Electronic Survey Projects

This site serves as the central portal for agency stakeholders, the survey team and the general public to learn more about various electronic survey projects.

An introduction and overview to the agency electronic survey team, projects, and processes.


Survey tablet Survey on an electronic tablet

Background and History

TriMet relies on on-board rider surveys to produce data in support of planning initiatives, Title VI and FTA reports. The findings and statistical analysis provide valuable information about riders, travel patterns, as well as the effects of new rail alignments, service and fare changes.

TriMet migrated all on-board rider surveys from paper to electronic tablet data collection during the 2014–2015 Orange Line Before Study. The survey budgets were consolidated and a position was created to manage and oversee the implementation of electronic surveys at an agency-wide level. The new approach includes the recruitment of local college students to conduct on-board surveys, and the utilization of robust and affordable open source software. This strategy results in significant time and cost savings, provides more accurate and reliable data, offers a more eco-friendly approach, and improves customer relations.

All on-board surveys are now conducted with tablets and managed centrally in IT-GIS by the Electronic Survey Developer & Analyst.

Survey Team

Woman taking a survey on a bus On-board TriMet vehicles survey


The TriMet Electronic Survey team is currently housed under the IT-GIS department, within the Public Affairs division. The team includes one project manager (Electronic Survey Developer & Analyst) and about 20 part-time surveyors.

The survey team conducts regular on-board customer intercept surveys. These surveys range from fare surveys to customer satisfaction surveys. The data gathered from these surveys is used by multiple departments in the agency to study a variety of programs and proposals.

In addition to conducting on-board surveys, the survey team also helps Customer Service, Comunity Affairs, Marketing Research, Facilities, and Service Planning carry out other assignments.

Surveying Process

  • The surveyors approach passengers on the bus, MAX and WES and ask them to participate in a brief survey. Generally, the data is entered into the tablets by both the surveyors and the passengers.
  • Surveyors will typically be working individually on the bus lines or in groups of two on MAX and WES.
  • Everyone will have extensive training in the following: safety and customer service, communication, survey administration, and tablet use.

Survey equipment Survey equipment

How to identify surveyors?

  • They will be wearing blue vests labeled “TriMet Survey Team” on front and back.
  • They will have TriMet badges with photos and transit privileges.
  • Each will carry a handheld tablet and shoulder bag.


Survey Projects

The survey team conducts both recurring surveys such as the fare survey and on-demand surveys for various departments inside the agency. Many surveys are conducted on an annual basis while some are conducted every other year. Some of the typical surveys are:

  • Fare survey
  • Fare evasion survey
  • Before and after studies
  • Origin and destination studies
  • Customer satisfaction survey
  • Title VI related surveys
  • Ridership study
  • Automatic Passenger Counter(APC) verification survey
  • Operators survey



Equipment & Peripherals

  • Samsung Galaxy 8 inch tablet - $250
  • Samsung Galaxy tablet case - $17
  • Safety vest - $25
  • Reading light with clip - $8
  • Tech gear bag – $8
  • iRoller (liquid free, reusable touch screen cleaner) - $20
  • Mini portable power - $10

Cellular Services

  • Android tablets - $40/month
  • Phone fees for supervisors $37/month


We rely almost exclusively on open source software to collect and manage data, and manage survey projects. On the data collection side, we use Open Data Kit (ODK). ODK was selected based on requirements, costs and the ability to easily customize for various surveys. It is a collection of open source tools for survey design, collection, and data aggregation and is recommended by industry experts. We use PostgreSQL and PostGIS databases to store survey data.

We also develop in-house customized Android apps that work well with ODK to capture boarding/alighting, and origin/destination data. We use Python Flask to write API to send data from tablets to data servers.

Python Flask is also our framework used to develop web dashboards to track project status, monitor data, and visualize results.

Here is our GitHub source code page.

origin destination survey Origin destination survey ODK screenshot

origin destination survey Origin destination survey ODK screenshot


Advantages and Cost Savings

Advantages of Tablet-based Surveys over Paper-based Surveys

  • Significant time and cost savings: eliminates paper, printing, postage, data entry, and GIS post-processing and lowers overall cost (30% cost reduction for the 2016 spring tablet-based fare survey versus the 2012 paper-based fare survey). The data for the 2016 fare survey was available within one month, as opposed to six months for the 2012 paper-based survey
  • No oversampling required to meet quota, as real-time data capture is monitored
  • Data entry errors are decreased and can be auto-validated
  • Data accuracy is vastly improved and location information for stops on/off is auto-captured. Data throw-out is almost non-existent
  • Demonstrates the use of innovation in technology and environmental conscientiousness

TriMet 2012 Paper and 2016 Tablet Fare Survey Cost Comparison

This graph shows that the cost per sample hour for the 2016 spring fare survey is significantly lower than that of the 2012 survey. The 2016 survey and 2012 survey covered similar routes and had similar sample sizes.