As Shelter in Place restrictions ease throughout Santa Clara County, it is vital to know what the public needs and wants out of transit service in order for them to ride again. One way we are gathering that information is through surveying those who ride and those who currently do not.
Over the past four months, the COVID-19 outbreak has forced an 80 percent drop in VTA ridership, which is similar to other transit agencies throughout the Bay Area and the nation. (Some lost even more.) As some restrictions relax and people get back to being out and about, and back to their workplaces, we want to know how best to serve that emerging riding public. What will it take to allow people to feel safe and confident riding public transit again? Cleaner vehicles? Check. Requiring face masks? Check. What else? Read on.
From May 31 to June 4, EMC Research, a leading public opinion and market research firm, conducted a survey of Santa Clara County adult residents asking a multitude of questions about what it will take to instill the utmost confidence in riding VTA light rail, bus and paratransit. (Margin of error +/- 3.5 per cent.)
The first phase of our survey focused on 3 areas of information: Ridership (past, current and potential future); General and transit-specific health/safety attitudes and concerns; Employment/demographics.
It is important to note, the question about employment was asked to find out to what extent people will be using transit to “go back to work.” With a renewed trend in employees working from home, the potential of a large segment of our ridership not coming back for those trips is high.
In fact, of those who rode VTA before the pandemic, 51 percent said they will be returning to offices less than before the pandemic. Among those who would ride public transit, 41 percent say requiring masks and social distancing on board would make them feel safer when riding public transit. Approximately 28 percent of those asked said they will not return to public transit until there is a COVID vaccine.
The survey also showed that people largely have faith in the decisions of public health officials, with 54 per-cent of those who rode transit at least once a week before the pandemic, saying they would feel comfortable riding if public health officials say it’s okay to return to “normal activities.”
For more information on these survey results, please visit this link. We are enhancing this research by reaching out directly to survey VTA riders; that survey can also be accessed here in English, Spanish, Chinese and Vietnamese until June 24. It’s critical for us to hear from you to inform our decisions on the level of service moving forward and the approaches we continue to take to ensure that riding VTA light rail, bus and paratransit is safe.