SDOT’s got a new survey out about light rail to West Seattle and Ballard. It’s different than the usual fare with a bunch of alternatives on a map. Instead, it’s a high-level questionnaire about principles.

It asks respondents to rate 20 different values as “important” or “not important”. These values are sorted into bins called “dependable transit”, “vibrant communities”, “climate action”, and “equity”.

I’ve sometimes argued that the system doesn’t value enough simply running the trains frequently, rapidly, reliably, and directly to the activity centers. Instead, the agency ends up mitigating “impacts” instead. Well, if you agree with me, or don’t, this is the chance to have your say. All of these the values are great (except, of course, plazas), but please resist the temptation to list everything as “extremely important”, and instead help the agency set priorities among things that have tradeoffs.

There’s also some demographic information you should fill out, although the survey software is too buggy to allow you to choose more than one race.

19 Replies to “SDOT Link Survey”

  1. Might be good, Martin, to discuss urban features as individual creations, rather than ideological “dog-whistles.” New York’s Central Park, and the Olmsted Brothers’ activities in Seattle, did these only benefit “NIMBY’s”?

    Before Medicine even believed in germs (our Civil War doctors thought the whole idea was for French sissies who couldn’t stand the smell of a hard-working operating tent) aristocrats were “Gifting” parks to the public as a tuberculosis control measure.

    In Europe, doubt many animal-lovers really minded when the local Earl’s game preserve became a city park open to the average person. Based on Capitol grounds in Olympia last Friday, whatever deer-language would’ve been for “Fine with us!” Racoons of any century? “Second!”

    Look up “The Black Hole of Calcutta” and see if that’s really the land use you’d really like to impose on either the Admiral District or Ballard. But from a left/liberal point of view, with the boulevards of Paris, the gloves of right wing crowd-control really came off. Google “Canister Shot.”

    Site by site, Martin, and plan by plan. Not category. Transit-World-wide, thousands of examples of station vicinity combine both. Interesting also how well so many buildings and districts designed for one use came to serve so many others, especially to do with transit.

    With latest internet public participation software, great contest would be moving Amazon’s HQ1’s fantastic bubbles ahead to whatever kind of station covers ST-200.

    Mark Dublin

  2. Also, Martin, I found a “workaround” on the race question. “Hitler would have killed me” would definitely have worked for the Romany (AKA Gypsies) too.

    Mark Dublin

  3. The survey says to pick one or more race options, but only allows me to pick one :(

  4. Might good query be a written statement as to something like: “Short and long-term opportunities I’d like to have?”

    Mark Dublin

  5. It’s hard to take this survey very seriously or consider it useful.

    – Many questions have a key word that is subjectively defined and evokes a “feel good” response in many people.

    – 11 of the 20 values have “and” or “or” In them and that undermines how someone may respond.

    I kind of wish there was a visual preference survey, maybe with video clips! Technology is way beyond text check boxes these days.

    It makes me wonder if the survey’s intent is merely focused on identifying demographics in the outreach method. I can’t see how the preferences listed here will affect decisions much, as this is an ST project and most of the corridor runs through areas already developed (land use decisions belong in City Planning). There isn’t much for SDOT to take the lead to decide — and it kind of feels their feelings are hurt.

    1. +1. I can’t imagine how they’re going to extract useful information from this survey.

      1. They won’t. It’s just for generating “x% of people say” quotes for PR statements.

  6. Where is the SDOT survey on mitigating the West Seattle Bridge closure? I would think that situation should be where the agency should be putting its energy these days. It’s like asking for opinions on a preferred college major when the respondents are third graders in the throes of a major transportation crisis.

  7. “There’s also some demographic information you should fill out, although the survey software is too buggy to allow you to choose more than one race.”

    Yeah, this section is a mess:
    Question 6. “What is your race? Check one or more.”

    Good luck with that.

    Question 7. “Do you or anyone in your household speak any languages other than English at your home?”

    You can check “yes” for yourself or “yes” for another household member or “no” for your entire household, but you cannot check more than one box, i.e., both you and someone else in your household speak more than English. Multilingual households, sorry, you’re SOL.

    Question 8. “Follow up to language question: If so, what language(s)?”

    Like question 6, you cannot check more than one box, regardless of the “s” on “languages” in the question. Also, apparently you have the option of checking “other” or “other (with specificity)”. Lol.

    Question 13. “Including yourself, how many people live in your home?”
    So what exactly is the purpose of the slide bar below the question? Moving it all the way to the right gives a value of 100!!

    Question 16. “Which station(s) are you most likely to use?” Finally, a survey question where you can actually check more than one box if needed. This one must’ve been an afterthought though, appearing at the end of the demographics section as it does. It’s a relevant question of course; it just seems out of place. Perhaps asking for your zip code seemed too intrusive. Of course asking about your household income without giving any ranges, that one they were okay with.

    Who at SDOT actually approved this thing? (RQ) Needless to say, I didn’t submit mine.

    1. agree it’s embarrassingly poorly done. This should have been the first draft and they should have fixed those things. They’re using SurveyMonkey which is free and easy and offers options for multiple choice selection, so there’s no reason for a professional agency to have done so badly just on the technical side of this. That’s leaving aside the utility of the questions themselves. If they didn’t even get the technical issues correct, I highly doubt they gave any thought to designing the questions as a professional poller would have done to actually get at relevant info. Also the question about which stations you are likely to use – have many people even heard of the “midtown” station? I assume that is the former University Street downtown station that just had the big naming debacle last year?

      1. “That’s leaving aside the utility of the questions themselves.”

        Yeah, I didn’t address that issue either in my comment above. I agree; if they can’t get these basic technical things right, it probably doesn’t warrant spending a whole bunch of time and effort analyzing the polling questions themselves as well as the format utilized. It’s pretty much a garbage poll. Next.

