The San Francisco Travel Quality Study: tracking trials and tribulations of a transit taker

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, place - urban, planning - surveys, planning - service quality, technology - passenger information, technology - intelligent transport systems, technology - geographic information systems, ridership - attitudes, ridership - behaviour, ridership - mode choice, ridership - modelling


Mode choice, Public transportation, Integrated choice and latent variable modeling, Satisfaction, Smartphone survey, Panel data


In helping understand the dynamics of travel choice behavior and traveler satisfaction over time, multi-day panel data is invaluable (McFadden in Am Econ Rev 91(3): 351–378, 2001). The collection of such data has become increasingly feasible thanks to smartphones, which researchers can use to present surveys to travelers and to collect additional information through the phones’ location services and other sensors. This paper describes the design and implementation of the San Francisco Travel Quality Study, a multi-day research study conducted in autumn 2013 with 838 participants. The objective of the study was to investigate the link between transit service quality, the satisfaction and subjective well-being of transit riders, and travel choice behavior, with a particular interest in the influence of travelers’ choice history and personal experiences on future transit use. For that purpose, a rich panel data set was collected from multiple sources, including a number of mobile travel experience surveys capturing traveler satisfaction and emotions, two online surveys capturing demographics, attitudes and mode choice intentions, as well as high-resolution phone location data and transit vehicle location data. By fusing the phone location data with transit vehicle location data, individual-level transit travel diaries could be automatically created, and by fusing the location data with the survey responses, additional information about the context of the responses could be derived. While the behavioral and satisfaction-related findings of the study are detailed in other publications, this paper is intended to serve two purposes. First, it describes the study design, data collection effort and challenges faced in order to provide a learning opportunity for other researchers considering similar studies. Second, it discusses the key sociodemographic data and characteristics of the study population in order to provide a foundation and reference for further publications that make use of the data set described here. The authors would like to invite other researchers to collaborate with them on the evaluation of the data.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by SpringerLink, copyright remains with them.