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2019 Mode Split Study Report

Methodology

This presentation highlights the results from two studies of commuters to Commute Seattle’s defined Center City neighborhoods in Downtown Seattle.

Commute Trip Reduction (CTR) Affected Commuter Survey
  • Conducted with employees at statewide CTR-affected worksites; results filtered to only include Center City area worksites.
  • Number of interviews (n)=58,953.
  • Includes large CTR-affected worksites with 100 or more employees.
  • Data primarily collected during the 2019-2020 Fall survey cycle, including 2017-2018 survey cycle data for worksites which had not yet participated in the current cycle.
  • Survey administered as a print and online survey.
Non-affected Commuter Mode Split Survey
  • Conducted with employees at Non-affected worksites in Center City neighborhood.
  • Transportation Management Planning (TMP) participating properties were sampled similarly to the 2019 CTR survey effort. In previous years, TMP worksites were randomly sampled and included as part of the Non-affected survey effort. For comparison purposes, the TMP and other Non-affected results will continue to be reported together.
  • Non-affected worksites data collected between October 28th and November 27th, 2019 and reflects commute data between October 21st and November 22nd .
  • Number of Non-affected interviews excluding TMP (n)=2,069
  • Number of TMP interviews (n)=4,518 • Includes both small and medium-size worksites (1-99 employees) and larger worksites (100+) that are not affected by WSDOT’s CTR program.
  • A full Center City business list and estimated worksite population counts were provided by InfoUSA. A random sample of worksites was pulled to approximate the estimated proportions of neighborhood commuter populations and worksite sizes. Each sampled worksite was contacted to identify and screen a survey coordinator, who was then recruited to administer the surveys to all employees at their respective worksites.
  • Administered as an online and print survey, with telephone interviewing (for smaller 1-4 worksites).

Caveats

➢Geography boundary changes

To more closely align with current demarcations of Downtown Seattle neighborhoods, the survey geography boundaries have been revised between 2017 and 2019. The changes have been highlighted in the accompanying map. (blue=added in 2019; red=removed in 2019; no color=unchanged)

➢Transportation Management Program (TMP) property sampling

Although included in the random sample of Non-affected worksites in previous years, worksites from several dozen TMP properties were not sampled as part of the Non-affected mode split survey effort in 2019. Instead, they were interviewed in tandem with the CTR data collection. The final data for these properties has been included as part of the Non-affected results highlighted in this report.

➢Downtown Construction Projects (“Seattle Squeeze”)

  • Various large scale SDOT and WSDOT transportation construction projects under way in Downtown Seattle throughout the CTR data collection period, most notably the opening of the Highway 99 Tunnel and closure and demolition of the viaduct. Tunnel tolling started in the middle of Non-affected data collection.

➢ Weather

  • Daily high temperatures ranged from the low 40s to the upper 60s during the Non-affected survey period.
  • There was about 2 inches of rain throughout the three-week Non-affected survey period.

➢Gas prices

  • On average, there was $0.49 per gallon increase in gas prices in 2019 ($3.49/gallon) compared to 2017 ($3.00).

➢Sports events

  • One weekday Sounders match took place during the Non-affected data collection period, on Wednesday 10/23.

➢Economy

  • A strong regional economy contributed to high ridership downtown.

➢COVID-19

  • Since commuter data collection took place in Fall 2019, this report does not reflect the potential impacts the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) may have on commuting or telecommuting trends more recently.

Center City Neighborhoods

A map of the overall Center City and its neighborhood subareas are shown in the map below:

% of Respondents commuting to each neighborhood: Commercial Core 38%, South Lake Union 14%, First Hill 12%, Denny Triangle 11%, Belltown 11%, 5% Pioneer Square, Uptown 4%, Chinatown-International District 4%, Pike/Pine 2%, Capitol Hill 1%

Nine Year (2010–2019) Survey Results Weekday Peak Commuters

The following results reflect the CTR-affected and Non-affected respondents who started work between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. on at least one weekday (Monday-Friday) during the survey period. Those who did not start work between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. on a weekday have been omitted.

Weekday Mode Share – Trend

The overall SOV share of weekday commute trips in 2019 (26%) remains consistent with 2017 (25%) and is significantly lower than 2010 (35%). The reported share of transit trips has slightly dropped following its peak in 2017, corresponding with a leveling off of new ridership following 2016’s U-Link expansion. The reported share of non-commute trips – including telecommuting and compressed workweek days off – has nearly doubled over the last couple of years.

Q1. Last week, what type of transportation did you use each day to commute to your usual work location?

