Thanks for asking, Translink, but your methodology was flawed

A representative from Translink called the other day, doing a survey on public transit use in Vancouver. I am a pretty heavy user of transit, and I have lots of opinions, and so was happy to participate. Maybe they are checking to see is their transit plan is working out.

This was the first survey I’d been asked to participate in since completing my research methodology class as part of my masters degree. And as the title of this posting may suggest, I had lots to complain about.

Quantifiable vs. Qualitative
The majority of the questions were: “On a scale of one to ten, how you do feel about….” Which gives you nice numbers to count up, but leaves me with almost no option to voice my opinion. (I gleefully gave Translink a 1 for overcrowding on the #145 – since I couldn’t give a score of zero). But my score of three for value for money might be different from someone else’s score of three, and there was no opportunity to qualify answers (yes, the 145, my most recent bus trip is overcrowded, but so is the #20, the #99 and the #3).

Only answer these ten questions
There was not a space for “any other comments.” When I was asked why I was taking transit less now than I was a few months ago, they only wanted one answer. I wanted to say “because it’s summer, because the busses are overcrowded, because I can walk down Commercial in the time it takes to wait for the bus some days.”

Vague questions
“How do you rate the service that Translink provides” – define service – the bus drivers? the scheduling? the routes provided? the route information provided? I was particularly flummoxed by that question. As a regular user of transit (15+ trips a week), I also take multiple bus routes, but this was structured to only ask me about the last transit trip I had taken. Since they phoned after supper, it’s not surprising that my last trip was the commute home from work. Any other trips I take were of no interest to the survey.

It’s challenging writing surveys, I agree, but I was left not believing that Translink was actually trying to gather information (just validation). They were measuring my opinions, but not interested in feedback.

So lessons learned or affirmed for the next time I write a survey:

    leave room for answers to questions you didn’t think to ask
    allow room for feedback
    define your terms
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