(Harrisburg) –With assistance from PennDOT, Capital Area Transit recently conducted a system-wide rider survey to determine customer satisfaction levels throughout the transit service system, CAT spokesperson Robert Philbin said today.
“We found a high level of rider satisfaction with CAT services on routes in Cumberland County, Dauphin County and the City of Harrisburg,” he said.
About 84.2% of respondents across all bus routes rated CAT transit service as, “very satisfactory” and “satisfactory”. Survey results reinforce what CAT has known for some time, Philbin commented, “our bus operators and employees are our most valuable asset and to a large extent define our customers experience when riding a CAT bus.”
Riders surveyed were overwhelmingly satisfied with the performance of CAT bus operators and employees especially when it comes to “helpfulness of employees”, “safe and competent drivers”, “driver courtesy and friendliness” and overall “comfort on CAT buses”.
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More than 80% of riders said they would recommend the transit system to others, and about 90% said they would continue using the CAT system. People ride a CAT bus for a variety of reasons, most importantly to get to work (62%); social-recreational transit use (11.9%); Shopping (9.3%); Medical/Dental appointments (7.9%); higher education (6.2%) and school K-12 (2.9%).
MOST CAT RIDERS ARE LOYAL, RIDE DAILY, GET TO WORK
Of the 423 riders surveyed, about 80% use a CAT bus at least 5 days a week, with 16.8% riding 2 to 4 days per week. CAT riders are generally experienced and loyal customers, Philbin said. “Half CAT riders (50.6%) have been using the system for more than 3 years, with another 28.5% riding from 1 to 3 years, and 18.2% using the system from 1 month to 1 year.” New CAT riders, with less than 1 month experience, make up 2.6% of CAT ridership.
When asked about continued use of CAT services, about 90% said they would continue to use CAT bus service, with 8% “unsure”, and about 3% saying they are either not likely to continue to use transit service. “Gas prices and availability of state parking influences those riders who ride for economy,” Philbin said.
CAT RIDERSHIP REFLECTS DEMOGRAPHIC MIX OF THE SERVICE POPULATION
CAT customers are diverse with 46.1% of riders African American and 42.8% Caucasian ridership, followed by 3.9% Hispanic, 2.4% Asian and 1% American Indian ridership.
Looking at rider demographics, the majority of CAT riders are 16 to 60 in age, with 12% 60 years and older. While 23.3% fall into the 16 to 24 age group, 37.4% are age 24 to 40, and 26.6% are 41 to 60 years old. Of those surveyed 43.3% of CAT riders are male, 56.7% are female.
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UNEMPLOYMENT 4.2% AMONG CAT RIDERS, 49.3% ARE ‘TRANSIT BOUND’
The survey found 76.6% of CAT riders are employed, 7.9% are retired, 4.2% are not employed and 8.6% are students. About half CAT riders (49.3%) are transit bound or have no alternate mode of transportation, while 1.2% use bikes to get to and from a CAT bus and 7.1% use CAT “Park n’ Ride” locations as part of their daily commute. More than 83% of CAT riders access the internet, more than 75% use a smart phone, and tens of thousands of people visit www.cattransit.com for information monthly
DIVERSE RIDERSHIP SIGNALS DIVERSE SERVICE
For decades CAT has provided reliable, safe service to the 62% of riders who commute to work from Cumberland and Dauphin counties, primarily to jobs primarily in the City of Harrisburg,” Philbin said.
“CAT is very good at moving riders in and out of the capital city in a traditional “spoke and wheel” pattern of routes that feed into, around and out of the city.” CAT route system has also been transitioning slowly toward a network of smaller, more frequent routes that connect suburban communities and destinations like health care facilities, warehouse jobs, and shopping that will connect suburban routes with well-established downtown Harrisburg routes that feed into the CAT Harrisburg Transfer Center.
“CAT is transitioning to meet the expanding transit demands cause by economic development as well as population and demographic changes,” Philbin noted.
CAT is scheduled to re-model the Harrisburg Transfer Center at Second and Market Streets, but ultimately that center will have to be relocated to a larger location to accommodate increased traffic into the city as a result of economic growth and more regionalized transit service. Over the last two years CAT has conducted dozens of public outreach meetings across the one thousand square mile capital region, to focus on changing transit needs and customer service.
“This will result in more suburban community-based service to respond to demographic trends, like retirement and access to health care services for an aging population, balanced against regional economic development, which calls for increasing numbers of employees who need to move from one county to another, and within counties, without a downtown Harrisburg connection.” He said.
At the same time, college and university student growth and foreign student seasonal work force needs are continually expanding.
In addition to these transitional factors, which are the result of decades of increased land use, economic development and population shifts across the region, there is the need to plan more regionalized service that connects neighboring transit systems to the capital region and, Philbin said, “you get some idea of the scope of planning required to move area public transit more completely into the 21st century.”
Under a strategic plan developed by CAT’s board of directors, the transit authority has been moving in this direction in the last couple of years. Philbin said, “the trick is to plan ahead of the change curve, while implementing service changes at a pace that doesn’t disrupt the highly-rated CAT service already in place.”
Approximately 50% of all CAT riders system wide are “transit dependent”, which means they have no other transit option available for basic human needs, like connecting to jobs, health care and social services, retail shopping and secondary education.
“As we move into the future, we cannot overlook the basic needs of our current transit dependent users,” Philbin said.
Approximately 80% of survey respondents said they would recommend the transit system to others. Additionally, 83% said they are satisfied with the overall service operated by CAT, the Cumberland-Dauphin-Harrisburg Transit Authority.
Capital Area Transit was incorporated in 1973 when Cumberland County and Dauphin County Commissioners and the City of Harrisburg organized CAT to provide mass transit Fixed-Route and Paratransit shared-ride services, which today conveniently and safely transport about 2.5 million riders a year in the thousand square mile capital region. Visitwww.cattransit.com, follow CAT on Facebook or Twitter at @CATTransit, or call CAT’s Public Information Office at717-238-8304 for more information. “Where CAT Goes, Community Grows.”
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