San Francisco MTA Engages 8,100+ for Central Subway Extension Alternatives Study

“The survey results were amazing and well beyond our expectations. Within three days of deploying MetroQuest, we received 1,000 responses, and towards the end of the survey, we received 8,137!” – Adrienne Heim, Public Information Officer, Communications and Marketing Division, San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA)

Citizens Engaged
Data Points Collected
Comments Captured

SFMTA’s PIO and Planning Project Managers engaged 1,000s in transit planning!

Placing community at the heart of planning, SFMTA’s project team engaged the collective voices of San Franciscans to support data-driven project decisions that would better connect the community effectively and equitably. Working with Deputy Project Manager, Tracey Lin, our friend Adrienne Heim used MetroQuest to:

  • Create dynamic multi-language surveys with interactive parts
  • Engage 8,000+ stakeholders by extending outreach online
  • Attain valuable insights from diverse residents
  • Deliver a more comprehensive, data-enriched planning study

San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA)

The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency is responsible for the management of all ground transportation in the City and County of San Francisco. Serving a population of over 900,000 people, it oversees the Municipal Railway (Muni) public transit, as well as bicycling, para-transit, parking, traffic, walking, and taxis. The agency takes public engagement to heart, placing high importance on informing and engaging the public, while supporting the delivery of projects to improve its transportation system.

CHALLENGE: How could SFMTA get broad community input to gauge interest in a subway extension?

The city of San Francisco is growing – rapidly. The need for efficient public transit is ever more critical. Anticipating this demand growth, the SFMTA is currently constructing the Central Subway project to extend the Muni Metro T Third light rail line to Chinatown to improve transit to and from some of the city’s busiest, most densely populated areas.

With the project nearing completion, the SFMTA kicked off a project to evaluate the desirability of an extension, the Central Subway Extension Alternatives Study.

In the initial phases, the SFMTA developed a paper survey and performed on the ground community outreach to discuss the extension and better understand how it could best support community goals and priorities. Adrienne Heim, Public Information Officer with the SFMTA Communications and Marketing Division, described the efforts,

"Last year we went out to merchant and neighborhood groups to discuss the study, ask people how they got around the city of San Francisco, their transportation goals, and how the study could incorporate or support some of those goals. That included gathering ideas for routes and station locations."



While the agency conducted on the ground research in community groups, the project team also wanted to enrich the study and engage a wider range of community members through the support of an online survey. To broaden their reach, they wanted to extend their paper survey to an online audience with a multi-lingual survey that offered an interactive mapping component. The agency was presented with a new and unique mission – finding a dynamic survey platform.


SOLUTION: SFMTA engaged 1,000s online fast with MetroQuest!

The SFMTA team chose MetroQuest as the dynamic survey platform best equipped to support their online public outreach for the Central Subway Extension Alternatives Study – as well as other planning projects.

“We started this phase of our study with a paper map-based survey that we were using in small group discussions,” said Kansai Uchida, Project Manager. “When it came time to put the survey online, we needed a tool that provided the same level of interactivity with an easy-to-use map interface, especially on mobile devices. MetroQuest demonstrated that it could meet all of those needs, and we were pleased with the level of participation we received – over 8,000 responses, the highest of any survey that our agency has done.”

The project team saw MetroQuest as a helpful tool to broaden the reach of the survey. “MetroQuest can help when we’re doing outreach, as part of our outreach toolbox on a number of projects,” continued Adrienne.

MetroQuest exceeded staff expectations.

The project team had a goal of receiving a combined total of at least 1,000 responses across the paper and online surveys.

And did they ever! SFMTA reached that target within days of deploying the MetroQuest survey, but in the end, well-exceeded those expectations:

“Having the ability to disperse our survey quickly and easily online was greatly beneficial to us,” explained Tracey Lin, Deputy Project Manager. “Our survey was also built for mobile engagement thanks to MetroQuest, and it was easily accessible to stakeholders from all over the city who are interested in our project. Within three days of deploying the survey, we received 1,000 responses.”

SFMTA diversified its outreach, gaining valuable public input from a broader range of participants.

MetroQuest enabled the agency to hear from two groups they particularly struggled to reach in the past with traditional outreach methods such as in-person community meetings. Adrienne elaborated, “MetroQuest helped us reach millennials and people ranging from 40 to 50 years of age. That’s important, because they don’t come to community meetings as often, nor our agency-led meetings.”

“Usually the only people who tend to weigh in on projects are the ones who live or work in the neighborhood. The Central Subway is something that has citywide impact and it was so useful to be able to reach people all over the city and beyond who might want to use a new service,” added Sarah Jones, Planning Director.


Let's explore the SFMTA's record-breaking public engagement success story!

RESULT: SFMTA engaged 8,100+ for its subway extension study!

The SMTA project team was pleased by the online outreach results that MetroQuest helped them achieve. When the survey came to a close, they had amplified their study with 8,137 survey responses, 148,405 insightful data points, and 13,737 public comments to better inform their analysis.

One of the most valuable outcomes was the engagement of a large number of stakeholders in the planning study.

“The way that we could structure questions through MetroQuest allowed greater feedback and input, enabling a more robust planning analysis,” concluded Adrienne. “Those 8,137 survey responses allowed us to confirm that most respondents want a subway that goes beyond the Northern Terminus and a little bit towards the West.”

Building on its exceptional success with the Central Subway Extension Alternatives Study, the SFMTA actively continues to use MetroQuest as a vital public outreach tool on several projects – including the Fulton Street Safety Project and the Hayes Valley Curb Management Plan.

The SFMTA is among hundreds of transit agencies, regional planning agencies, metropolitan planning organizations, and departments of transportation to have launched MetroQuest surveys to maximize public participation, collect informed input, and deliver actionable results in support of better planning decisions.

Congratulations to the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency team on your outstanding online outreach results! Adrienne and her team have inspired us with their unwavering dedication to community engagement and connecting San Franciscans through a safe, equitable, and sustainable transportation system.

Questions about engaging 1000s with MetroQuest? We’d love to help!