Conducting Onboard Transit Rider Surveys with Electronic Handheld Tablets: An Agencywide Consolidated Approach

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - rail, place - north america, planning - surveys, planning - methods, technology - passenger information


onboard surveys, electronic handheld tablets


Transit agencies rely on onboard rider surveys to produce data in support of planning initiatives, as well as Title VI and FTA reports. The findings and statistical analysis provide valuable information about riders; travel patterns; and the effects of new rail alignments, services, and fare changes. Historically, onboard surveys have been conducted with paper methods. However, as technology has become increasingly accessible, transit agencies have started turning to electronic methods for gathering information. This approach has many advantages, but significant changes to methodology and approach are necessary. The Tri-County Metropolitan Transportation District of Oregon has migrated all data collection for onboard rider surveys from paper to electronic handheld tablets. Survey budgets have been consolidated and a position created to manage and oversee agencywide implementation. Robust, cost-efficient open-source software is used, and local college students are recruited as surveyors. Compared with the traditional approach, this strategy decreases time and cost significantly, generates more accurate and reliable data, improves customer relations, and is friendlier to the environment. The materials, methods, and data used in a systemwide fare survey conducted in spring 2016 are presented, and results and findings from a 2014–2015 origin-and-destination before study that used tablets are referenced for comparison. The focus is on the consolidation and migration of all onboard surveys from paper to tablets. Best practices are presented in a format that other agencies can adopt easily.


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