TARC Officials Pondering Broad Look at Services, Routes

Date: June 22, 2017 | iqsresearch | News | Comments Off on TARC Officials Pondering Broad Look at Services, Routes

IQS Research is always happy to see our work in action!

Click here to read the original article written by Sheldon S. Shafer from the Courier Journal.

Although the surveyor said that much of the support is “lukewarm,” more than 70 percent of residents in five Louisville-area counties say they would vote for a tax increase to improve Transit Authority of River City service, a new opinion survey has found.

But TARC Executive Director Barry Barker said that no fare increase, or effort to raise the transit tax, is on the horizon.

TARC ridership now totals about 14.3 million passengers annually, but the survey found that 84 percent of residents in the five counties say they have not ridden TARC in the past year and 91 percent report that they are unlikely to ride in the near future.

Still, Barker said in an interview that he is not discouraged by the results, noting that “while TARC would like to see the portion of the population that has ridden in the last year to be higher, the number is comparable” to ridership in cities that are roughly the same size as Louisville.

In connection with the public opinion survey, Barker said TARC has begun what he termed a “comprehensive operational analysis — a complete analysis of service and potential improvements.”

Barker said that as a product of the in-house review, the transit company may tweak service on some routes but probably won’t undertake wholesale changes.

“We want to make sure we are doing the right things, and doing things right,” he said.

TARC currently operates on a $73 million annual budget, about $43 million of which is provided by a trust fund fueled by a two-tenths of a 1 percent occupational tax levied on people who work in Metro Louisville. TARC hasn’t raised ride rates for several years.

The survey work was recently completed by IQS Research of Louisville at a cost to TARC of $103,000, said TARC spokesman Russell Goodwin.  The TARC survey was conducted in Jefferson, Oldham, and Bullitt counties in Kentucky, 400 from Jeffersonville and in Clark and Floyd counties in Indiana.

It was based on phone interviews with about 600 participants — around 400 of which were from Jefferson County — chosen at random and “approximately representative across the five-county TARC service area,” the research company said. Sampling took place this past March 11-22.  The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percent, IQS said.

Among the key survey findings:

  • – 16 percent of the respondents had ridden TARC in the past year.  Sixty-eight percent of non-riders knew the location of the nearest bus stop, 76 percent said they knew how to plan a TARC trip, and 45 percent said they were generally familiar with the fare structure.
  • – The four main barriers to riding TARC were reported to be: a lack of available routes (41 percent), a lack of frequency of service (32 percent), and routes that were too indirect or that riders had to spend too much time on the bus before reaching the destination (both 31 percent). People could cite more than one reason.
  • – Among the roughly nine in 10 people who seldom, if ever, ride the bus, circumstances that would encourage people to use public transportation included there being no other option (26 percent) and new service becoming available (17 percent).
  • – In response to why is TARC important, 84 percent said providing transportation to work, 83 percent said ensuring mobility for the elderly and disabled, and 80 percent said helping Louisville to be environmentally friendly.
  • – Asked “what would be your position if there was a vote today to increase the current occupational tax by two-tenths of 1 percent?” — or doubling the current tax — 71 percent said they would probably favor or definitely favor” the increase.
  • – Among regular TARC riders, 70 percent said the bus service is very important to them.

Barker said he views the survey as reflecting a “clear understanding by the residents of how important and critical TARC service is to people who ride. The survey reflects the knowledge that TARC is the link connecting people to jobs, education, and other vital services.”

Barker said TARC does not plan any major service adjustments on routes or in fares, based exclusively on the survey results.

But he noted that TARC is soon expanding service to Jefferson Riverport International, thanks to a grant from the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. Additionally, TARC plans to install a new fare-collection system on buses by the end of the year that will allow the use of “smart” or tap-and-go cards when boarding.

Barker said the survey “provides us with some very critical information — not only from the general public but also from our customers about how we can work smarter to provide the service people need.”

Barker said that the TARC board intends to discuss the survey results in coming months, as part of the larger discussion on the authority’s future.

