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Online Diary for Public Transit Services

Insightrix recently conducted a study to understand a public transit rider's familiarity, attitudes and perceptions of transit services for Saskatoon, Regina and Winnipeg. Each city is in central Canada and all have a strong presence of public transit.

To deliver a less expensive and more efficient method, we employed the Insightrix Communities online diary tool. Online diary studies are a great way to gather in-depth feedback about products or services and to allow researchers a closer look at the everyday lives of respondents. Diaries can help gain understanding into the target audiences’ experiences, and can help provide insight into unmet needs that can lead to greater marketing opportunities and product development.

In this study, the diary tool allowed participants to:

  • respond to questions from the moderator on a one-on-one basis at any time within a 24-hour period

  • use their smartphone, tablet or desktop computer

  • forward pictures and videos of their experience


Members from each city were recruited using the Insightrix Research panels, SaskWatch and ManitobaWatch. To participate, each respondent had to use public transit a minimum of once each month. In total, 19 respondents participated in the study in Saskatoon and Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada, and another 10 respondents participated in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

The study took place over a period of three days. Each day, the moderator asked the participants new questions and participants could log in from any location at their convenience. While each respondent used public transit, the perceptions and experiences varied from city to city.


For cities in Canada, public transit using buses is a major logistics issue. Problems include peak loads at certain times of the day, weather conditions that make schedules difficult to achieve, delays resulting in passengers waiting in sub-zero temperatures, the difficulty of handing off passengers to other routes with a minimum of wait time and the boredom of passengers sitting in a packed bus with nothing to do.

It’s important to understand the customer experience as it happens, and to create essential and meaningful dialogue with passengers on how to measure and improve the current service they are experiencing.

In some projects, market research interviewers physically ride buses to interview passengers, as well as those waiting at transfer points. Though this method may work for the first day, the routine of commuters may disrupt this process, causing interviewers to cross paths with the same commuters, necessitating other stops at various times of the day.

This leads to a very inefficient and expensive approach to getting customer input. There must be a better way.


By employing the online diary research tool, we could gather deep insights into the familiarity, attitudes and perceptions of transit services for the prairie cities selected. By asking key questions each day, we gathered insights and asked for more clarification when needed. This method allowed us to gain key insights about perceptions regarding the price of transit and ways in which services could be more tailored for specific customers, such as creating a “working pass” for individuals who use transit just to get to and from work, Monday to Friday.

The Communities online discussion format was easy to use for participants, allowing for high participant retention rates while maintaining high levels of participation. Interactive pictures and videos shared by participants also helped to enrich the online diary experience.

The study provided valuable customer satisfaction insights, such as discovering that most respondents use transit when commuting to and from school and work, and to downtown. Most respondents seemed able to comfortably find routes using transit apps or websites.

Innovative suggestions to improve service were also forthcoming. These included suggestions from participants on providing free Wi-Fi on the buses, real-time information pertaining to buses and schedules and electronic signage at bus stops. If you would like to obtain the full case study, or to find out more about how the Insightrix Communities software can help, please contact us.

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