modesplittabledataYesterday Commute Seattle released initial results from their 2012 Center City Mode Split Survey, an update to a similar survey done in 2010.   There is some good stuff there, including their Press Release,  a two-page explanatory memo, and a one-page Summary. The full study will be released in a few weeks.

Here’s the good news:

Two-thirds (66%) of Downtown commuters are not driving alone, up from 65% in 2010

The drive-alone rate continued its steady decline in 2012, dropping to 34.2% in 2012, compared to 35.2% in 2010 and an estimated 50% in 2000.

Public transit (43%) remains the single most popular choice, up from 42% in 2010

Sound Transit set ridership records in 2012, and King County Metro approached its pre-recession record set in 2008. Though the bus is by far the largest transit mode  (35.7%), bus commuting as a share of all commute modes declined one-tenth of one percent (-.1%) due to the even faster growth of rail, walking, bicycling, vanpooling and teleworking.

Non-motorized modes now represent 13% of all commute trips

Walking (6.3%) bicycling (3.3%) and teleworking (3.0%) are growing rapidy, increasing by 11% since 2010 and by 80% since 2000.

However, there is still work to be done:

Net congestion is up, even as drive-alone rates decline

Though the drive-alone rate declined one percent (1%), an estimated 20,000 jobs have been added in Downtown since 2010.  In nominal terms, thousands of new cars are traveling into Downtown daily.

I look forward to the full release and digging through the data!

35 Replies to “More Downtown Commuters Choosing Transit, Walking, Biking”

      1. It’s actually a little broader than that now. The bike amenity map on the website was limited to Mercer, but the Center City boundary used for the survey is basically this map minus SoDo.

      2. Also, when the final report is released, it’ll have neighborhood breakdowns in addition to these aggregated numbers.

      3. Yep, they pretty much just make it up. Unless you take a consistent source and they have a set algorithm they use to contrive a number comparisons are worse than worthless.

  1. I read yesterday that businesses in the ID were complaining about declines in business due to high parking rates. Could also explain the decrease in both carpool and SOVs. (Carpool being another name for a bunch of friends going for some dim sum.) Note that carpool declined by a 8%.

  2. I’d love to see a comparison for the relative tax expenditures for each of these modes of transportation laid on these percentages. For instance, why is it that no matter what happens, the first thing to go is the bike lanes, then the sidewalks and almost never the car lanes, whenever there is any form of construction, short or long term? These statistics do not necessarily support that letting SOVs have the least interruption of their commute is the optimal strategy.

  3. Looking at the data since 2010, the biggest gainer in usage would appear to be rail — almost a full percentage gain in mode share.

      1. How are those compressors getting in to downtown? I get that they’re doing it less than 5 days; but are they driving, busing…?

    1. I’d have to see the full report since there are several trends going on.

      If there is a net increase in jobs, then the absolute number of SOVs could in fact have stayed the same or increased, but just not as fast as the new workers added in that time.

      Since during this same time period, in city residences increased in expense by very much, it would seem that more of these new workers would look for lower cost housing in the further regions that are rail or bus accessible in order to minimize travel costs and time.

      So, what at first seems like a good thing, in some sense could also be a decline in lifestyle from lots of people with affordable in-city homes taking a short car trip to work to a lot of people with long transit commutes, forced into doing so with lack of housing near there jobs, or rather, lack of jobs near their housing.

      Overall telework solves all problems but it seems like its a countervailing trend, not an part of the class of, transit.

      1. Seriously John, read the post. The answers to your questions are in the short little excerpt I posted.

  4. A couple methodology questions:

    How did they count trips that combine modes? (e.g. bus+rail, bike+bus, drive+rail, etc)

    How did they count commuters who vary their mode? (e.g. bike when it’s warm and dry but take the bus when the weather is cold or rainy)

    1. Honestly, I don’t know or even know how to find out. I really can’t wait to see the full results.

    2. One thing they didn’t do is just say check all that apply since the total adds up to 100%. That’s 100% better than most surveys I’ve see of this type. I do wonder is any of the changes exceed the margin of error. Especially since this is a survey rather than a count and peoples answers tend to change over time based on perception of “what’s cool”.

  5. I’m not aware of any major city which does not have congested traffic. Trying to end congestion seems to me a vain effort. The focus should be on trying to give people alternatives to sitting in traffic. (And that means alternatives to sitting in traffic while a bus passenger, too.) Traffic congestion is much less onerous when coping with it is a choice, rather than a compulsion.

  6. So bikes make up three percent. I am so glad we are spending all that money on infrastructure…

    1. “All that money”? If you’re eliminating 3% of the maintenance cost, since bikes never create pot holes, I’d bet it’s close to break even. The real way to boost bike share is to implement some form of road use fee. When bike commuters can get the rebate owed to them it will certainly increase mode share.

      1. You hit the nail on the head. When one figures in direct and indirect property tax dollars used to subsidize local streets and roads, those who use bicycles frequently instead of cars end up subsidizing those who typically drive, simply because bicycles impose so little wear and tear on the pavement.