“TARC is at a nexus,” he said. “The service we currently have on the street is not sustainable.”

He said that means that too often the authority has to use one-time funding sources for recurring operating expenses — “and the current service levels are not sufficient to meet the demand.”

Barker said the comprehensive analysis will attempt to identify what routes have excess capacity and when buses are overcrowded. He said the goal is to find ways to increase the frequency of bus runs, especially on the busiest routes.

Primarily because of funding limitations, Barker said that “unfortunately, we are compelled to make a patchwork quilt out of our service in order to respond to people who need the bus.”

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Look Out, Nashville. Louisville is Dead Set on Cherry Picking Your Young Professionals

Date: May 30, 2017 | iqsresearch | News | Comments Off on Look Out, Nashville. Louisville is Dead Set on Cherry Picking Your Young Professionals

IQS is always proud to see our work in action! This particular article sheds light on some of the findings of our talent attraction research.

Please click here for the original article written by Grace Schneider of the Courier Journal.

“By any measure, Erin Warren was a highly marketable professional when she began weighing job offers last year, in hopes of moving from Muhlenberg County.

The 39-year-old with a bachelor’s degree in nursing and a master’s in business considered a job in Lexington, but Louisville and a position selling surgical supplies won out.

While the transition from Greenville, Kentucky, hasn’t been seamless, Warren and her daughter in kindergarten are starting to feel more at home.

“What drew me to Louisville over Lexington was there’s so much more in Louisville.” More diversity. More choice in churches to attend. Family oriented things to do, Warren said.

It turns out, Warren fits the profile that economic development and political leaders are keen on attracting right now. To fill an estimated 8,000 open professional jobs and boost the college-educated workforce, they’ve charted an ambitious strategy to recruit a net increase of 4,000 new educated people by late December and to add about 18,000 overall through the year 2020.

Like other regions of the country, Louisville has an aging workforce. And lower numbers of people in their teens and early 20s are coming up to fill open positions in accounting, IT and nursing and other fields. The shortage comes as the local economic climate is improving and joblessness is on the decline.

In recent years, without the influx of new immigrants, the 1.2 percent growth in overall population would put the area in negative territory.

“Without population growth, we can’t grow the region. We can’t grow new companies and more jobs,” said Deana Epperly Karem, vice president for regional economic growth at Greater Louisville Inc., the city’s chamber of commerce.

GLI received more than $1 million in two large grants last year to kickstart talent attraction efforts. A recent market study by IQS Research offered insights into what it’s going to take to draw more people like Warren to the community.

The takeaways include:

  • – Projections that more than 65 percent of the high-growth jobs through 2026 will come from 10 occupational areas roughly under health care, business services and IT  fields.
  • – High-growth potential jobs are those that have an expected growth rate of at least 4 percent. They include registered nurses, personal financial advisers, operation managers, accountants, auditors, claims adjusters, computer system analysts and software developers.
  • – The recommendation that the region needs to cast a wide net, marketing the area within a 500-mile radius. The area includes St. Louis, Cincinnati, Chicago, Atlanta and Nashville. Because some current transplants have come from bigger cities in the Northeast, researchers suggest adding the New York and New Jersey metro areas.
  • – Three groups of workers were identified to attract and retain: those with no connections to the region; people who grew up here and moved away at some point; and others who live here now. Attracting new talent is big, but the research reinforces the need to explore ways to keep professionals from jumping to other cities.

In the next month, the organization will contract a marketing firm to handle the next steps – conducting focus groups and devising messages that will resonate.

“Our theory is it’s going to include a lot of sophisticated digital marketing,” said Lisa Bajorinas, GLI’s vice president of entrepreneurship and talent.

“What is it that they need to hear and see to come here?” That’s the information they’re looking for, she said.

They expect that because many young professionals are juggling student loan debt and high living expenses in bigger cities, messages about the region’s affordability will be part of the package. For people 40 and older who are raising kids, they think they’ll need to focus on family friendly aspects of the community, Bajorinas said.

