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T R A N S I T C O O P E R A T I V E R E S E A R C H P R O G R A M TCRP REPORT 179 TRANSPORTAT ION RESEARCH BOARD WASHINGTON, D.C. 2015 www.TRB.org Research sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration in cooperation with the Transit Development Corporation Subject Areas Public Transportation â¢ Data and Information Use of Web-Based Rider Feedback to Improve Public Transit Services Kari Edison Watkins Yanzhi (Ann) Xu GeorGia institute of technoloGy Atlanta, GA Susan Bregman oak square resources, llc Brighton, MA Kathryn Coffel kathryn coffel consultinG, llc Portland, OR
TCRP REPORT 179 Project B-43 ISSN 1073-4872 ISBN 978-0-309-30871-7 Â© 2015 National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved. COPYRIGHT INFORMATION Authors herein are responsible for the authenticity of their materials and for obtaining written permissions from publishers or persons who own the copyright to any previously published or copyrighted material used herein. Cooperative Research Programs (CRP) grants permission to reproduce material in this publication for classroom and not-for-profit purposes. Permission is given with the understanding that none of the material will be used to imply TRB, AASHTO, FAA, FHWA, FMCSA, FTA, or Transit Development Corporation endorsement of a particular product, method, or practice. It is expected that those reproducing the material in this document for educational and not-for-profit uses will give appropriate acknowledgment of the source of any reprinted or reproduced material. For other uses of the material, request permission from CRP. NOTICE The project that is the subject of this report was a part of the Transit Cooperative Research Program, conducted by the Transportation Research Board with the approval of the Governing Board of the National Research Council. The members of the technical panel selected to monitor this project and to review this report were chosen for their special competencies and with regard for appropriate balance. The report was reviewed by the technical panel and accepted for publication according to procedures established and overseen by the Transportation Research Board and approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council. The opinions and conclusions expressed or implied in this report are those of the researchers who performed the research and are not necessarily those of the Transportation Research Board, the National Research Council, or the program sponsors. The Transportation Research Board of the National Academies, the National Research Council, and the sponsors of the Transit Cooperative Research Program do not endorse products or manufacturers. Trade or manufacturersâ names appear herein solely because they are considered essential to the object of the report. TRANSIT COOPERATIVE RESEARCH PROGRAM The nationâs growth and the need to meet mobility, environmental, and energy objectives place demands on public transit systems. Current systems, some of which are old and in need of upgrading, must expand service area, increase service frequency, and improve efficiency to serve these demands. Research is necessary to solve operating problems, to adapt appropriate new technologies from other industries, and to intro- duce innovations into the transit industry. The Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) serves as one of the principal means by which the transit industry can develop innovative near-term solutions to meet demands placed on it. The need for TCRP was originally identified in TRB Special Report 213âResearch for Public Transit: New Directions, published in 1987 and based on a study sponsored by the Urban Mass Transportation Administrationânow the Federal Transit Admin istration (FTA). A report by the American Public Transportation Association (APTA), Transportation 2000, also recognized the need for local, problem- solving research. TCRP, modeled after the longstanding and success- ful National Cooperative Highway Research Program, undertakes research and other technical activities in response to the needs of tran- sit service providers. The scope of TCRP includes a variety of transit research fields including planning, service configuration, equipment, facilities, operations, human resources, maintenance, policy, and administrative practices. TCRP was established under FTA sponsorship in July 1992. Pro- posed by the U.S. Department of Transportation, TCRP was autho- rized as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act of 1991 (ISTEA). On May 13, 1992, a memorandum agreement out- lining TCRP operating procedures was executed by the three cooper- ating organizations: FTA, the National Academies, acting through the Transportation Research Board (TRB); and the Transit Development Corporation, Inc. (TDC), a nonprofit educational and research orga- nization established by APTA. TDC is responsible for forming the