  8. Would be much better just to open a website where people could simply write in everything from comments to essays, on the subjects raised.

    In America, where Hitler found the tests after a few decades, multiple-choice itself has got some nasty racist roots. Original purpose being eugenic proof that not only were Jews from southeastern Europe sneakier than the ones from Germany, but, not being Scots, nobody else in Romania could invent the cable-car either.

    Planning session comparing the MacDonalds to Clan Campbell, nobody survived the meeting. But for the racial information that’s really necessary for transit planning, better question might be a few sentences on what you think your skin color or national heritage has deprived you of, and what you need to make up for it.

    And also, either same survey or maybe best its own, communication with students from kindergarten to graduation, hopefully including those whose eighteenth birthday present is a seat in the State Legislature, in the form of their own “take” on what transit will need to get their votes and why.

    Would especially like to see UW, Kirkland Tech, and Evergreen State compete for a PhD. grant in paleontology to determine how many primate species have gone extinct because their brains evolved to flash one of five circles with a squiggle between them and the charging leopard that was actually the hungriest.

    Mark Dublin

    1. I really wish someone would ask a “demographic” question about past transit use:

      Q: Transit familiarity (check all that apply)

      – I am/was raised regularly riding transit (not just as school bus) as a child (under 18).

      – I am/was regularly riding transit as an adult student (18 and over).

      – I regularly have ridden transit to my job for at least ____ years.

      – I sometimes use transit for special events or other occasional reasons.

      – I rarely ride transit.

      Then, I’d really like this same question repeated using the term “urban rail transit” rather than just “transit”.

      I really believe that transit familiarity is a much more relevant personal characteristic than the normal demographic categories. For example, a person raised in New York City is going to have a very different attitude about transit than someone from Walla Walla regardless of ethnicity or gender or age grouping. With so many arrivals from other places, we now have a population rich in varied transit use experience and that wisdom should be informing the process.

  9. Why is race/ethnicity even a question in a transit survey focused on “principles”? Presumably it has to do with representativeness (and is probably a requirement for grants); however, I would think that after the past week we have learned to not assume that people of a certain race/ethnicity have the same opinions.

  10. Brandon, would you agree that really pretty much world-wide, individuals’ lifelong experience can justifiably convince them that they’re missing out on opportunities in residence-choice, employment and education, on account of the backgrounds their parents came from?

    Demanding that planners answer seek out the answers to this question:

    “What can OUR transit system do to help you recover the opportunities you’re missing?” From my own years combining transit driving and community college learning and teaching, tight interrelationship should result in reading as productive for the planners as it is provocative all around.

    For ethnicity, income, and skill-sets, these surveys should strongly treat transit like as much a source of employment as a ride to work. Planning, building and operating it.

    And whatever happens with the 737 MAX, Boeing has also built streetcars before, recently enough to build a Vertol whose electric motors this time don’t suck in filings off the brakes.

    For Lake Washington Tech, Highland, Seattle Central or South Seattle, it’s nowhere written that finished class projects can’t roll off the Shop Floor on Grooved Steel. But when speaking of race, best major focus should be this:

    Metalwork, woodworking, ceramics, machinery, architecture, and every skill imaginable, every single one of them carries thousands of years of the lives and livelihoods of millions of people from all over the planet. My doctor cousin says “DNA”. Being liberal arts, I’d say our trades are In Our BLOOD.

    Which in real tribal society, as the BOOK “Little Big Man” illustrates, means that anybody with the heart and the ferocity can join. Race-mentioning surveys carrying this approach, I’ll certainly apply for the job reading. Movie rights? We can certainly Set it in (well ok, Greater) Seattle.

    Mark Dublin

  11. Under any mention of “Racial”, especially transportation, see if the “Window” will take this one.

    My years in Africa long ago, in addition to trucks, this nationality drove giant steam locomotives. Footage here cold be anywhere along the whole length of I-5.

    Will certainly put a more positive energy into the discussion.

    Mark Dublin

  12. I guess this is how they get the filler data for their power point presentations.

    1. Scott, if this approach to information gathering ever had any use, where it’s long ago gone to, it should be left there in peace.

      One gets the feeling that the people who write things in this format, at their core believe they’re dealing with numbers that through no fault of their own, somehow got careless people attached to them.

      With the audio and video communications available to virtually everybody, what anybody official needs to know, people they’re questioning can simply tell them. With an easily-available phone that’s also a camera.

      Would definitely help to make it the ability to handle survey discussions a high school graduation requirement- though percentage-wise, whole graduating class might already exist. But here’s the hard thing:

      Old saying that “In order to ask a question, you must already know most of the answer. ” Which in turn dictate that our educational system itself must early on give students a working familiarity with grown-up experience.

      Young adult relative of mine gave her daughter several years apprentice-ship, starting late-elementary school, in raising vegetables for a restaurant chain. Have watched her fearlessly put her arms around a chicken two inches taller than herself, lift it, and set the loving creature down across the room.

      For large percentage of the world’s population, this is essentially the learning that our survival mechanism provides us with, from the beginning of our species. Doesn’t the “duc” syllable in the “E” word really mean “to lead?”

      Twelve years’ worth of multiple real-world apprenticeships should be not only what the doctor ordered, but also the electrician, the machine operator, the survey investigator, and the transit driver, running on rubber, steel, and cushioned air.

      Moms and Dad’s, tell me you’ve ever seen a child who does NOT have to be forced to “Get Out Of That Driver’s Seat”, “Leave My Microscope Alone”, or “Get Take That Splint Off That Poor Cat Before You Get Hospitalized!”

      Mark Dublin

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