You've reached the end of the line.



How hearing what riders have to say makes public transit better for everyone

October 2, 2023

En français svp

When it comes to giving feedback, timing is everything.

Picture this: you’re waiting for your bus when you notice a button to tell your transit agency if the stop is dirty. Intrigued, you select the “lots of trash” option. Then someone immediately hops out of a maintenance truck and cleans it all up.

It sounds like a hidden camera gag. But that’s pretty much what happened this summer for Big Blue Bus riders in sunny Santa Monica, California.

Here’s how it happened: When we started asking riders to rank the cleanliness of their bus stop in our app, more than 4 in 5 Santa Monica riders said their waiting area was “not bad” or “spotless.”

For the 18 percent who reported that their stop needs cleaning, we also asked follow-up questions while they were waiting: is there graffiti? trash? broken glass?

We shared the results in real time with Big Blue Bus. They made quick use of the data, finding the worst-rated stops and sending out their bus stop maintenance crew to do their thing.

Before Rate-My-Ride, and after Rate-My-Ride, at Santa Monica Boulevard and Westgate Avenue.
Photos: Big Blue Bus

Results like this warm our transit-loving, good-government hearts. It’s why we open up the details of what our users are saying to partner transit agencies, helping them map the good and the bad, the bold and the beautiful — to pinpoint problems, spotlight jobs well done, and just overall make public transit work better, faster, stronger.

We call it Rate-My-Ride.

And the reason it works? It’s because we collaborate with both riders and transit agencies, so riders’ ratings have a real impact, and make public transit better for everyone.

When you smash that GO button in Transit, you’re getting more than step-by-step directions. You’re also crowdsourcing — and not just better real-time bus tracking. You can also share all sorts of information about your trip.

Information like whether the bus is too hot or too cold. If the train came when you expected it. Whether the inside of the bus could use some cleaning. Whether the trip deserves a five-star rating. Yes, if there’s litter at the stop. And even how many rats are at your subway station.

Big Blue Bus isn’t the only transit agency putting
Rate-My-Ride data to good use.

Of all the trips made on the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority in Springfield, Massachusetts, 6% were coming back with riders saying their bus was dirty. PVTA zoomed in on results by route, then categorized those routes by bus depot. Staff at the agency found that, of the system’s three depots, one in particular saw dirty buses at twice the rate of another, and three times the rate of the cleanest depot. As the agency tweaks how it cleans buses, our Rate-My-Ride dashboard will help staff know if the changes are having an impact, with PVTA receiving 500 anonymous responses every day. That adds up to more than 100,000 responses a year.

In Baltimore, staff at the MDOT Maryland Transit Administration wanted to make sure that real-time bus crowding information was matching what riders were experiencing onboard. Rate-My-Ride results uncovered bugs in some data from automated passenger counters, and helped the agency calibrate crowding levels to match customer expectations.

North of the border up here in Quebec, Société de transport de Trois-Rivières bus riders offered praise for their operator’s driving 93% of the time, leading the agency to highlight their drivers’ professionalism on social media. The results also helped the agency put complaints into perspective by allowing staff to, for the first time ever, compare them to overall satisfaction.

Rate-My-Ride is like a constantly-running intercept survey, with quick questions that come up right when they’re most relevant.

Because Rate-My-Ride asks questions about the bus stop when riders are at the stop, or about the bus itself during the ride, or about the overall trip at the end of a journey? We get 10 to 100 times more responses than your average clipboard-holder survey — at a lower cost, to boot. In fact, three-quarters of people who see a Rate-My-Ride question will answer it.

It’s a lot better than what existed before. After all, not many people rushing home after work will stop for a survey. Even fewer will remember to report a vandalized bus shelter by filling out a web form hours after their ride.

Which means transit agencies miss out on useful intel. And what goes unnoticed, usually goes unaddressed.

Until now.

Transit agencies use our Rate-My-Ride dashboards to see what their riders are saying. Then they do something about it.

Responses that are shared with transit agencies are tagged to specific stops, vehicles, routes, and times of day. Personal information remains completely anonymous. Precisely where you’re coming from, and where you’re going? It’s not relevant.

Rate-My-Ride results cover all corners of a transit system, too. Every day, 1 in 10 transit riders across the US and Canada open Transit. The demographics of our millions of app users are generally representative of transit passengers overall, so the more than 500,000 responses we get each day come from a broad cross-section of riders.

Rate-My-Ride isn’t just for transit agencies, either. We gather up the most recent data and share important results with everyone who opens the app. That way, riders know their line’s on-time reliability score, or its overall five-star rating.

We all know that squeaky wheels get the grease. With Rate-My-Ride, millions of transit riders now have an easy way to make some noise.

And when their transit agency listens to them?
That’s worthy of five stars.

Think your transit system could put Rate-My-Ride results to good use? We give transit agencies a free one-month pilot to test out their questions.

If you wanna be a player but your wheels ain’t fly, you’ve gotta hit us up for Rate-My-Ride!
Recent articles
Our mission:
make cars obsolete.
Get Transit