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South Dakota Department of Transportation
Project Synopsis

Title: SDDOT Customer Survey
Project Researcher: Tim Huberty, Satisfaction Mgmt. Systems
Project Manager: Dave Huft
Research Period: 2/10/1997 - 6/30/1997
Cost: $45,500.00

Problem Statement: One of the South Dakota Department of Transportation's strategic goals is to provide products and services meeting or exceeding the expectations of the public of South Dakota. This goal cannot be realized unless these expectations are known. To date, the Department has not directly ascertained the public's expectations for service or the public's perception of the Department's performance of these services. Lacking the results of public opinion surveys, the Department has relied on information available from other sources, such as the Governor, legislators, commission members, special interest groups, news media, public meetings, and citizens' correspondence to influence decisions regarding program development, allocation of resources, and internal management. Although these decisions are based on sound engineering principles and input from identified interest groups, the possibility of unmet needs exists. Research is needed to identify the Department's key products and services, to assess their importance, to determine whether the needs for these products and services are being acceptably met, and to identify opportunities for cost-effective improvements to the Department's operation.

Findings: A. Qualitative Learning. A series of interviews and discussion sessions were conducted in order to gather input for the development of the questionnaire. At the time, several "themes" were identified. Essentially, SD DOT personnel: 1. Doubt that consumers know, understand or appreciate what they do. 2. Don’t know what consumers want or expect or what criteria they use to evaluate them. 3. Actually have very little day to day contact with consumers. 4. Give themselves higher grades than they believe consumers will give them. 5. Feel consumers actually don’t have an in depth understanding of what the SD DOT does or what its workers do. 6. Expect that the results of this study will tell them what consumers expect of them. They also expect that the results will be unbiased and actionable. Sample Profile. Average age of the Citizen respondents was 44 years old, slightly younger than the Legislator sample (48 years). There were slightly more females than males in the Citizen sample. For the most part, compared to the rest of the population of SD, this was an upscale sample: Both Citizens and Legislators were better educated; twice as many citizens had household incomes in excess of $50,000/year than would be expected from the general population. Driving Behavior. The mean number of miles driven annually by Citizen respondents was 14,412, less than one-half the 31,446 miles/year driven by Legislators. Approximately one-third of the driving done by the Citizen sample was done in "Rural Areas" -- which correlated nicely with the revelation that 33% of the sample also lives in "Rural Areas." Awareness and Satisfaction. Respondents were asked, on an unaided basis, what the SD DOT does. Eight out of 10 Citizen respondents (81%) and almost every Legislator (94%) noted that the SD DOT "Checks on/Maintains Roads/Bridges." The second-most frequently mentioned response was handles "Snow Removal/Winter Maintenance." Legislators were more apt to note that the SD DOT also "Plans/Builds Roads/Bridges." Next, respondents were asked to "grade" the SD DOT and then to explain that grade. Almost two out of three Citizen respondents (63%) gave the SD DOT a grade of "A" (11%) or "B" (52%), with an overall mean of 3.66, a "B-." Over eight out of 10 Legislators (82%) gave the SD DOT a grade of "A" (41%) or "B" (41%), with an overall mean of 4.19; a solid "B." Respondents who gave the SD DOT a grade of "A" were more likely to cite the SD DOT’s servicing of Roads/Highways or simply to offer "encouraging" comments such as "Good Job/Satisfied/(They) Do (the) Best They Can" Respondents who gave the SD DOT lower grades were more likely to talk about the quality of the roads. Respondents were read a list of items and asked to indicate which of those items the SD DOT had responsibility for, how important those items were and to "grade" the SD DOT’s performance on each of the items. Almost everyone, both Citizen respondents and the Legislators felt the SD DOT was responsible for - "Making sure that all highway signs are clearly readable", - "Repairing highways and bridges" and - "Keeping the highways cleared of ice and snow." Those items also had the highest percentage of "Very Important" ratings. Both sets of respondents gave the SD DOT "A" grades on three items - "Making sure that all highway signs are clearly readable," - "Keeping traffic signals clearly visible and in working order" and - "Setting speed limits." Overall, Legislators tended to be more correct in identifying what the SD DOT does. Also, they were more likely to hand out higher grades. Attitudes towards the SD DOT. Next, respondents were read a list of statements about the SD DOT and asked how strongly they agreed with each item. The items the SD DOT scored highest on were "An excellent job with snow removal during the past winter" and "Designs safe highways." Most encouraging was the fact that "Overall", both Citizens (39%) and Legislators (50%) "Strongly Agreed" that the SD DOT "Does a good job." Resource Allocation. Respondents were read a list of six items and asked to prioritize where the SD DOT should spend its money and focus its services. Respondents were to "weight" the list of six items, using a fictional "$100" to determine importance. The most important Primary attribute was "Maintaining the Highway Surface," weighted with 36 "dollars" by the Citizen sample and 43 "dollars" by the Legislators. "Maintaining the Highway Surface" was weighted almost double the second-most important item, "Planning and Building." After prioritizing these six "Primary" attributes, the same exercise was repeated for each of the "Primary" attributes’ "Secondary" attributes. When applying this exercise to the Primary attribute of "Maintaining the Highway Surface," respondents prioritized "Snow and ice removal" and "Keeping pavement smooth" as the most important Secondary attributes. Opinion Items. - Gasoline Tax. Over one-half of the respondents agreed with the statement, "I would support a permanent increase in the gasoline tax in order to maintain highways and bridges in a satisfactory condition." Citizens who felt the tax should be increased averaged a 2.9 cent increase, less than the Legislators’ average of 3.2 cents. - Benefiting from Public Transit. Almost one-half of the respondents "Disagreed Strongly" with the statement, "I or my immediately family have benefited from public transit in the past year." - Budget Allocation. Respondents were given an imaginary budget of $100 and asked to prioritize the SD DOT’s budget. Overall, both groups of respondents felt that two-thirds of the SD DOT’s budget should be spent on "Repairing and maintaining existing highways" (65), whereas only one third of the budget (35) should be spent on "Building new highways." - SD DOT Information Availability. Respondents were asked about the information provided by the SD DOT. Approximately two out of three Citizen respondents thought there was "not enough" information about "Budget issues and how the SD DOT spends money," "Plans for building new highways," and "Upcoming construction and maintenance projects." Incidentally, Legislators felt they were better informed on most items. - SD DOT Worker: Asking for Help & Personal Contact. If they had traffic problems on the highway, two out of three Citizen respondents "would ask the SD DOT Worker for help," rather than looking "for another way to get help." - Construction Site: Drive through vs. Detour. Respondents were asked which of two options they would prefer upon coming upon a construction site: Drive through it at a reduced speed or detour around it on another highway. By an overwhelming majority, both sets of respondents preferred to "Drive through it at a reduced speed." - Comments for the SD DOT Secretary of Transportation. Many "both Citizen respondents and Legislators had encouraging words" "Great job/Well done this winter & spring/Keep up the good work!" Once again, Legislators were much more generous in their praise. Statistical Relationships In this section we compared and contrasted answers to the questions on responsibility, importance, grade, attitudes toward the SD DOT and resource allocation weights by different sub-groups of persons. When comparing questions with categorical answers, we used a variety of multivariate statistical techniques, including one-way ANOVA and correlation to test for statistically significant differences. In every case we used the statistical convention of p < .05 as the threshold for saying that a relationship is statistically significant. This means that there is less than five chances out of 100 that the observed relationship in this sample is a result of random variation rather than a real relationship in the general population. Some of the significant relationships we uncovered included: ? Those who often drive on personal or family errands and trips have a more positive view of the SD DOT than other types of drivers. It may be easier for this group to be more lenient of the SD DOT than those for whom driving the roads is an economic necessity. ? In general, rural drivers tended to hold the SD DOT responsible for more tasks, and to have less positive views of their performance. This more positive view of metropolitan residents may indicate that the work of the Metropolitan Planning Councils are having a positive impact on the public’s perception of the SD DOT. ? Older people have a more favorable opinion of the SD DOT than younger people. ? People with a higher level of education are not as positive toward the SD DOT as people with a lower level of education. ? The Rapid City region is consistently less happy with the SD DOT about road construction. They feel that roads get closed down when it’s not necessary, that delays are not minimized, that construction jobs are not done as quickly as they could be and that they are not kept adequately informed of detours and delays caused by those construction jobs. This consistent pattern suggests substantial room for improvement in construction practices in the Rapid City region. The topographical differences between regions may be one source of this observed difference. Special construction procedures may be called for in this region. ? The correlations analysis demonstrates that SD DOT’s core tasks are also those that are correlated with the overall grade given to the SD DOT.

