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New Polling Data Reveals How Agencies Are Using Data to Inform Decision Making

We asked 27 transportation planners how agencies are using data to identify accessibility gaps, market the value of transit, and reduce operational costs.

Via Transportation •

How are agencies using data to identify accessibility gaps, market the value of transit, and reduce operational costs? We asked 27 transportation professionals from around the globe during our recent webinar with South West Transit Association (SWTA) and uncovered some fascinating statistics through live polling.

Let’s take a look at the poll results.

First, as a benchmark:

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So the good news is that 34% have a copy or have access to the city’s data portal which indicates that the transit agency has a fairly streamlined way of procuring data themselves. However, with 27% saying they work directly with the city to obtain data, that could speak to a more cumbersome workflow that could be improved with modern ways of sharing data between departments. 

So what type of data are they incorporating into their workflow? 

Boundaries, Points of Interest, Bike Lanes, Speed Limits, Collisions, and Street/Pedestrian Infrastructure all were mentioned with Boundaries topping the list at 54.5% of respondents, demonstrating the importance of being able to customize data requests. 

For Remix customers: Heads up that the Remix data team is working on adding the ability for users to custom draw boundaries in maps, which should be a value-add for your work process.

And how are they working with the data?

We asked respondents “How do you work with bus performance metrics?” 73% use a spreadsheet-- with some combination of charts and graphs, dashboards, and/or visualizations on a map. Data in spreadsheets is often the raw representation of data. 

For Remix customers: To convert this data into a visual story, Remix customers can reach out to their Customer Success Manager and we’ll figure out what geospatial representation would work best for each use case.

Specifically, what type of ridership data is available to them?

As you can see in the chart below, Farebox comprises 36% of responses with Boardings & alightings from APC coming in second with 24% of respondents. 

For Remix customers: Want to see ridership in Remix? We’d love to represent it for you! If you’re interested, check out the design process that went into our ridership feature and the data experiments that we’re conducting with boardings and alighting data that are incomplete.

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It’s no secret that data can help make more informed decisions. We asked our poll respondents to explain the audience and specific reasons for using data during the planning process. 32% said their primary audience was the public and communicating changes to them was the driving factor in using data. Not far behind, 20% of respondents said “peer to peer collaboration, getting board approval, and communicating the changes to the public” were their reasons for using data in the planning process. 

These polling results indicate that data is important not just for internal decision-making, but also external stakeholder buy-in and cross-functional collaboration. Over 50% said that the primary audience for data during the planning process was either 1) community members during public outreach or 2) co-workers for collaboration or 3) board members for approval. 

So which data set is prioritized most in reliability planning? 

Riderships (boarding, alightings, ramps) was the clear winner with 73% of respondents in agreement. Dwell Time (11.5%) is also perceived to be an important data set for planning purposes.

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When it comes to movement data, what kind do most agencies work with?

The top 3 answers:

  • Pick ups and drop off from on-demand services/paratransit (18.5%)
  • Origin Destination data from surveys;Pick ups and drop off from on-demand services/paratransit;Commuting data from the Census (14.8%)
  • Origin Destination data from surveys (14.8%)

18.5% of respondents said they either don’t know what kinds of data they use or they’re currently not using any movement data in their processes. That indicates a huge opportunity to empower transit professionals with the right data to inform decisions.

One thing is clear: Agencies agree on the need for movement data.

Here’s where they perceive the greatest needs: “Trips by mode share” and “Origin data from system surveys” tied at the top of the list with 25.9% of respondents each. “More granular commuting data” is a need as well with 22.2% respondents weighing in. “Pick ups and drop off from on-demand services/paratransit” tied with “Traffic counts” at 11.1%, with 3.7% saying what they have is sufficient. 

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What type of data, as discussed in the webinar with SWTA, do transportation professionals most want to start visually incorporating into their workflow?

“Bus performance metrics”, “Ridership and farebox data”, and a combination of “Movement & travel patterns, Bus performance metrics, Ridership and farebox data” tied for first place with 16% of respondents for each. 

Measure what matters

“Infrastructure doesn’t get built overnight, but looking at data is a good start.” The polling data indicates there is room to grow with data utilization to ultimately enable more informed decisions for greater public outcomes.

So who’s doing it well?

SWTA and Remix cited the following agencies as best practices on leveraging data to drive analysis and improved operations:

  • Cap Metro (Austin, TX)
  • Rio Metro RTD (Los Lunas, NM)
  • VIA (San Antonio, TX)
  • OV-Bureau (Groningen, the Netherlands)

Interested in learning how these agencies successfully resolved their transit challenges? Watch the on-demand webinar here.