Public opinion has been growing increasingly favorable to Sound Transit, according to three recent surveys (PDF) by EMC Research. According to the surveys, ST’s favorable ratings are at a record high 67% and unfavorable ratings at a record low 18%. The numbers are more or less comparable to those for Metro, which are at 65% and 14%, respectively. Additional positives for Sound Transit include a 3.42 out of 4.00 grade, which has risen modestly since 2008. 70% of respondents also thought that ST investments have been worth it, a number strongest unsurprisingly in the North King subarea and weakest in the district’s outlying areas, like Snohomish and Pierce Counties.
Though the overall margin of error for the first district-wide survey is +/- 3.4%, it’s interesting to note that it’s much higher when you break down the sample size by subarea, ranging between 6.9 and 9.1 percentage points. When broken down even further by city, East King results post a margin of error as high as 21.9%, because of the diminished sample size. Nonetheless, the overall results were weighted for population distribution to give a more accurate representation of district-wide opinion.
Lots of other key highlights of the surveys below the jump.
- A whopping 27% of respondents who were self-proclaimed transit riders have either never heard of ORCA or couldn’t rate it, for some reason. If this is any statistical indication of how things really are, then the ORCA partnership needs to get its act together.
- Don’t be fooled by Community Transit and Pierce Transit’s low favorable ratings. Most respondents didn’t have an opinion altogether, so the unfavorable ratings were much lower as well.
- The overwhelming majority of respondents picked a West Option (B2M- Bellevue Way/112th) for East Link’s B segment over the East Option (B7 – BNSF). When it came to the downtown segment, however, the surface alignment was the clear winner. Though the margin is a bit smaller, even East King overwhelmingly picked surface, which is surprising since the tunnel is so heavily backed in Bellevue.
- Of all ST projects, most respondents prioritized improving access to Sounder stations and increasing parking over expanding light rail and bus service. It’s a pretty good reflection of broader sentiment that prefers seeing short-term fixes over long-term improvements, especially in the context of ST’s commuter-oriented system.
- 73% of respondents who ride ST indicated themselves as “choice” riders, meaning that they have the option of commuting by car instead. When broken down by mode, Sounder has the most choice riders while Central Link has the least, which is telling of the differential between the rider demographics.
- Grades for ST seemed to dip across the board in 2008, a year when we had record ridership. That may help explain lower satisfaction levels if rider comfort was tampered with by things like crowding and unreliability.
- Of three metrics we commonly like to use to monitor transit performance (speed, frequency, and accessibility), accessibility won out with 27% respondents saying they’d ride transit more if stations were either closer to their homes or to places they frequent. 8% preferred frequency and 5% picked speed.
There’s much much more buried in the survey findings (PDF).