Photo by eastcolfax

Martin surreptitiously dropped in a link to last week’s roundup detailing the results of a survey (PDF) that Bellevue administered as part of its Transit Master Plan update.  The findings are worth digging into, because they reveal quite a bit about the current state of transit in the city from a riders perspective, and what strides need to be taken to get to the next level.  As a respondent myself, I can attest to the  level of comprehensiveness in the survey, which broke down questions for current riders, former riders, and non-riders.

The entire report is nearly 200 pages long, so the Executive Summary is the most convenient read if you want to avoid getting into the thick of the weeds.  Highlights from the summary can be broken down threefold: 1) Existing Transit Market Profile, 2) Perception of Existing Service, and 3) Transit Service Priorities.  Some of the analysis of the Executive Summary below the jump.

Many of the highlights describing users of the existing market aren’t surprising: the poor are more likely to take transit; work trips are the most common; high parking costs incentivize transit use; etc.  A few points stand out, however:

  • Nearly 90% of transit users have access to a vehicle, and are “choice” or “discretionary” riders.  This might indicate that Bellevue’s transit-riding populace is significantly less impoverished than in other jurisdictions.  A more useful takeaway, however, is that auto trips between major activity centers are simply not competitive for the many who could otherwise drive if they wanted to.
  • The most common destinations for respondents are (in order of magnitude): Downtown Seattle, Downtown Bellevue, University District, Factoria, Crossroads, and Eastgate.  Bellevue’s frequent transit network, though sparse, connects these hubs fairly well, with the exception of Factoria-Bellevue service, which could be partially mitigated by combining 240/241 headways departing Bellevue TC, though both routes’ stop patterns differ wildly from one another.
  • Nearly 40% of survey respondents are transferring at least once, which means that for every 60 boardings procured from one-seat rides, there are at least 80 boardings from riders who transfer.  At its most conservative estimate, the number of linked passenger trips amounts to 71% of the total number of unlinked passenger trips (100 riders/140 boardings).  For comparison purposes, the same ratio is 65% in connection-heavy Vancouver, B.C.*. (As a reminder, of course, the unscientific results in no way paint a picture of the whole transit-riding population.)

Within the category detailing perceptions of existing service, one standout highlight reveals a large disparity between the perceived ease of obtaining transit information at home (considered easy by 89.2%) and obtaining information while on the go (57%).  The upside to this is that there’s already capacity for fixes and improvements in this department: Existing monitors at Bellevue TC have real-time info capability (albeit currently knocked out by malware); RapidRide B Line stations have (sometimes) functioning variable-message signs (VMS); and Metro has already installed fantastic new maps to help orient riders regionally.

Concerning transit service priorities, respondents most heavily favored frequency and schedule reliability as top asks in improving the system.  In third was an increase in park-and-ride capacity, an unsurprising pick given at or near capacities at Eastgate and South Bellevue.  When it came to funding said transit improvements, however, new revenue beat out service reduction and fare increases as a preferred solution.

The Executive Summary only touches on bits and pieces of all the survey findings, which, in themselves, represent just slivers of the population.  If you’re into the social aspects of transit, quotes taken from various write-in statements are sprinkled throughout the document and add a nice human element to all the number crunching.

 *For my crude back-of-the-napkin analysis, I sourced unlinked passenger trips (total annual boardings) of 356,218,100 from APTA’s 2011 Q4 report [p.30], and linked passenger trips (total annual revenue riders) of 231,873,462 from TransLink’s 2011 Annual Report [p.12].

11 Replies to “Profiling Bellevue Transit Riders”

  1. Seems like it mostly backs up our existing assumptions, but good to have it on paper and official. Overwhelmingly choice riders, tech-savvy enough to use and trust the online trip-planner, but only a bare majority comfortable planning an impulse trip without the website. Most use timed transfers to get where they’re going, and most wish above all else that wait times were shorter and trip times were more reliable.

  2. There are some very interesting and consistent responses in the Perceptions and Priorities chapter. It looks like regardless of income and frequency of use, all riders, former riders and non-riders have consistent opinions about the accessibility, convenience and reliability of the transit network. I would think that non-riders would tend to regard the system as unusable, inconvenient or unreliable, but their responses are remarkably similar to the opinions of current riders.

  3. The 240/241 has nice headway departures FROM B’vue TC to Factoria, every 15m Mon-Sat, 30m on Sun. Problem is its not timed that way coming back towards BTC. Then theres the oddball 246 that wonders thru every so often.

  4. I would be interest in knowing how the proximity of a bus stop affects ridership and then secondly what the split is between Park and Ride versus walk to the stop ridership is.

    Seems to me this might be an interesting case where SFH ownership, plus cars, end up enhancing a transit oriented, yet pleasant and liveable, lifestyle contrary to the STB trope about pure density.

    1. What you are describing is not transit oriented – it’s car oriented, with transit relegated your once-every-few-months trips to Seattle to see a football game.

    2. You can see what the proximity of a bus stop in single-family neighborhoods does. As if the 168 weren’t clear enough, try the 226 or 235. Nobody gets on or off the single-family stops most of the time, or at most one or two. Obviously, the low density means there wouldn’t be many people anyway. But if everyone in those houses rode the bus a significant percent of the time, you would see little handfuls of people all day at the stops like in the streetcar suburb era.

      “Transit-oriented lifestyle” means something like taking 50% or more of your trips on transit. The single-family neighborhoods have a very long way to go before they reach that level.

      1. Why do you get to define these things?

        It is clear that Bellevue makes necessary use of transit for trips that would clog roads, but uses cars for individualized trips that become too expensive to run routes on.

        Just because it doesn’t need all the density baggage doesn’t mean its not transit oriented.

      2. I’m not defining things; I’m trying to articulate what the majority of people understand “transit-oriented” to mean. I may be wrong of course, but that’s for you or others to say so and to try to convince others. Until now, we (STB readers) have not discussed the meaning of terms when John Bailo (decentralist extrordinaire) has one meaning and others (urbanists) have another. If you really want to explain and further your vision, I suggest you make explicit your meaning of the terms when they occur, and then we can discuss the issues in terms of Bailo-words vs urbanist-words.

        As for “transit-oriented lifestyle”, it’s reasonable to assume it means some percentage of trips on transit, or that the transit trips are somehow otherwise important or strategic. Then the question becomes, what percent? I suggested 50% because then it’s obvious that the majority of trips are on transit. But maybe the cutoff is 70% or 30%? If we take your definition, that occasional trips to “the city” on transit constitute a transit-oriented lifestyle, the number would be like 1%. How is that transit-oriented?

        I’m not discounting the value of diverting only trips to “the city” or commuter trips to transit. That’s an important step, and it may be the most that can be expected in some places, at least for the next decade or two while transit use grows slowly. It may deserve a term of its own, but I don’t think “transit-oriented lifestyle” is it. At most, it’s a minimal commitment to transit.

    3. As an illustration, once I went to an event at the Kirkland Boys and Girls club, which is all alone in a single-family area. It was a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. I tried hard to think of reasons to make the route half-hourly, but it was difficult when all the people on the hourly bus could fit in a passenger car.

      I suppose you could say, that’s the purpose of P&Rs. To collect the occasional riders who are going to the game once every four months.

    4. One of these days maybe you will finally figure out that density is pleasant and livable for a lot of people. If it’s not for you, that’s fine, but I can tell you I’d much rather live on Broadway than in SFH Kirkland even if I could teleport to every destination.

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