Well, it's been a long summer. We introduced our three concepts to the public in June, launched our online survey in July, held eight public meetings in July and August and spent four days surveying at the Transfer Plaza Downtown. We had great community partners go out to various places and events to spread the word about our meetings and to survey the public about our concepts. And we had numerous media outlets explain our concepts including articles in the Times-Dispatch, Richmond Magazine, the Free Press and on WCVE Radio.
Phase 1 Survey Results
Now we have our results. Let's start with our Phase 1 survey results. In April and May we surveyed riders on the bus and the general public about their desire for change and in what direction. A key question we asked the 2,000 riders we surveyed was how to balance walking versus waiting. As we've previously discussed, you can't minimize both within a fixed transit budget.
As shown below, nearly 47% of current bus riders (over 2,000 surveyed) considered a shorter wait as more important, 30% felt they were equally important and 23% considered a shorter walk more important. This would suggest that we should shift toward a higher frequency and higher ridership focused system.
Similarly, we asked our stakeholder committee about their preference for how the city should spend its transit budget, more on ridership and frequency or more on coverage. The current system is about 50% of each. At the time, the median response of our stakeholder committee was at 70% Ridership and 30% Coverage.
The Three Concepts
Of course, these are very abstract ideas, so we developed our three concepts. Our three concepts represent a spectrum of choices in a number of ways:
- The Familiar Concept represented the least change from today's existing system. It maintains the existing 50%-50% split between Ridership and Coverage goals and maintains today's existing bus stop spacing.
- The High Coverage Concept represents change in the direction of higher coverage but with wider stop spacing. It maintains the existing 50%-50% split between Ridership and Coverage goals but assumes that we space stops farther apart, about every three blocks. It also includes many changes in the way routes connect across the city.
- The High Coverage Concept represents change in the direction of higher ridership and higher frequency along with wider stop spacing. It shifts the way resources are spent to 80% Ridership and 20% Coverage and assumes that we space stops farther apart, about every three blocks. It also includes many changes in the way routes connect across the city.
Phase 2 Survey Results
We asked people to rate our concepts through online and paper surveys. 893 people responded to our survey. The age, race and income profile of our respondents is not far from the general population of Richmond. On age, 2% of our respondents were under 18, 34% of were 18-35 years old, 55% were 35-64 and 9% were over 65.
On race and ethnicity, 33% of our respondents identified as African American or Black, 44% identified as White, 5% identified as some other race or ethnicity and 18% provided no race or ethnic background. By comparison, 2014 Census data indicates that the population of Richmond is about 49% African American or Black, 40% White and 4% Hispanic and 7% other.
On income, 22% of our respondents earn less than $10,000 a year, 22% of our respondents earn between $10,000 and $40,000, 24% earn between $40,000 and $80,000 and 25% earn over $80,000, while 7% did not respond to the income question. Median household income in the city in 2014 is $41,331 and about half of our respondents earn less than the median and about half earn more than the median.
So how did people like the three concepts? In our survey we asked people to rate each concept from between 1 and 5 stars, with one star meaning you disliked the concept and 5 stars meaning you liked it a lot.
Most people were lukewarm about the Familiar Concept. It received mostly 1, 2 or 3 star ratings and an average rating of 2.51.
On average people rated the High Coverage Concept better with mostly 3 and 4 star ratings and an average of 3.16.
Overall, most people responded most positively to the High Ridership Concept which received mostly 3, 4 and 5 star ratings and an average rating of 3.78.
These results suggest that overall people want change and that they generally want change in the direction of higher ridership and higher frequency.
We also specifically asked people about bus stop spacing. Since the High Coverage and High Ridership Concepts assumed that bus stops would be spaced farther apart, we asked whether people wanted to change stop spacing.
We asked if they wanted to keep stop spacing like it is today (about every block), spread them out to every 2nd block or spread them farther apart to every 3rd block.
Respondents strongly favored wider stop spacing, with nearly 62% saying every 3 blocks and 30% saying every 2 blocks.
Mapping the Results to the Policy Choices
As we said when we introduced our concepts, the choice here is not between just these three concepts, but is instead in space between all three. Actually, there are 12 options and our three concepts frame the points of a triangle that show the range of those options. So below we have created a visual of the various combinations of policy options. And we have mapped the survey responses within the boxes of the triangle to show how responses fit within these policy options.
The Familiar Concept is at the top left of the triangle, which represents the least change from today in stop spacing and in shifting the Ridership vs Coverage (50%/50%) focus of the bus system.
The High Coverage Concept is at the bottom left of the triangle and represents the most change in stop spacing but the least change in the Ridership vs Coverage (50%/50%) focus of the system.
The High Ridership Concept is at the bottom right of the triangle and it represents the most change in stop spacing and the most change in the Ridership vs Coverage (80%/20%) focus of the system. The other boxes in the triangle represent other options between these concepts, such as 60% Ridership/40% Coverage and 2 block stop spacing.
The plurality of responses (39%) map to a place of 70% Ridership and 3 block stop spacing. The second largest group (21%) maps to 70% Ridership and 2 block spacing. The third largest group (10%) maps to 80% Ridership and 3 block spacing. The fourth largest group (8%) map to 60% Ridership and 3 block spacing. Seventy-eight percent of respondents fall within one of these four groups.
We asked our stakeholder committee to respond to the same survey and mapped their results. Their responses map similarly to the public responses, but with a stronger inclination toward ridership. The largest group maps to 70% Ridership and 3 block spacing and the second largest to 80% Ridership and 3 block spacing.
Based on these results, the City staff and administration has recommended to City Council that approximately 70% of resources for transit in the city should be put toward service that maximizes ridership and 30% of resources should be put toward covering other areas of the city with low ridership potential.
In addition, the City staff and administration have recommended that stops be spaced on average every three blocks in walkable areas with high ridership potential. A more detailed stop spacing policy will be developed to clarify the preferred stop spacing distance and where and how it should be applied.
City Council is expected to review and consider these policy recommendations in November and December. In the meantime, the study team will begin development of a recommended network that reflects the final, approved policy direction from the City. We expect to release the Draft Recommended Network in January 2017.