“It’s just great to have the data and be committed to following the data,” said Carla Dearing, CEO of IMC, a marketing firm, who’s leading a GLI task force on talent attraction.

They need to understand what’s created a buzz in cities where young educated workers are heading, places like Austin, Texas, Nashville and Raleigh, Dearing said, adding that “Louisville thinks it has every chance to be next.”

From Warren’s perspective, Louisville has a lot going for it. It’s small enough that it’s easy to get around, and “it’s not overwhelming like Chicago or New York.”

She and her daughter moved to Middletown and joined Southeast Christian Church. “There’s alway something to do,” and many activities outdoors in the summer are free, such as Waterfront Wednesday concerts near the Big Four Bridge.

The downside is that, contrary to all the talk about Louisville’s affordability, Warren said, it’s still very expensive to live in nice neighborhoods. She also found that getting a grip on where to enroll her where to enroll her daughter in school was “really nerve-wracking for me.”

To simplify things, her daughter went to kindergarten at Christian Academy.

Her advice to those looking to craft a campaign is to focus on how the community is going to help them create their ideal lifestyle. “We come here expecting opportunity, and we want to find it,” Warren said. “If they want to bring people here, it’s got to be affordable for that age group.”

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Understanding Research – Political Polls and Their Context

Date: October 26, 2012 | IQS Research | News | Comments Off on Understanding Research – Political Polls and Their Context

Yesterday, the President of IQS Research Shawn Herbig spent an hour on the radio discussing some of the intricacies involved in the research and polling process.  Given the current election season, one thing we know for certain is that there is no shortage of polling results being released.

So that begs the question, how do we know which polls are right and which are not?  Is each new poll released on a daily basis reflecting real changes in how we think about the candidates?  Is polling and research indicative of emotions or behaviors, or both?  These are some the things Herbig tackled yesterday.

We posted a discussion late last year about how it may be a good idea to look at what are called polls of  polls, which take into consideration the summation of research done on a particular topic (in this case, political polling).  This will help to “weed out” fluff polls that may not be very accurate, and to place a heavier emphasis on the trend rather than specific points in time.

But beyond this, understanding the the  methodology behind polls is useful when deciding whether or not those results are reliable.  A few things to note:

1. What is the sample size? – Political polls in particular are attempting to gauge what an entire country of over 200 million registered voters think about an election.  A sample size needs to be 385 to be representative of a population of 200 million.  But oftentimes you see polls with around 1,000 respondents.  Oversampling allows researchers to make cuts in the data (say, what women think , or what what African Americans think) and still maintain a comfortable confidence level in the results.

2. How was the sample collected? – Polls on the internet, or ones that are done on media websites, aren’t too trustworthy.  They attract a particular group of respondents, thus skewing the results one way or another.  Scientific research maintains that a sample must be collected randomly in order for those results to be Representative in a population.  In other words, each person selected for a political poll, for instance, must have an equal chance to be selected as any other person in the population.

3.  Understand the context of poll/research – When the poll was taken is crucial in understanding what it is telling us.  For instance, there was a lot of polling done after each one of the presidential debates.  Not only did researchers ask who won the debate, but they also asked who those being polled were going to vote for.  After the first debate (which we could argue went in Romney’s favor), most polls showed the lead Obama had going into the debate had vanished.  Several polls showed Romney with a sizable lead.  But was this a statistical push due to the recent debate and the emotion surrounding it? Or was this increase real?

Recent polls show a leveling between the two candidates now that the debates are over, and a more objective look at the candidates can be achieved.  However, it is nearly impossible to eliminate emotion in responses, especially in a context as controversial a politics.

4. Interpreting Results – Interpretation ties in nicely with understanding the context of the research that you are viewing.  But there is a task for each of us as we interpret, and that is to leave behind our preconceived notions about the results.  This is very hard to do, as it is a natural human instinct to believe what justifies our own reasoning.  This is know as Confirmation Bias, and it can impact the way we accept or discount the research.

Taking all this into account can help us to sift through the commotion and find the value of the research being produced.  This isn’t just for political polling, but can be used for all research that you encounter.  Being good consumers of research can take a lot of effort, but it is the only way to gain a more realistic view of the world around you.

