Transit On-Board Survey

A worker in a mask with a digital device waiting on a train platform to talk to passengers.A strong public transit system is an essential part of a transportation system that will serve a prosperous, livable, equitable region. Transit service and facilities must be located where they will bring a strong return on the investment.

In order to be good stewards of public investments, the region must invest in transit strategically with solutions that broadly strive toward the region’s goals and objectives, and integrate with land use and other regional systems. In this way, transit benefits the entire region, including places with no or limited service.

The Met Council uses travel forecasts to facilitate planning for future transit investment in the region. The data collected from the transit on-board survey feeds into that forecast, allowing planners to better predict where and how transit riders will use the system.

Conducting the survey

The Met Council is contracting with ETC Institute to administer the 2021-2022 on-board survey to riders on all weekday fixed-routes in the twin cities metropolitan area. This includes all local bus, express bus, light rail, bus rapid transit, and commuter rail routes planned or operated by Metro Transit. It also includes all regular routes administered by the Met Council through individual contracts to private providers, along with all regular routes operated by other regional transit providers. Other providers include Maple Grove Transit, Plymouth Metrolink, SouthWest Transit, Minnesota Valley Transit Authority, and the University of Minnesota. The data collected includes an on-to-off count and a full on-board survey.

On-to-off count

The on-to-off count provides an understanding of boarding and alighting patterns on individual routes. The data collected support the expansion of the transit on-board survey and inform segment-level analyses of route ridership.

Full on-board survey

The full on-board survey provides agencies with a full overview of transit riders, including origins and destinations, socio-demographics, fare payment preferences, travel purposes, means of access/egress, and time of travel. The data collected will be expanded using the data from the on-to-off count and the automatic passenger counter, or other ridership data maintained by transit agencies.

COVID-19 precautions

ETC Institute understands these are unprecedented data collection times and will leverage both its experience in conducting transit onboard intercept interviews along with its experience in conducting field data collection during the COVID-19 pandemic.

All ETC staff, regardless of specific exposure risks, are trained to practice the following:

  • Wearing a protective face cover at all times and always covering coughs and sneezes.
  • Washing hands frequently with soap and water when available and use hand sanitizer (provided by ETC) when not available.
  • Avoiding touching their eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Taking breaks outdoors, weather permitting.
  • Staying home if sick, or if demonstrating any CDC defined symptoms of COVID-19.

ETC will work the Met Council and its partners to adhere to any additional COVID-19 protocols while aboard buses and trains.


  • Fall 2021: The Met Council fielded a pilot survey along the busiest transit routes. This pilot survey will help determine the effectiveness of the survey instrument, while also providing up-to-date data on the impacts of COVID-19 on transit ridership and rider behavior. See results of the pilot survey.
  • Spring to Fall 2022: System-wide on-to-off count
  • September to November 2022: System-wide interview survey
  • March 2023: final dataset


  1. Unweighted (preliminary) dataset
  2. Expanded dataset
  3. Summary report