How to Best Serve Seniors on Existing Transit Services

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How to Best Serve Seniors on Existing Transit Services


Increases in the size of the elderly population and changes in travel patterns are expected to create significant new mobility expectations. The research documented here is intended to provide tools for transit providers and public policy makers to make the greatest use of existing transit resources to serve mobility needs of the growing senior population. The research demonstrates how customer satisfaction surveys can be used to set priorities for improving existing fixed route services. The primary analysis technique used is the impact score technique. This method determines the relative impact of various improvements on overall customer satisfaction. It does this by measuring how much customers’ overall satisfaction changes depending on their satisfaction with particular aspects of service. Satisfaction data from rider surveys from three West Coast transit systems were analyzed, comparing the responses of seniors and non-seniors.

Many of the results are specific to individual transit systems; however, a number of general patterns were observed: 1) in general, seniors appear to rate service attributes more highly than do non-seniors; 2) while importance scores for non-seniors tended to cluster together, the results for seniors appear to indicate that certain service attributes are significantly more important than others; 3) at the two systems that used a similar method of survey administration and question format, there is broad consistency in importance ratings for seniors. Among the most important attributes at both systems were drivers, reliable equipment, and on-time performance. Direct questioning suggests that the greatest increase in ridership would result from adding service. However, the impact analysis shows that other improvements could have a greater impact on customer satisfaction.



David Koffman is President of Crain & Associates, Inc., of San Carlos,California. He has been active in planning for the transportation needs of seniors and people with disabilities since 1977. His research has been performed under contract for the U.S. Department of Transportation and numerous public transportation agencies throughout the United States. He is a frequent presenter at professional meetings on paratransit and an active member of the Committee on Paratransit of the Transportation Research Board. His work has focused on predicting ridership, efficient operation, fare structures, complying with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and innovative service methods. He holds an undergraduate degree in mathematics from M.I.T. and a masters in city planning from Harvard.

September 2001
Elderly persons
Public transit
Transit operating agencies
Transit vehicle operations



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