Metro and Sound Transit conducted a targeted rider survey immediately before and after the February 6, 2010 service change. There were a number of findings, some interesting, some not-so-interesting, and some deeply flawed.

Most interesting were the Link-only questions. Ridership has increased substantially since February, partially due to people new to transit, so these numbers may not still apply.

How did you pay?

How did you get to the Link station? “Other” is huge, but the bike share is tiny.

What did you do before you rode Link? These numbers add up to well below 100%, so I believe non-responses are included in the computation. In February about half of Link riders came over from the bus.

Some other findings below the jump.

  • People like more service. 8 and 60 riders liked the fact that Metro was investing more in those routes. No surprise there.
  • Replacing the 194 with 578 is a mixed bag. Comparing riders who go from Federal Way to Downtown, overall satisfaction on the 578 is lower. While 578 scored higher on speed, safety, and the buses themselves, many riders thought it had inadequate frequency at all times of day, and were less satisfied with the overall transfer experience.
  • A skewed sample has Link and the 574 as a mixed bag with the 194. The issue here is that the 574 and Link trips to the airport already existed during the “before” survey; therefore, anyone sufficiently dissatisfied with the 194 already made the switch, leaving just those who especially liked the 194 still riding it.* Nevertheless, the story is similar to the 578: the physical quality of Link is much higher, but there’s some concern about transfers and the number of stops. Overall, the 194 scored higher in rider satisfaction.

There’s going to be a lot of temptation to jump to conclusions from this data in the service of refighting old battles, in spite of all the reasons to be wary of it. And to be honest I’m disappointed that the last result was even close, as that doesn’t fit with my own perceptions. Nevertheless, I think the constructive comment to come out of this is that transferring to and from Link is perceived as too hard. Part of that is fare policies, part of it is poor transfer point design, part of it is the inherent complexity of intermodal transfers.

* Furthermore, as far as I can tell, the Link sample includes people on trips other than Downtown/Seatac; I have no idea what that does to the results. It also includes people who didn’t take the bus, and may have a totally different frame of reference for what is acceptable.

21 Replies to “Metro Rider Survey Results”

  1. Table 43 is interesting (station On/Offs). Only 1 in 10 riders of Link use one of the MLK stations, yet that is probably the most problematic section of the line (accidents and slower running times).
    It begs the question of whether that routing was a good decision, given more direct routes were available – not that it matters so much now, and if TOD ever takes off, ala Vancouver style, then it will hailed as visionary.
    Anyway, it’s food for thought for future extensions.

    1. Mike,

      Since then we’ve gotten better data that indicates something like 50% of trips either begin or end in the Rainier Valley (Beacon Hill-Rainier Beach)

      1. Martin, check your math. You’re double counting each person. Total boardings were 19715. Of that, 20% boarded along Rainier/Mlk (4 stops).
        But thats still double what the Metro study reported for roughly the same segment. That’s hard to believe that in just a few months, ridership patterns changed that dramatically.
        So now who should we believe, the surveyors, or the electronic gizmos?

      2. You’re not counting deboardings in the Valley. If there are no intra-valley trips then the number of trips that begin or end there is double the number you came up with.

      3. You can’t count one person trip as two, one for getting on and one for getting off. Or if you do, then you have to double the overall ridership number to double the 19715 daily boardings number. Then you’re right back to the percentage I stated, which is 20%.
        It’s assumed on those daily counts, that most people that get on at a station, eventually get off there at some point.

      4. You’re still not thinking this through.

        When the data was taken, there were about 20,000 boardings per day, or 20,000 one-way trips. Assume, for the sake of argument, no one both gets on and gets off in the valley in the same trip: they’re all headed to Downtown, Sodo, Seatac, whatever.

        About 25% of those one-way trips started in the valley, or 5,000 trips. Likewise, about 5,000 trips end in the valley. That’s 10,000 unique trips, half the total.

        Obviously, since some trips stay entirely in the valley, the total is somewhat lower than that.

  2. Ah, no doubt the bike riders going to LINK stations is tiny is due to weather. February is generally only for hard core bicyclists around here.

  3. I’m actually kind of surprised by the 17% of riders who previously drove alone. At current ridership levels that equates to something like almost 5000 fewer car trips on our clogged road system. That is not insignificant and is larger than I would have expected.

    The 43% who previously road a Metro bus is also smaller than I would have expected.

    I think these results are encouraging. Hopefully more current data will confirm theses trends.


      They got pretty similar results in Alameda-Contra Costa Transit District (AC Transit) when they introduced their Rapid Bus line, which is a form of BRT, in 2003. The new Rapid Bus increased ridership over the previous bus service by about 65.8 percent (Page 15).

      The Mode Used Before the Introduction of Rapid Bus by passengers on Rapid Bus is shown in a chart on page 16, and was as follows:

      Bus: 55%
      Car: 19%
      BART: 13%
      Did not make trip: 9%
      Other: 4%

      What I find particularly interesting in this case, is that when a premium bus service was introduced, 13% of riders on that Rapid Bus line were passengers who previously rode BART trains, but switched to taking the bus, when the premium bus service was introduced. So, a BRT-style bus service can take people off trains and put them on buses.

      Also, Rapid Bus attracted 19% of its riders out of their cars.

      1. AC Transit vs. BART may be a special case. BART fares are significantly higher than AC’s for trips over a few miles and BART has no monthly passes. It’s possible that a semi-acceptable BRT system run by AC would capture 13% of BART riders in that corridor based on fares alone….

  4. It’s my opinion that the 194/578 portions of the study are useless as they dident seem to take the 577 into consideration since they work the corridor jointly. Also, i think a lot of the negitive impacts of the change comes as a result of a 20 year old route being replaced by 3 routes, as well as the survey timing being so quickly after the service change. If you ask me, now that the ST service is ran by one operator, the 577 route should be dropped, and they should all be 578s to FWTC, just with some trips short turning and others continuing through. There is president for it, as the 566, 578, and 59x already have short turns at various points along their route.

    1. If in fact this studies results are that different than actual ons/offs along MLK, (a 500% margin of error (1/10th to 1/2 according to Martin)), and they excluded the 577, then it should be run again to get the real data on those portions.
      Now that RapidRide is running, that should be included also.
      ST is required to do a ‘before and after’ analysis of Central Link and the associated bus service it has either replaced, created, or modified, as part of their FFGA with the FTA. That’s due in just 8 months.
      They need to get this right.

      1. Once again, you’re forgetting to count deboardings. In general a trip that ends in the Rainier Valley is also one that would not be served by light rail if it didn’t get routed that way.

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