independent governing board, designated as the TCRP Oversight and Project Selection (TOPS) Committee. Research problem statements for TCRP are solicited periodically but may be submitted to TRB by anyone at any time. It is the responsibility of the TOPS Committee to formulate the research program by identi- fying the highest priority projects. As part of the evaluation, the TOPS Committee defines funding levels and expected products. Once selected, each project is assigned to an expert panel, appointed by the Transportation Research Board. The panels prepare project state- ments (requests for proposals), select contractors, and provide techni- cal guidance and counsel throughout the life of the project. The process for developing research problem statements and selecting research agencies has been used by TRB in managing cooperative research pro- grams since 1962. As in other TRB activ ities, TCRP project panels serve voluntarily without com pensation. Because research cannot have the desired impact if products fail to reach the intended audience, special emphasis is placed on dissemi- nating TCRP results to the intended end users of the research: tran- sit agencies, service providers, and suppliers. TRB provides a series of research reports, syntheses of transit practice, and other support- ing material developed by TCRP research. APTA will arrange for workshops, training aids, field visits, and other activities to ensure that results are implemented by urban and rural transit industry practitioners. The TCRP provides a forum where transit agencies can cooperatively address common operational problems. The TCRP results support and complement other ongoing transit research and training programs. Published reports of the TRANSIT COOPERATIVE RESEARCH PROGRAM are available from: Transportation Research Board Business Office 500 Fifth Street, NW Washington, DC 20001 and can be ordered through the Internet at http://www.national-academies.org/trb/bookstore Printed in the United States of America
The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 1863, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1964, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Sciences the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Victor J. Dzau is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academyâs purposes of furthering knowledge and advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Ralph J. Cicerone and Dr. C. D. Mote, Jr., are chair and vice chair, respectively, of the National Research Council. The Transportation Research Board is one of six major divisions of the National Research Council. The mission of the Transporta- tion Research Board is to provide leadership in transportation innovation and progress through research and information exchange, conducted within a setting that is objective, interdisciplinary, and multimodal. The Boardâs varied activities annually engage about 7,000 engineers, scientists, and other transportation researchers and practitioners from the public and private sectors and academia, all of whom contribute their expertise in the public interest. The program is supported by state transportation departments, federal agencies including the component administrations of the U.S. Department of Transportation, and other organizations and individu- als interested in the development of transportation. www.TRB.org www.national-academies.org
C O O P E R A T I V E R E S E A R C H P R O G R A M S AUTHOR ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The research reported herein was performed under TCRP Project B-43 by the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the Georgia Institute of Technology on behalf of the Georgia Tech Research Institute. Dr. Kari E. Watkins, P.E., Assistant Professor, was the Project Director and Principal Investigator. The two other primary authors were Susan Bregman of Oak Square Resources, LLC, and Kathryn Coffel of Kathryn Coffel Consulting, LLC. Dr. Watkins was assisted by Dr. Ann Xu, Research Engineer; Ryan Sager, Research Assistant and M.S. Candidate; and Carly Queen, Research Assistant and M.S. Student. CRP STAFF FOR TCRP REPORT 179 Christopher W. Jenks, Director, Cooperative Research Programs Gwen Chisholm Smith, Senior Program Officer Jeffrey Oser, Senior Program Assistant Eileen P. Delaney, Director of Publications Margaret B. Hagood, Editor TCRP PROJECT B-43 PANEL Field of Service Configuration Mindy Rhindress, Queens College-CUNY/AbtSRBI, New York, NY (Chair) Peter Anderson, Greater Cleveland Transit Authority, Cleveland, OH Arthur Barnes, Winston-Salem Transit Authority, Winston-Salem, NC Clinton Bench, Massachusetts DOT, Boston, MA Phyllis Berry, Fort Lauderdale, FL Jules Flynn, MTAâNew York City Transit, New York, NY Philip L. Fry, CT Transit, Hartford, CT Tim E. Healy, Sound Transit, Seattle, WA Alison Simon, Amtrak, Washington, DC Rosemary Sheridan, APTA Liaison Lisa Marflak, TRB Liaison
