An Afternoon Jolt this week mentioned a TCC/Onebusaway survey, recently briefed to the Seattle City Council, of Southeast Seattle residents. It contained this very discouraging tidbit:
Just seven percent of respondents said that if they need to go downtown they would use the light rail.
This may very well be an accurate report of how it was briefed, but I obtained a copy of the survey results (.doc), and this is the actual question:
25. And now please finish this sentence; I would use light rail more often if…
(multiple responses; n=187)
It were closer to me/convenient 21%
It went more places I wanted to go 14%
I needed it/Had someplace to go 9%
Better parking situation 9%
I needed to go downtown 7%
Offered more routes 6%
Had more stations 6%
It were cheaper 5%
I didn’t have a car 3%
There were a bus/service to take me directly to the station 3%
I were more familiar with it 2%
I felt safer on it 1%
It were faster 0%
The syntax of the blurb suggests, at least to me, that only 7% of people in SE Seattle use light rail when they go downtown. That may or may not be the case, but that’s not what the question is asking.
Wordplay aside, there’s a lot of information in this December 2009 survey on what the true barriers to higher ridership are, aside from the empty pits around most stations, for both bus and rail. Details after the jump.
The survey boundary turns out to be I-5, I-90, Lake Washington, and approximately the Seattle city limit.
56% thought walking to a station was easy; 42% difficult or “no nearby station”. The split was 83/14 for buses. Interestingly, this result suggests that some people who must walk more than 20 minutes to a station consider that at least “somewhat easy.”
22. Please finish this sentence; I would use the bus more often if…(multiple responses; n=174)
It went closer to the places I wanted to go 15%
Didn’t have a car 13%
More convenient 12%
It were faster 12%
Offered more routes 10%
I need to go downtown 7%
I had more places I needed to go 5%
Had no other options 4%
Felt more comfortable on the bus 3%
It were cheaper 3%
Offered more reliable service 2%
Didn’t have children 2%
My health were better 1%
Were with a companion 1%
There were more buses available 0%
These results suggest to me that stop reduction, bus priority treatments, and a richer web of connections would be more productive investments than more buses on existing routes or security improvements.
I’m not particularly panicked about Link ridership, but looking again at question 25 above, the practical changes that could lead to the most new Central Link ridership are:
- a stop between Orcas and Graham St. to provide foot access to more people;
- continue the buildout of Sound Move and ST2;
- more publicity for existing (private) Link park and ride lots, to dispel the early media message that parking by stations is impossible; and
- getting those empty pits developed.
There’s a lot more stuff about general perceptions, effective messaging, and so on in the survey.