Out of Control Policy Blog

Transit epiphany in Atlanta

For those of you who thought that the way to entice people to transit was to make it slow, complicated and pricey–you've got it all wrong. Turns out what people really want is fast, easy and inexpensive. So says a new transit marketing survey:

The survey asked more than 1,100 residents of metro Atlanta about their current mass transit habits, their feelings about buses and trains, and the most important factors in their decisions about whether to use transit or drive.

The factor that emerged in the survey as most critical was time. People said they would be most likely to take transit if they knew it would get them to their destination as quickly as driving.

Other significant factors in the decision included free parking at stations, the ability to bypass traffic congestion on highways and roads, reasonable fares and being able to get to a destination without having to change vehicles more than once.

Still, the reality check had its limits.

"We found that if you do all of these things, up to two-thirds of commuters would consider using transit," said [Atlanta Chamber of Commerce] President Sam Williams.

The key word is "consider"–which is miles away from any guarantee of patronage. Plus, people are generally more open to theoretical transit. What happens in the real world is a different matter. After all, New York is far and away the nation's leader in transit market share at about 11 percent. No other urban area even comes close.

Ted Balaker is Producer


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