply for dollars out there," Bruff says. "We also have to do the survey for compliance with receiving federal funds and also monitoring and improving air quality."
Only preliminary results of the survey, which was taken in 2010 and 2011 and completed in the spring, are available at this point. They are available ln SEMCOG's website and will be updated as new findings are released.
Among the preliminary findings:
* More than 222,000 bus boardings occur on the six systems each day.
* About half of transit usage occurs on 10 percent of the system
* 54 percent of trips were work and university related
* More than a third of riders were between 18-25
* 90 percent of riders did not get any fare subsidy.
*20 percent of riders are unemployed
*46 percent of riders did not have a valid driver’s license and nearly 52% had no access to any vehicle.
The information will be further broken down and analyzed to determine how much has changed since 2002 and to compare the findings to other cities, Bruff says.
"First and foremost it gives us more recent and relevant information that we can use and the transit operators can use to plan for changes in the transit system," Bruff says. "We'll take this information and include it in our travel demand forecast model…We'll put in transportation projects that are being planned…and determine how are those projects improving the system….
Bruff himself is one of metro Detroit's bus riders. "I go from Macomb County to downtown Detroit every day," he says. "I go by choice. There are a lot of riders who need affordable, reliable transportation because it's their only means of transportation, and there are a number of riders who are choice riders."
The goal of the survey is to serve them all.
Source: Tom Bruff, transportation manager for SEMCOG's Plan Policy Development Group
Writer: Kim North Shine