In recent years, transit companies all across the country have begun installing a variety of amenities such as Wi-Fi routers and charging stations in buses to try to incentivize ridership.

It’s a strategy that makes sense in theory, given our ever-increasing dependence on handheld electronics and Internet connectivity. In practice however, it may not be as effective as transit services would hope.

According to a new report from research group TransitCenter, Wi-Fi routers might be nice frills, but it’s fast, reliable service that riders really want.

The researchers surveyed more than 3,000 respondents from 17 regions throughout the country about what kinds of improvements they’d like to see from their local transit services. Options included power outlets, Wi-Fi connections, shelters designed for bad weather conditions, cheaper fares and more frequent service.

The survey found that the two most important determining factors in rider satisfaction are service frequency and travel times.

  • Real-time ride updates and improved shelters were also high on the list for many respondents.
  • Wi-Fi connections and power outlets, on the other hand, were the least important factors for rider satisfaction.

While this doesn’t mean that transit companies should abandon amenities like Wi-Fi service altogether, it does suggest that they would have better luck increasing ridership rates by investing in service improvements first. Commuters don’t expect much in the way of bells and whistles from their buses and subway systems. What they really want is a service they can count on to get them where they need to go, when they need to be there.