Leah Binkovitz | @leahbink | July 26, 2016
The Urban Edge requested Houston-specific data from the TransitCenter’s national survey of transit passengers. Roughly 76 percent of Houston respondents were somewhat or very satisfied with the frequency of METRO’s service, including bus and rail. About 71 percent said they were somewhat or very satisfied with the facilities as bus and rail stops. Riders were also generally pleased with transit travel times.
The positive responses come after a period during which METRO has enjoyed several big wins. Last year, the agency opened its Green and Purple light-rail lines. It also completed an ambitious overhaul of its bus network that included more efficient routes and more high-frequency routes.
But, it should be noted, the high marks from TransitCenter’s surveys come with a caveat: they probably aren’t representative of METRO’s riders. The nonprofit’s survey respondents skew white and wealthy.
The advocacy group’s Houston survey respondents were roughly 17 percent African-American, 17.5 percent Asian, 53 percent white and 14 percent Hispanic.
METRO’s own numbers, taken from surveys conducted over the course of nine months between 2014 and 2015, show its riders are 44.5 percent African-American, 22 percent Hispanic, 19 percent white and 7 percent Asian.
Nationally, TransitCenter’s numbers skewed wealthy, too, according to its report. “The sample is generally reflective of the transit-riding population in terms of gender and age but does have a bias with respect to income,” reads the report, “likely because the survey was conducted online and in English.” The Houston numbers also reflect that bias. Most of its respondents had a household income of $75,000 or more, according to the analysis of data from TransitCenter, compared to METRO’s numbers, which show that more than 76 percent of its riders have a household income of $53,999 or less.
Still, despite the limitations of the data, the sample of nearly 280 Houston METRO riders provides a look at not only what passengers like about the system, but also their attitudes toward public transportation generally.
While Houston METRO riders were generally happy with the cost of service (86 percent), a slightly smaller amount (77 percent) were happy with its reliability.
Even with the positive ratings, though, a full 35 percent of riders surveyed said in an ideal world, everyone would own a car. Just 28 percent said that most of their family and friends take public transportation.
While 65 percent agreed their home was in an area that was nice to walk or bike in, only half said their homes are well-served by transit.