Hate to Wait: Effects of Wait Time on Public Transit Travelersí Perceptions

Allison Yoh, Hiroyuki Iseki, Mike Smart, and Brian D. Taylor

view report

A large and growing body of research suggests that transit users hate to wait. Given broad policy goals to increase public transit use in U.S. cities, this research sheds light on cost-effective ways to increase transit use by decreasing the perceived burdens of waiting at stops and stations. The goal of this study was to determine (a) the relative importance of stop and station amenities and attributes and (b) how the importance of these amenities and attributes varies with wait time. For this goal to be accomplished and for the duration of wait time when amenities become important to be determined a transit user survey that asked more than 2,000 travelers to rate both the importance of amenities at their stops or stations and their wait times was analyzed. Regardless of wait time, safety and on-time performance were paramount to riders; these also ranked highest relative to all other station and stop amenities examined. Lighting, cleanliness, information, shelter, and the presence of guards were less important to travelers when waits were short, but were more important with longer wait times. Thus, improving service frequency and reliability reduces the need for amenities at stations. This end suggests that when transit managers have a choice and when riders feel safe and secure managers should favor service improvements over station and stop amenities. Finally, some amenities become more important with long wait times, such as restrooms and food and drink facilities. Although provision of basic needs amenities is intuitive, restrooms and food and drink sales are most likely present at high-passenger-volume, high-service-frequency stops and stations, where they are valued least by travelers.