Study shows Bellevue residents may prefer expanded bus service to the construction of Sound Transit East Link
Bellevue residents are more likely than non-residents who work in Bellevue to prefer expanded bus service to light rail, according to recent findings by Hebert Research.
Bellevue, WA. – A study commissioned by Fast Forward Eastside found that Bellevue residents are more likely than non-residents who work in Bellevue to prefer expanded bus service to light rail, according to recent findings by Hebert Research.
Between Sept. 19 and Oct. 12 Hebert Research interviewed 611 individuals – 417 Bellevue residents and 194 non-residents who work in Bellevue.
The research found that 50.1% of Bellevue residents responding would prefer an expanded bus system in place of light rail if the bus system could be made available for 50% of the costs of building and operating the East Link light rail route. In comparison, 41.2% of 194 non-residents surveyed indicated the same preference.
The city of Bellevue is negotiating with Sound Transit to cover the $276 million cost of a tunnel to run through downtown Bellevue. The tunnel is part of the East Link route, a Sound Transit project projected to cost $2.6 billion and to require up to eight years to complete.
The focus of Hebert Research was to determine the impact of construction of the Sound Transit East Link project on business revenue, operations and consumer behavior.
The research was commissioned by Fast Forward Eastside, a pro-transit forum founded by Alex Smith, an Eastside property owner and CEO of Kaye-Smith Enterprises.
In other findings, the research showed non-residents are more likely to use the East Link rail once it’s operable. While 41.5% of non-residents reported a high likelihood to use East Link, a similar percentage of Bellevue residents (44.5%) reported a low likelihood to use East Link.
The research found that, in general, non-residents who work in Bellevue also use buses more frequently. More than half (56.6%) ride buses at least once per month, compared to 30.2% of residents responding.
People who reported they are likely to support construction of East Link or likely to use it once operable were not as likely to prefer expanded bus service. “It’s not surprising to hear that fans of East Link may not be willing to switch to a bus option,” Smith noted. “But our research also found that bus improvements can change how people view their transportation choices. ”
When asked if they would ride the bus more frequently if more direct bus routes to different parts of the region were provided, 58.5% percent of residents and 60.3% of non-residents said yes.
Likewise, more than half of residents (52.5%) are aware of Rapid Ride, the high-capacity buses operated by Metro Transit on accelerated timetables. (The B Line serving Bellevue to Redmond opened Oct. 1.)
When asked if they would prefer a system similar to Rapid Ride in place of East Link, residents were evenly split (41% each), with 18% answering “don’t know/refused.”
Smith noted Rapid Ride is still fairly new, yet he said it has the opportunity to prove itself among riders looking for smoother, faster transportation in heavily traveled corridors. “It’s important that we examine thoroughly all the options available to us before settling on a very expensive solution to address our traffic congestion problems on the Eastside,” Smith said.
The research showed more non-residents than residents (53.6% vs. 45.1%) believe the East Link was designed for residents of the Eastside.
And when asked about the tax increase they are willing to incur to pay for a tunnel in downtown Bellevue, nearly half of residents (49.5%) said they are not willing to pay a tax increase. One in four residents surveyed (26.1%) said they would be willing to pay a tax increase of up to 2%.
Bellevue residents also are more likely to prefer a shorter construction time. More than half of residents surveyed (51.6%) vs. 39.7% of non-residents said they would prefer an expanded bus service to light rail if it was made available in a shorter time frame than East Link light rail.Fast Forward Eastside has posted a summary of the research on its website:
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