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Why Pay Is ALWAYS Too Low And Why It Doesn’t Matter

Date: July 31, 2012 | Shawn Herbig | News | Comments Off on Why Pay Is ALWAYS Too Low And Why It Doesn’t Matter

Your employee engagement surveys have been completed, and the research shows that your employees are dissatisfied with their compensation levels. Should you be worried?

The good news: You’re not alone. Employees are never satisfied with what they’re paid.

The better news: It (typically) doesn’t matter.

If your company compensates its workforce at a rate that’s competitive within both your industry and region, research consistently shows that increasing compensation does little to improve employee satisfaction or performance.

While responses vary from position to position (for example, finance personnel tend to be more realistic when gauging relative compensation levels than line workers), employees usually think they should be paid more than they actually are. Thus, the majority respond negatively when surveyed about their salaries or hourly wages.

Obviously, if an employer chooses to pay below market rates, it risks increased turnover. Good workers will leave, while poor workers stay on. Plus, the talented job candidates needed to spur company growth will likely accept offers from competitors who pay better.

There are companies who choose to pay at the low end of industry pay ranges. These firms typically invest very little in employee training which offsets the cost of high turnover rates. The long-term effectiveness of this approach is debatable.

The goal is to accurately identify industry pay ranges, and set compensation levels within that range. The recommended approach is to research trade association data, instead of web-based data which often doesn’t consider regional and positional factors (such as the cost-of-living and shortages of qualified candidates), or to work with a research company like IQS Research, which often performs this type of industry research for its clients.

An exception to this approach is if your company demands a higher level of commitment from its salaried employees. For example, if your staff is expected to work a minimum of 60 hours per week while staff in comparable firms work 45 hours, salaries should be adjusted upward to reflect the increased workload.

The bottom line is that your compensation packages should be commensurate with the performance you require of each position, and competitive within your industry and region. In short, it should be at a level that attracts and retains the talent your firm needs (no less and no more). But that still doesn’t mean that your employees will give you high marks when they complete your employee engagement survey.

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What Can Research Really Tell You?

Date: July 26, 2012 | Shawn Herbig | News | Comments Off on What Can Research Really Tell You?

Many people don’t believe that marketing research can accurately predict everything about everybody. That’s not only true, it’s very rational.

There’s no disputing the fact that research can’t determine every detail about each individual’s behavior. But, it’s also true that 80% of human behavior is very predictable (including the fact that humans aren’t always rational).

For example, it’s impossible to predict whether or not you’ll be run over a bus as you leave the coffee shop. But, the likelihood of you getting into your car instead of your bike (after you dodge that bus), turning right at the next intersection, and then exceeding the speed limit, is extremely predictable.

That’s because well-crafted research identifies how you (and people like you) think when you make decisions. And, this series of thought patterns reveal with great accuracy how you’ll respond to the various choices you confront in your daily life.

So, is it research or Sherlock Holmes-like deductive reasoning that provides insight into your individual behavior? And, should you be uncomfortable with the precision with which these predictions can be made?

The good news is that “big brother” does not have nefarious intentions for you, or any individual. You can remain happily anonymous as profiles are developed on the shopping patterns of people who purchase the same kinds of merchandise you do.

Marketing research enables retailers to compile data on the preferred shopping experiences of specific demographic groups, then send targeted mailers to those groups which include coupons on the items they desire.

These retailers aren’t interested in who you are — they’re interested in what you want. This data enables them to provide you and your fellow consumers with timely information on how the retailer’s offerings meet your group’s needs.

Granted, the more information they gather on the purchases you make, the more accurate your individual profile becomes (and the more accurate the “Holmesian deductions” about your preferences become).

But, the end result is that the experience you receive from these marketing savvy companies become increasingly reflective of experience you prefer. And, thus, your experience is optimized.

Research helps companies serve you better, and helps you become a more effective and efficient consumer.

It’s elementary, my dear Watson.

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