        Equity for modes would mean more money being spent on bicycle infrastructure, not less. That’s aside from the point that much bicycle infrastructure (such as bike lanes) benefits cars as much as or more than bikes (bike lanes make it easier for cars to pass cyclists).

  7. Love the comments. “When bike commuters can get the REBATE owed to them…”. Bottom line…seems like getting rid of cars solves A LOT of problems.

  8. If you add up all the lanes entering the CBD (I5&90, Hwy99 etc), or about 30 lanes, times 2,000 vehicles per hour its about 60,000, or the same number as all the SOVs during the entire commute. Clearly, most people are not going to the CBD on the freeways.
    The DSTT (rail only) will have a peak-hour capacity to the CBD of 48,000 per hour in the Peak, so in theory could nearly handle the entire workforce entering the CBD during the morning commute. That’s a 20 fold increase in the current rail mode split, so the capacity remaining is huge.
    This reinforces some points being made. Link has focused too narrowly on getting commuters from the suburb stations to the CBD, by not addressing the inner city needs, like DC has.
    Most of the traffic problem is not going away. We still need the cars, buses, carpools, and everyone else, and our big problem is the area outside the CBD, not in it.

    1. Yes, it does address inner city needs. If it “focused too narrowly on getting commuters from the suburb stations to the CBD”, it would run peak hours unidirectionally, and it wouldn’t have Columbia City or Othello stations. Soon people will be able to take Link from Columbia City to the UW or Northgate in 28 or 35 minutes respectively. Which bus can do that? Which bus comes every 10 minutes until 10pm?

      People complain so much about a few stations like Graham, 15th, and 23rd. But if you lived on 23rd & John and are going to Shoreline, which would you rather do? Take the 43 to Capitol Hill or UW station, zip to 185th, and take a feeder? Or take the 43 to downtown (twice as far) and transfer to the 512 or 358 (less frequent, and random traffic bottlenecks)? Twice in the past week I was on the 71/72/73 southbound and got caught in traffic at Eastlake & Stewart. Sometimes it can take 10 minutes, sometimes even 30, to get from John Street to Convention Place station.

      1. Your example proves the absurdity of your conclusion. If you lived at 23rd and John and were going to Shoreline, given the constraints of funding that we have in this region, why should you have a nice easy commute on modern rail while when you were going from Ballard to Capitol Hill, a pair of destinations that real, not hypothetical, people do all the time, you’re still taking the same slow 44 to 43 route you would have been taking 30 years ago (except it was just the 43 then)?

      2. Outside of the CBD, Link will have about 10 stations along one line after 30 years of effort in 2024.
        Your example to shoreline probably generates as many riders per day as a DART bus carries – not many.
        My point was the DSTT really needs more lines through it from other areas and other stations to start functioning as a real mass transit system. Were ending up with a commute based line that mimics our freeway system, not a vibrant multi path, all day network that serves the many more trips than 200,000 workers in Seattle require.

      3. Because we’re not making something custom for John Street to Shoreline. We’re making a subway that happens to do that along with facilitating all sorts of trips all along the line. If people want stops every five or ten blocks they can take a bus, which we already have. What we don’t have is faster frequent transit for longer trips; that’s why so many people drive instead. Building Link does not mean we can’t improve 23rd Avenue and Madison Street (or John Street) too. We can put BRT or streetcars on them with signal priority and coming every five minutes, and then it won’t seem like a burden to get to Broadway or transfer to Link.

  9. Maybe I missed it, but do these numbers for 2000 (and maybe 2010) use the same “Center City” definition for the region involved as the 2012 stats? I always thought that the working definition of “Seattle” back in the day was more specific to the main downtown core, and didn’t include as much of the Cascade area, Regrade, Uptown (!) or Capitol Hill.

  10. I keep reading that Metro ridership dropped from 2008 to 2009 because of the recession. Didn’t the opening of Link have something to do with the bus ridership drop, and the route restructures (e.g. reducing the 42 and eliminating the 194) that came with it?

  11. I hate to be critical, but it is what I do, so I have to ask, what constitutes “Downtown Employment?” How do the year over year numbers compare with the numbers shown prior to the crash of WaMu? Do these numbers include the throngs of Amazon employees in South Lake Union/Denny Triangle?

    For one, look at the cost of a gallon of gas between 2000 and 2010. According to the US EIA, the average cost of gas in January 2010 was about $1.27. By the end of 2010, after zooming up to over $4.11 (nationally) in July 2008, the price of gas had moderated but had risen back to just over $3.00 a gallon.

    These fluctuations in gas prices had an adverse effect of drivers and people sought other commuting options. At the same time, transit agencies were cutting back to save on fuel costs.

    I find the report misleading as parking has become worse in downtown as viaduct construction has come into full swing eliminated much of the old under-viaduct parking that once existed.

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