Capital Area Transit System survey: Number of Baton Rouge bus riders satisfied with system soaring _lowres

Advocate staff photo by ANDREA GALLO -- CATS CEO Bob Mirabito said Wednesday that the city's bus system has had massive increases in customer satisfaction since March. The results he presented were based on surveys conducted by TransPro consulting.

The number of Baton Rouge bus riders satisfied with the service and prepared to recommend it to friends and relatives is soaring, according to a survey done for the Capital Area Transit System.

CATS leaders and consultants on Wednesday announced the results of the survey, which used a formula to measure customer satisfaction. They said it showed an increase from 3 percent in a survey conducted in March to 19 percent this October.

The turnaround in attitudes follows a series of changes to the bus system since voters passed a dedicated property tax in 2012 for the agency to improve and expand services.

While the system has since added more routes and new bus shelters, some CATS board members questioned if such a big leap in the customer satisfaction score was too good to be true.

Mark Aesch, CEO of Florida-based TransPro Consulting, said his team chatted with more than 500 CATS bus riders and asked them how likely they would be to recommend service to friends and family, using a scale of 1 to 10.

The survey’s results found that many people have become promoters of the bus system since March.

Consultants use the recommendation numbers for a “net promoter score.” The CATS net promoter score shot up from 3 percent in March to 19 percent this October.

Aesch said transit system scores tend to fall in the single digits on the types of surveys that use “net promoter scores” to indicate customer satisfaction and a willingness to promote a product or service to other people. He said more established and trusted brands, like Apple, Inc., have higher scores. Apple has a net promoter score around 70, Aesch said.

“This is the single largest jump in one session that we have ever seen,” Aesch said of the latest CATS survey results.

Colorful signs displayed behind the consultant showed other CATS customer satisfaction increases in time performance, bus scheduling, amount of route service, call center staff helpfulness and driver friendliness.

Still, CATS board members cautioned one another that it was too early to declare victory. One setback happened last month, when the Metro Council deferred action on three proposed CATS routes that would run through Nicholson Drive, the Garden District and LSU.

Several people at the Metro Council meeting complained that CATS buses in front of the Old State Capitol downtown were in fire zones, handicap areas and walking pathways for children on field trips.

CATS CEO Bob Mirabito said Wednesday that the council will consider the new routes again at the end of November.

He said he has been working with other leaders to determine a short-term solution for the buses downtown.

In addition, Mirabito said CATS plans to conduct another satisfaction survey in three to six months.

“The results provide positive feedback that we are headed in the right direction, but to use a football analogy, we are in the first quarter of a four quarter game,” he said.