June 9, 2004

Overall customer satisfaction with the Chicago Transit Authority remained steady between 2001 and 2003, and customer loyalty remains high according to a survey released Wednesday by the CTA. The survey also showed that the majority of frequent CTA customers (60 percent) continue to be choice customers, defined as those that own a car but choose to take the CTA, or have chosen not to own a car and take the CTA. In fact, a majority (68 percent) of all CTA customers, both frequent and occasional, are choice customers.

Among the key findings of the survey was that the majority (85 percent) of CTA customers continue to be willing to recommend riding the CTA to others. Eighty percent of customers are satisfied with CTA service, with 41 percent calling themselves ?very satisfied? compared to 34 percent in 1999, and 43 percent in 2001.

The CTA provides service in the City of Chicago and 40 surrounding suburbs and also provides connecting service for commuters from outlying suburbs. The survey found that satisfaction with CTA service was equally strong for both Chicago and suburban CTA customers.

For the first time since 1997, frequency of riding CTA increased. CTA customers now ride an average of 4.11 days per week, compared to 3.98 days in 2001. Survey results tracking ridership trends also showed a slight increase in the number of customers per household. Nearly half of CTA customer households have more than one customer in the household. The average number of customers per household has increased from 1.77 in 1999 to 1.92 in 2003.

Seventy-five percent of bus customers said they are satisfied, with more than one-third (35 percent) of bus customers stating they are ?very satisfied? with CTA bus service. The percent of ?very satisfied? bus customers is slightly lower than the 39 percent reported in 2001, but is considerably higher than in previous surveys. For the first time, a significant increase was noted for satisfaction with overall reliability of bus service. In addition to overall reliability, improvements were noted in other key areas including information services, communications on the bus, comfort at stops and on the bus, and appearance of the bus.

Rail customer satisfaction remains virtually unchanged from 2001, with 85 percent giving positive ratings and almost half saying they are ?very satisfied? with rail service. Rail customers reported greater satisfaction with operator attributes such as professional appearance, knowledge of the system, routes and schedules, as well as courtesy of the operators and their safe and competent operation of the trains.

Additional areas where CTA meets or exceeds rail customer expectations include communications on trains, customer assistant attributes, information services, reliability, comfort on trains and cost of service/fare payment.

"CTA customers have a right to outstanding service," said Chicago Transit Board Chairman Carole Brown. ?This survey demonstrates that our customers have high expectations and that we must continue to work hard to improve customer satisfaction."

"We have been committed to service as our top priority, carefully managing our operations to reduce costs while increasing the level of service provided to our customers," said CTA President Frank Kruesi. "And the results of this survey show that those efforts have been recognized by our customers. We have made real progress in the last few years, and the Customer Satisfaction Survey has proven to be a valuable tool in telling us what works and identifying areas to take additional action."

For example, Kruesi said, the installation of new passenger bus shelters had a significant impact on customer satisfaction and comfort at stops. Twice as many bus customers now give the CTA ?excellent? ratings for availability of shelters at stops ? 36 percent in 2003 compared with 18 percent in 2001. Satisfaction with the availability of seats at stops also increased significantly ? from 18 percent ?excellent? in 2001 to 29 percent in 2003.

The survey found that both bus and rail customers are particularly sensitive to issues of access to service, transferring within the CTA system and personal safety. Perception may be more of a factor when it comes to personal safety as no significant increase in crime or complaints has occurred. At least some of the changes may reflect a general concern about personal safety as a result of the post-9/11 environment. Rail customers are also concerned about communication at stations, comfort at stations and the appearance of trains.

In a year where the CTA, along with other regional transit agencies, marked a drop in ridership ? the CTA's first drop in six years ? the challenge of a sluggish economy and declining funding made it necessary for the CTA to make some tough economic decisions in 2003. For the first time in 12 years, the CTA implemented a new fare structure, including an increase in the standard fare, at the beginning of 2004. The proposed fare increase was being examined as part of a public process during the time the customer satisfaction survey was being conducted. CTA officials said these circumstances likely contributed to the flat scores this time.

Surveys have been conducted every two years since 1995. The new survey was conducted last fall by the Northwest Research Group, of Boise, Idaho, based on random telephone interviews with more than 2,500 customers in seven geographical areas within the CTA service area who had ridden the CTA at least once in the week before being surveyed. Interviews were conducted in Spanish as well as in English, and for the first time were available in Polish.

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