Research Objectives:
1  To identify the key products and services provided to the public by the South Dakota Department of Transportation.
2  To assess public understanding and improve public knowledge of the Department’s functions, responsibilities, and resource constraints.
3  To assess public opinions regarding the importance of key products and services, the perceived quality and efficiency of the Department’s provision of those products and services, and public preferences for allocation of limited resources among the k
4  To identify opportunities to improve the Department’s products and services.

Research Tasks:
1  Meet with the project’s technical panel to review project scope and work plan.
2  Review literature pertinent to transportation customer satisfaction and interview representatives from other agencies that have studied customer satisfaction to establish a thorough understanding of methods.
3  Identify the key products and services provided by the Department and the principle customer groups for those products and services.
4  Develop, test, and submit for review by the project’s technical panel detailed method(s) for ascertaining: public understanding of the Department’s key products and services and resource constraints; _ public opinions regarding the importance of
5  Conduct a survey of public opinion using the developed and approved survey method(s).
6  Analyze results to identify significant issues, opportunities for operational changes, and need for additional, more detailed, investigation.
7  Prepare a final report and executive summary of the literature review, research methodology, findings, conclusions, and recommendations.
8  Prepare an executive presentation package the Department can use for presentations to its managers and public groups outside the Department.
9  Make an executive presentation to the SDDOT Research Review Board and one external organization at the conclusion of the project.

Documents Available:

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