The National Academies

Transit IDEA J-04/IDEA 01 [Completed (IDEA)]

Customer Satisfaction Index for the Mass Transit Industry
[ TCRP J-04 (Innovations Deserving Exploratory Analysis--The Transit IDEA Program) ]

  Project Data
Staff Responsibility: Harvey Berlin

This IDEA project developed and tested a customer satisfaction index (CSI) methodology in five transit districts to determine customer satisfaction with mass transit operations. The project was modeled after similar studies by the automobile and airline industries that were designed to improve and track customer satisfaction over time. This CSI application was the first systematic, non-biased, and technically credible measure for comparing customer satisfaction between districts. This verified CSI approach is now available for transit agencies to analyze their performance, compare themselves directly to a total sample average, learn from other transit districts, and understand key factors for improving customer satisfaction and ridership.

The uniform guidelines were applied for the construction and interpretation of the CSI data derived from the investigation. The feasibility of the CSI concept was tested for the three transit modes of bus, light rail, and heavy rail in the following five transit districts:

1. Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District (Tri-Met), Portland, Oregon;

2. Metro Regional Transit Authority (MRTA), Akron, Ohio;

3. Regional Transportation Authority through the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), Chicago, Illinois;

4. Metropolitan Council Transit Operations (MCTO), Minneapolis, Minnesota; and

5. Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA), Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The IDEA investigation produced the following results:

n     Identified the key attributes and factors reflecting transit customer satisfaction in the five transit districts
n     Developed and tested a uniform method of comparing the performance of each transit district,
n     Identified specific priorities for improving customer satisfaction, and
n     Developed guidelines for application of the CSI methodology by all transit agencies.

The project identified key attributes that affect customer satisfaction. A uniform method of comparing the performance of each transit district with those of other districts was also developed. In addition, specific priorities for improving customer satisfaction in transit districts were also identified.

The successful conclusion of this study marked the first step the transit industry has taken to establish customer satisfaction benchmarks. Additional data was collected to increase the predictive power of the CSI model from local to national levels. The investigators worked with other transit districts to expand CSI studies. The final report for this project was completed.

An expanded national research application of CSI results occurred under the Transit Cooperative Research Program with TCRP Project B-11: "Customer-Defined Transit Service Quality," which provided answers to several of the specific issues identified in the IDEA project and broadened the application of the CSI concept to a national level. A report on that follow-on project was published in 1999 as TCRP Report 47. More than fifteen transit agencies have used this method. For example, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) elected to do an initial local survey. The results of the expanded survey were so informative that a new updating survey was completed by the CTA.

The final report for this IDEA project can be found at:

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