TriMet’s Skewed Annual Survey

A bus and train side by side on the Tillicum BridgeTriMet’s Annual Attitude Survey is not representative of their ridership.

Every year, the agency conducts a public opinion poll to prove to the community that they are popular and effective. Every year, the results are skewed heavily and represent an unrealistic and ill-informed view of what TriMet does, and how our regional transit system functions.

Who did TriMet poll? 800 people in our region. While we don’t doubt that the polling was conducted (by DHM research) to be regionally representative, it certainly does not reflect the people who depend on mass transit. The data shows that of the 800 people surveyed, 65% ride the bus less than once a month. Nearly two thirds of the respondents are on the bus fewer than 12 times every year – and it is these respondents whose opinion the survey mostly reflects.

An additional 22% of survey respondents ride the bus “a couple times a month” – individuals who ride maybe 24 or 36 times annually, (“a couple times” can be loosely interpreted).

Most glaring in a survey of rider attitudes toward the transit system, only 13% of those surveyed depend upon transit, and only 5% of respondents ride it every day.

Of 800 people TriMet and DHM surveyed:

  • 192 (24%) do not ride TriMet at all.
  • 328 (41%) ride TriMet less than once a month.
  • 176 (22%) ride “a couple times” a month.
  • 64 (8%) ride several times per week.
  • 40 (5%) ride every day.

In summary:

  • 65% of those surveyed ride less than once a month
  • 87% of those surveyed ride a couple times per month or less
  • Only 13% of people surveyed are transit-dependent

Thus it makes sense that the results of the survey demonstrate little understanding of riders’ experiences. 71% of survey respondents said “roads and congestion” were the most serious transportation problem. This response is deeply skewed by the people who use the transit system less than once a month, most of whom have use the transit system only for recreational use.

While congestion is a major issue (one that impacts buses as well as cars, thanks to a lack of dedicated bus lanes), including “roads” with congestion creates an appearance of support for misguided projects like the Rose Quarter highway-widening project, and other infrastructure intended to serve automotive traffic, which will only worsen congestion, air pollution, and transit reliability and ridership.

Among those who ride the system even once per year, 70% want to improve roads and congestion, but a focus on improving “transit” jumps from 11% to 13% – clearly indicating the survey’s findings are skewed by those who don’t ride TriMet at all.

Overall, this survey again serves to obscure the priorities of the transit riding public, and to bolster TriMet’s image as a leader in public transportation. We’re most concerned about the needs of people who depend upon the transit system. TriMet should release disaggregated results from the 13% of survey respondents that are transit dependent, so that people who actually rely upon our transit system can have their opinions represented.

Posted in Bus Riders Unite, Transit Justice.