TCRP Report 179: Use of Web-Based Rider Feedback to Improve Public Transit Services provides a practical and easy-to-use toolkit of best practices, emerging platforms, and prom- ising approaches for customer web-based and electronic feedback to help improve public transit services. The report is separated into two parts: Part I identifies best practices among transit agencies and other industries using in-house or third-party web-based and mobile platforms to engage customers and provides guidance on managing web-based feedback; and Part II includes a Tool Selection Guide that helps transit agencies select the most appropriate web-based feedback tool based on their needs. The results of this research may be used by a variety of transportation professionals, including policymakers, operations and maintenance managers, customer service managers, marketers, and safety and security personnel to assist with implementing structured feedback systems and utilizing the feedback both internally and externally with customers. Transit customers are increasingly reporting transit-related issues using web-based tools and expecting both response and action. As a result, transit agencies must determine how they will best use these web-based tools. The challenge for many transit agencies is to collect input from various channels; respond online; create a dialogue with the public; prioritize reported problems; and act on them in a reasonable timeframe. While many aspects of this process do not differ from traditional means of communicating, web-based tools are often viewed as a more attractive form of communication. This report identifies and catalogs the issues related to receiving and responding to cus- tomer feedback via web-based tools, and includes suggestions on how to categorize and organize unstructured feedback from social media outlets. Also, this report includes a menu of platforms available to manage structured feedback from customers incorporating various design choices and a menu of the specific kinds of feedback that will provide information in areas such as safety, security, maintenance, and customer service. The results of this research may help transit agencies when facing the challenges of collecting and managing web-based customer feedback. Kari Edison Watkins, PhD, PE, Georgia Institute of Technology, in association with Ann Xu, PhD, Georgia Institute of Technology; Susan Bregman, Oak Square Resources, LLC; and Kathryn Coffel, Kathryn Coffel Consulting, LLC, prepared this report under TCRP Project B-43. The primary objective of this research was to create a toolkit for transit agen- cies to help with the implementation and management of a web-based feedback program. To achieve the projectâs objective, the research team performed a literature review, con- ducted industry surveys, performed interviews with software developers, and conducted case studies. F O R E W O R D By Gwen Chisholm Smith Staff Officer Transportation Research Board
1 Summary 1 Introduction 2 Research Problem Statement 2 Overview of Findings 10 How to Use the Tool Selection Guide 11 Appendices P A R T 1 Managing Web-Based Feedback 15 Chapter 1 Understanding and Organizing Web-Based Feedback 15 Defining Customer Feedback 16 Agency Needs for Web-Based Feedback Tools 21 Benefits of Web-Based Customer Feedback Tools 26 Challenges of Web-Based Feedback Tools 30 Chapter 2 Managing Web-Based Feedback 30 Audience 32 Promise to the Public 34 Legal Issues 36 Staffing 40 Responding to Web-Based Feedback 41 Monitoring and Responding on Public Forums 44 Data Processing, Analysis, and Metrics 48 Chapter 3 Web-Based Feedback Tools 48 Considerations for Implementing Web-Based Feedback Tools 49 Categories of Web-Based Customer Feedback 53 Tool Features 55 Procurement Considerations 60 Chapter 4 Case Study Summaries 60 Case Studies 66 Working with Software Developers 69 Non-Transit Organization: Amtrak 70 Transit Customers and Advocates 71 Emerging Tools 75 Chapter 5 Lessons Learned and Future Research 75 Lessons Learned 80 The Ideal Tool 82 Suggested Future Research Topics C O N T E N T S
P A R T 2 Web-Based Feedback Tool Selection Guide 87 Chapter 6 Categories of Web-Based Feedback 87 Collect Unsolicited Comments 87 Solicit Comments 88 Encourage Civic Engagement 88 Manage Feedback 89 Chapter 7 Tool Types and Features 89 Types of Web-Based Feedback Tools 90 Features of Web-Based Feedback Tools 93 Chapter 8 How to Use the Tool Selection Guide 93 Step 1: Identify Best-Fit Tools Based on Agency Need 93 Step 2: Compare Tool Features Based on Agency Need 95 Step 3: Compare Tools Using Tool Information Sheets 95 Examples of Using the Tool Selection Guide 103 Chapter 9 Tool Selection Guide 103 Best-Fit Tools Based on Agency Need 103 Comparison of Tool Features Based on Agency Need 109 Tool Information Sheets 125 References A-1 Appendix A Sample Customer Comment Categories B-1 Appendix B Glossary C-1 Appendix C Transit Agency Survey