Mode Shift – CTR-Affected vs. Non Affected

Over the last several years, Non-affected commuters have seen greater shifts in their commute mode usage than CTR-affected commuters, who have remained relatively consistent. Non-affected commuters have typically driven alone at a higher rate but their 2019 transit and SOV weekday peak trip shares have nearly rebounded to pre-2017 levels. The share of public transit trips is now comparable between both commuter groups.

Q1. Last week, what type of transportation did you use each day to commute to your usual work location?

Overall Mode Share – 2010 to 2019 Trend

Between 2010 and 2019, the single-occupancy vehicle (SOV) trip share has dropped (-8 points), with a bulk of the gains shifting towards transit (+3.5 points), which now makes up a near majority (45.8%) of weekday peak trips to Center City, and non-trips, including working remotely (+2.8 points). Since 2010, the share of walking commute trips has increased slightly (+1.4 points) and the proportion of rideshare (carpool and vanpool) trips has remained almost unchanged.

Q1. Last week, what type of transportation did you use each day to commute to your usual work location? 

Weekday Mode Share – 2010 to 2019 Trend by Survey Type

Since 2010, the share of weekday peak transit trips has increased significantly among non-affected commuters (+17 points). The walking mode split has doubled for CTR-affected commuters since 2010, aided by growth in residential development near major worksites.

Q1. Last week, what type of transportation did you use each day to commute to your usual work location?

Detailed Mode Share – 2019 Overall

Among the specific mode share comparisons, bus trips make up a large plurality (34.9%) of weekday peak commute trips to Center City, followed by a quarter (25.9%) of drive alone (non-motorcycle) trips. Additionally, train/rail (8.5%), carpool (8.1%), walking (7.3%), and telecommuting (5.7%) round out the most frequently-used commute modes in 2019.

Q1. Last week, what type of transportation did you use each day to commute to your usual work location?

Relative Change in Weekday Mode Share

From 2010 to 2019, Telecommuting (+113%) and train/rail (+98%) trip have seen the greatest increases in reported weekday peak mode share.

Q1. Last week, what type of transportation did you use each day to commute to your usual work location? 

Detailed Mode Share – Nine-Year Comparison

Q1. Last week, what type of transportation did you use each day to commute to your usual work location? 

Mode Share at Least 1X a Week

Weekday peak commuters who telecommute or take rail into Center City are generally making longer commutes than those taking other modes.

Q5. Thinking about your one way commute from home to your usual work location, including miles for errands or stops made on the way to work, how many miles do you commute?

2019 Subgroup Comparisons Weekday Peak Commuters

The following results reflect the CTR-affected and Non-affected respondents who started work between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. on at least one weekday (Monday-Friday) during the survey period. Those who did not start work between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m. on a weekday have been omitted.

Weekday Mode Share by Worksite Size

Center City commuters who work at smaller worksites (1-19 employees) still make a larger share of SOV trips than those who work at medium (20-99) and larger (100+) worksites, who are more likely to take bus, rail, or bike instead.

Q1. Last week, what type of transportation did you use each day to commute to your usual work location?

Weekday Mode Share by Worksite Size

Since 2010, weekday peak commuters to all sizes of worksites have reduced their share of drive alone commute trips. The mode splits among commuters to smaller and medium worksites have shifted the most since 2010. They now take transit for a greater share of trips than SOV.

Q1. Last week, what type of transportation did you use each day to commute to your usual work location? 

Neighborhood Mode Share – CTR-Affected

CTR-affected commuters use a broad mix of SOV-alternatives for their trips to each Downtown neighborhood. Those commuting to SLU (20% walk or bike), Denny Triangle (15%), and Uptown (13%) make the highest share of their trips by walking or biking. CTR commuters to Uptown report telecommuting for nearly 1-in-5 weekday peak trips.

Q1. Last week, what type of transportation did you use each day to commute to your usual work location? 

Weekday Mode Share by Neighborhood – CTR-Affected

Between 2012 and 2019, the weekday peak mode share has grown slightly more diverse for CTR-affected commute trips and the shares of walk and telecommuting have increased. This is especially pronounced in the northern Center City neighborhoods, where the SOV share has dropped significantly for SLU, Uptown, and Denny. The share of walk trips have more than doubled to SLU and telecommuting has tripled to Uptown.

Q1. Last week, what type of transportation did you use each day to commute to your usual work location? 

Weekday Mode Share by Neighborhood – CTR-Affected

Relative to the areas to the north, the traditionally dense western neighborhoods have maintained relatively consistent mode splits from 2012 to 2019. They have all seen notable increases in their shares of telecommuting but the SOV and transit trip share to these areas have remained comparable to 2012.

