Perceived Reality: Understanding the Relationship Between Customer Perceptions and Operational Characteristics

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

place - north america, mode - bus, planning - surveys, ridership - perceptions, technology - automatic vehicle monitoring, technology - passenger information, operations - crowding, operations - frequency


customer satisfaction questionnaires, operations data, perceptions of service


Ensuring that customers are satisfied with public transit is important, and traditionally transit agencies have assessed customer satisfaction by using questionnaires designed to collect information about users’ personal characteristics and perceptions of service. However, these questionnaires assess only individuals’ perceptions of transit services, without accounting for the service that users actually experienced. With that in mind, the purpose of this paper is to analyze the drivers of public transit satisfaction for users on the basis of an analysis of customer satisfaction questionnaires, as well as operations data obtained from automatic vehicle location and automatic passenger counter systems for an express bus route in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The goal of the paper is to understand what the main factors influencing customer satisfaction in this context are. The paper questions whether using operations data in parallel with passengers’ perception data is useful in understanding customer satisfaction. With a series of logit models, it is found that actual crowding and users’ reported satisfaction with crowding are associated with how transit users perceive overall satisfaction with the bus service. Furthermore, the models reveal that car access, age, past use, and users’ perceptions of frequency, onboard safety, and cleanliness are also positively associated with overall satisfaction. This study could be useful for public transit planners as it provides new insight into how data derived from customer satisfaction surveys and bus operations can be used to identify which modifiable components of the service can be prioritized to effectively increase riders’ overall satisfaction.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them.