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].