Q1. Last week, what type of transportation did you use each day to commute to your usual work location? 

Weekday Mode Share by Neighborhood – CTR-Affected

The mode splits to Chinatown/ID and First Hill have remained relatively unchanged since 2012. The transit share has increased considerably to Capitol Hill/Pike-Pine (27→37%), coinciding with the opening of Link light rail to the area and the larger number of CTR-affected commuters to the neighborhood in 2019.

Q1. Last week, what type of transportation did you use each day to commute to your usual work location?

SOV Share by Neighborhood – CTR-Affected

Since 2012, the share of SOV trips dropped significantly for weekday peak commuters to South Lake Union (-14 points), Uptown (-11), and Denny (9). SOV rates are slightly lower for Commercial Core (-2), Belltown (-4), and Capitol Hill/Pike Pine (-2) CTR commuters, and unchanged for those in First Hill, Chinatown/ID, and Pioneer Square.

Q1. Last week, what type of transportation did you use each day to commute to your usual work location? 

Home Geographies Map

Q6. What is the 5-digit zip code where you live?

Mode Share by Commute Origin

Transit usage represents the plurality of weekday peak trips for commuters in all major Puget Sound regions, including a strong majority of trips from Pierce County and Kitsap/Island Counties. SOV and carpool/vanpool trip shares are highest among commuters from East King, South King, and Snohomish County

Q1. Last week, what type of transportation did you use each day to commute to your usual work location? 

Commute Distance

Employees at CTR-affected worksites are making slightly longer commutes (13.4 miles on average) than those at smaller, non-affected worksites (11.5) during weekday peak hours.

Q5. Thinking about your one way commute from home to your usual work location, including miles for errands or stops made on the way to work, how many miles do you commute?

Average Miles to Work by Commute Mode

Weekday peak commuters who telecommute or take rail into Center City are generally making longer commutes than those taking other modes.

Q5. Thinking about your one way commute from home to your usual work location, including miles for errands or stops made on the way to work, how many miles do you commute?

Average Miles by Destination Neighborhood

Those in Pioneer Square have the longest commute by distance, while none have an average commute of less than 10 miles.

Q5. Thinking about your one way commute from home to your usual work location, including miles for errands or stops made on the way to work, how many miles do you commute?

Impact of Transportation Changes on Commuters

Among Non-affected worksites, a quarter of weekday peak time respondents report having their commutes impacted by recent transportation changes. Of those impacted, over a third (37%) took transit more often, whereas only one-in-five (21%) drove alone more often.

Q7 – Q8 *Examples include the SR-99 viaduct closure/demolition, transit service and route changes, or roadway construction and congestion in the city

Multi-modal Commuter Segmentation

Nearly two thirds (64%) of weekday peak time commuters report taking a single mode every day, while another third (30%) use two different modes. Among those who use SOV three or more times per week, half telecommute and a quarter use transit for their other trips..

 

Summary of Findings

➢Commuters use an increasingly diverse mix of travel modes for their weekday peak trips to Seattle Center City. The commute mode split looks increasingly similar for people commuting to Non-CTR affected worksites as it does for those commuting to larger CTR-affected worksites.

➢People commuting to Seattle Center City report using public transit for nearly half (45.8%) of their weekday peak commute trips, including bus (34.9%), train/rail (8.5%), and walk-on ferry (2.4%). In particular, the share of rail modes – including Link Light Rail, Sounder trains, and streetcar – has grown significantly since 2010 (4.3%→ 8.5%) and has likely stabilized in the years since 2016’s major Link service expansions.

➢In 2019, those commuting to Center City report driving alone for about a quarter (26%) of their weekday peak trips. The Single Occupancy Vehicle (SOV) share has fallen since the beginning of the decade (-8 points since 2010) and has remained consistent over the last couple of years.

➢During weekday peak hours, the share of walking (7.3%) and bike (3.4%) commute trips combine for about 1-in-10 trips to Center City worksites. These shares are highest among commuters to larger worksites in South Lake Union, Denny Triangle, and Uptown, which likely reflects the influx of residential and commercial development around those neighborhoods in the last few years.

➢Although representing a small share of the Center City mode split, the share of non-commute trips by telecommuting have increased significantly from 2010 (2.7%) to 2019 (5.7%).

Appendix

The slides in this section are reflective of all survey respondents, regardless of the days or times they commute to Center City

Weighting
Non-affected Response Rates

Brian Vines brian@emcresearch.com 206.204.8034 Basak Filiz basak@emcresearch.com 206.204.8039 Ayse Toksoz ayse@emcresearch.com 206.204.8047

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