Do Metro riders care more about what they call stations than how much they pay for their actual rides?
Metro recently used two online surveys to solicit riders’ opinions on both issues, with a surprisingly unbalanced response.
One online survey seeking input on what to name eight new stations along the new Silver Line attracted 16,231 responses, according to Metro.
Another survey that asked about the agency's proposal to raise fares on July 1 attracted 3,652 responses.
That’s quadruple the number of respondents for station names than fare increases.
Transit watchers have grumbled that Metro board members spent hours debating station names, instead of discussing how to improve the system's actual service or safety. But clearly the survey results show that some locals find station names to be important. Metro stations help shape development, and thus the region. The names of stations then become shorthand for labeling where people live, work and play.
Still, comparing the numbers of respondents may not be an exact proxy for gauging the region’s interests. Both surveys were issued around the same time and ran for about a month, with the Silver Line survey running from Feb. 21 to March 21, and the fare hike survey running from Feb. 22 until March 25.
But the Silver Line survey was conducted jointly with Fairfax County, and 47 percent of respondents self-identified as being from the county. Some people may care intensely about how their neighborhood will be branded by the new station under construction, yet not worry about the fares if they rarely ride the system. It’s also possible Fairfax County, local developers, neighborhood associations and other interest groups drummed up support separate from Metro's typical online audience to fill out the form.
The fare hike survey, meanwhile, was criticized by some riders for asking self-serving questions, like a political push-poll. That in turn may have dissuaded some from taking the survey.