Market Research Shows Real Time Transit Information (RTTI) is Important to 81 Percent of Public Transportation Riders, who Primarily Want Information on Time, Cost, and Convenience.

Focus groups and a panel survey provide insight on how and where real time transit information (RTTI) fits into the transit experience in Arlington County, Virginia.

Date Posted

Market Research on Real Time Transit Information Needs and Users’ Expectations

Summary Information

This report examines how public transit riders value real time transit information (RTTI) and how agencies can make transit services more attractive. This report examined several traveler information systems that support transit services in in Arlington County, Virginia including online arrival prediction tools, phone-based arrival prediction tools (SMS and call centers), BusFinder at Arlington Transit bus stops, and LED electronic information signs and LCD interface displays at bus stops and rail stations.


Extensive focus groups and a panel survey were conducted to gain insight on how and where RTTI fits into the transit experience. Fourteen (14) focus groups were held between 7/11/2018 and 7/26/2018, with each group containing seven to 12 participants. Prior to the start of each focus group session, participants completed a background survey to document their demographics, travel habits, and attitudes. Based on the focus group findings, an online survey was developed and subsequently sent to people who live, work, or attend school in Arlington County. Overall, 346 online panel surveys were completed between 9/26/2018 and 10/12/2018.

Lessons Learned

Key findings from the research effort are highlighted below:

Focus on cost, time, and convenience in RTTI content. Real-time transit information is important to travelers when using public transportation. The majority of online respondents (81 percent) agreed that “having real-time arrival information is important when using public transportation” and that “having real-time information when using public transportation helps me relax” (73 percent mostly or strongly agree). In the focus groups, some participants indicated that this information might be more critical for time-pressing work-related travel rather than leisure.

Prioritize providing information before the start of a trip. Travelers look for RTTI at the beginning of the trip and at key decision-making junctures during the trip. Sixty-five (65) percent of respondents and 83 percent of Arlington Transit riders check for real time arrival information before leaving home, highlighting the importance of RTTI during the trip planning phase. Riders also seek RTTI during the trip in order to make travel decisions as they go.

Prioritize the accuracy/reliability of real time information.  Unreliable and effort-intensive RTTI can have negative impacts on information use and public transportation use. Focus group discussions supported existing research suggesting that unreliable or inaccurate RTTI can cause riders to stop seeking out real-time information or use public transportation as it leads to poor trip planning and sub-optimal travel experiences.

System Engineering Elements

Keywords Taxonomy: