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Public Transit

Onboard Transit Passenger Survey

Beginning February 2020 and continuing through December 2020, SANDAG, in cooperation with the Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) and the North County Transit District (NCTD), is conducting a survey on board all fixed bus, trolley, and train routes in the region to inform transit planning. During this period, survey staff with tablet computers will ask randomly selected passengers to answer a set list of questions about their trips onboard transit vehicles.

For further details, please refer to the frequently asked questions below.

What is the Onboard Transit Passenger and Mid Coast Before Survey?

The survey is a study of how people use transit to travel throughout the San Diego area. Questions focus on trip behavior and demographics. Your responses will help SANDAG, MTS, and NCTD understand the travel patterns and choices of transit riders. This information will be used to plan improvements to transit infrastructure and service.

How often are these studies performed and why now?

Onboard transit passenger studies are typically conducted every five years. The last survey conducted by SANDAG took place in 2015. Since that time, transit service and individual travel patterns have changed.

Who is conducting the study?

SANDAG hired a consultant to conduct the survey. The individuals administering the surveys on board buses, trolleys, and trains are contracted employees. The data collected belongs to SANDAG and its transit partners, MTS and NCTD.

How do I take the survey?

There are two different surveys being conducted: on-to-off surveys and origin destination surveys. Instructions for each type of survey are detailed below.

On-to-Off Survey

On the bus, survey staff will provide you with a card when you board and ask you to hold onto the card until you exit the bus. Before exiting, please return your card to the surveyor located in the back of the bus. On the trolleys and trains, survey staff will ask you which stations you use to board and exit the vehicle. Surveyors will be easy to identify by their blue vest and surveyor badge.

Origin Destination Survey

Survey staff with tablet computers will select passengers at random to take the survey. (The tablet computer tells the surveyor who to pick based on a random number formula.) Random selection is necessary to ensure that the collected data is statistically valid, and, as a result, volunteers are not eligible to participate in the survey. On commuter bus routes, survey staff will distribute a paper version of the survey. If you are asked to fill out a paper survey, please complete the questionnaire and then return it to the surveyor.

How long will it take to complete the survey?

There are two different surveys being conducted: on-to-off surveys and origin destination surveys. Instructions for each type of survey are detailed below.

On-to-Off Survey

On the bus, simply hold onto the card you were provided and return it to the surveyor before exiting at your bus stop. On the trolleys and trains, it should take less than one minute to answer the questions.

Origin Destination Survey

Your individual survey will take five to seven minutes to complete.

Why do you need to ask about personal information such as income?What does that have to do with how I use transit?

SANDAG is required to collect specific demographic data about passengers—including race, household income, and language proficiency—in order to comply with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This information is submitted to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) approximately every five years. Also, studies have shown that certain household characteristics, such as income, are key indicators of travel behavior. By understanding these relationships, planners are better able to predict how recommended service improvements will perform.

Please keep in mind that personal information is removed from all records and the results are aggregated, a measure that ensures your privacy and anonymity.

What if I am asked to participate in the survey more than once?

If you are selected more than once, we would appreciate your participation each time you are selected.

How will I know that the interviewer is legitimate?

Official survey staff members wear a uniform consisting of a blue vest and an official surveyor badge. They carry tablet computers and will never ask you for information such as your social security number or bank account information. 

What if I have a complaint or a concern about a specific surveyor?

Please note a description of the surveyor and email the provided contact at the email included at the bottom of this form. Please include all relevant information such as the date, time, and/or location of encounter as well as the reason for concern so that the matter may be investigated.

Is the survey available online?

No. Since the survey is specific to the transit trip in progress, only passengers who are on transit during the survey period may be selected for interviews.

Are people with disabilities included in the survey?

Yes. All persons riding transit during the survey period are included in the random selection methodology. Surveyors may assist passengers with disabilities in completing the survey or provide the option to complete it later by phone.

Is the survey available in other languages?

Yes. Bilingual staff will be available on transit where they are most likely to be needed. Additionally, passengers speaking other languages may choose to complete the survey later by phone in their respective language.

How will the collected data be reported?

Published reports will summarize the survey data but will not disclose personally identifiable information.

Will I have access to the data or the final findings?

A summary report will be available when the study is complete in 2021.

Is the data shared with or sold to anyone other than SANDAG?

No. To ensure the anonymity of survey respondents, personal information will not be included in the final data files.

Will my route be eliminated or changed based on my information?

The information collected will allow transit providers to implement enhancements to the system to make transit more effective, reliable, and efficient. The ultimate goal is to better meet passenger needs.

When will the project be completed?

Surveying of all transit lines is expected to be completed by December 2020.

Who is paying for the survey?

SANDAG receives transportation planning funds from the federal government, which are being used to pay for the survey.

How do I know that my personal information is safe?

SANDAG and the survey consultant are required to protect the confidentiality of personally identifiable information (PII). Key provisions include storing PII on secure computers, protecting it from unauthorized use, and destroying PII after an agreed-upon time period.

Also, as previously noted, published reports will summarize the survey data but will not disclose PII.
Who can I contact to get more information on the study?

You may contact the project manager, Grace Mino, at

2015 Onboard Transit Passenger Survey

SANDAG, in cooperation with the Metropolitan Transit System and North County Transit District, conducted a survey onboard all fixed bus, train, and Trolley routes in the region from February through November 2015 in order to inform transit planning. Study results are summarized in the reports available below.