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Central City survey says 13% commute by bike

Posted by on January 6th, 2009 at 4:13 pm

Graph from survey results on travel mode
into the central city.
Click to enlarge
(Kittelson & Associates, Inc.)

As part of their ongoing Central Portland Plan and the Central Portland Transportation Plan, the City’s Bureau of Transportation commissioned an analysis of parking conditions in the central city.

As part of that work, Kittlelson & Associates, Inc. (the planning firm the city hired), did a survey to find out which travel modes people use to get to the central city. [Note: The boundaries of the “central city” used in this analysis were Johnson/Naito Parkway/Burnside and 15th in the northwest and Burnside/Naito/Jackson and 18th in southwest.]

Their survey found that 13% of the commuters used bicycles to get to work (and 6% of the total trips were made by bike). 35% of the 406 respondents drove to work alone, followed by 30% who said they take public transit. 11% said they walk to work.

According to Kittelson’s report (available here), the survey was handed out at nine different locations throughout the study area between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. over the course of five weeks (the report was published in November, so I assume the survey was done in late summer-fall).

It’s also important to note this blurb from the report:

“These surveys do not reflect a statistical representation of the Central City community; rather they provide a “snapshot” perspective from a cross section of the public.”

Even so, surveys like this are always interesting to see. In addition to asking about travel modes, the survey also asked about the reason for the trip. Here are those results:

It was neat to see that both drivers and walkers/bikers listed “convenience” as their top reason for choosing their respective mode.

Compare this report to an annual survey done by the downtown-based Portland Business Alliance. Back in June, I reported that their survey showed a bike commute mode share of 6% in 2007.

For more on this latest central city commuting survey, download the survey results and more at the Central City Parking Analysis website.

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  • bahueh January 6, 2009 at 5:03 pm

    13% of survey respondents commute by bike…that number is suspect and inflated.
    13% of 406 people who took the survey = 53 people. Generalizing that prevalence to the entire’s city population is spurious at best.

    is it encouraging? I guess. those numbers should not be thrown around as fact however in any larger context…although undoubtably they will be handled and discussed that way.

    if 13% of PDX’s 576,000 residents biked…we’re looking at 74,880 people bike commuting…

    oh nevermind…too much free time at work today…

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  • Malex January 6, 2009 at 5:07 pm

    I saw a survey that I think was this one at my workplace. As I remember, you would get a free Zipcar membership if you did it. I think Zipcar memberships are more attractive to people without cars (or families with relatively few cars). Those same people are more likely to walk, bike, or use transit. This could be a bias.

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  • Michael M. January 6, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    Hmm, I got asked questions just like these by a surveyor downtown (just south of Pioneer Square) in late summer, but it wasn’t a survey I had to fill out. He asked questions, I answered and he filled out the forms. Still, it sounds like the same survey — it was very “parking” focused. I remember questions about how much of a role traffic/parking considerations played in my decision not to drive. A lot of the questions seemed not applicable to me since I don’t own a car, but he was keen to get my input anyway.

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  • April January 6, 2009 at 5:45 pm

    Cost was the biggest reason I stopped driving eight years ago–I was working part-time retail. I was living in Aloha and didn’t have a bike (the idea never even occured to me!) and between the bus and walking it took *forever* to get anywhere.

    Many reasons contribute to my continuing to be a cyclist, more than two years after I started.

    But convenience is definitely near the top of the list. It is so much faster to bike everywhere (especially when combined with tri-met for longer trips) than to just ride tri-met.

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  • the future January 6, 2009 at 6:02 pm

    the ‘other’ 1% refers to people who commute by pogo stick, hovercraft, magic carpet, elephant (or similar quadraped), rickshaw, catapult (or cannon), jetpack, parachute, teleportation, roller skates (not rollerblades), gyrocopter, or zipline including a combination of several or all of the above.

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  • Bjorn January 6, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    #1 I don’t think anyone said the survey was representative of the whole city, the article was pretty clear that it was focused on the central city, which is close to what a lot of us would call downtown… I hate driving/parking downtown and therefore am probably most likely to bike when my trip will take me to that area. Personally I find it surprising that the percentage of driving was so high in that part of town.

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  • matt picio January 6, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    bahueh (#1) – Generalizing it would be inappropriate anyway, since the survey is only meant to measure the “central city”, which doesn’t resemble the city as a whole at all. The central city should have inflated bike, ped and transit numbers, since most trip destinations for central city residents are conveniently accessible via all three of those modes.

    Bjorn (#6) – Many who live downtown and own cars are inclined to use them because they view leaving the car in a $100+ per month parking space as a waste of money. (a monthly parking space downtown typically runs $140 to $170 per month, and many apartments have parking spaces as a separate fee or built into and inflating the cost of rent)

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  • Zaphod January 6, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    I know of a strong healthy recreational cyclist Seattle-ite who drove the 1.5 miles to work because he paid $170 or so for his office space at work. This person is otherwise brilliant. At 10mph on a bike, which is the cardio equivalent to walking, we’re talking about 9 minutes.

    I’m often quite perplexed by people’s rationalizations for driving.

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  • Matthew Denton January 6, 2009 at 11:27 pm

    The other thing, guys standing on street corners are only going to hit certain segments of the population. People that park in the building they work in, for instance, will never see them. People like me that have grown tired of saving the children have learned to spot people with clipboards hanging out on street corners a block away, and will cross the street. (Seriously, there can be two people fighting on the sidewalk, and I’ll walk by, but if a children international guy is standing their with a clipboard, I’ll cross Burnside midblock to avoid them… And is there some charity that gives birth control to third world women? I’ll give money to that.)

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  • Mobility scooter January 7, 2009 at 1:09 am

    The stats are somewhat surprising in Portland, I was reading somewhere that people prefer to commute on bikes due to high gas prices(of course now the gas prices are down).

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  • ambrown January 7, 2009 at 3:01 am

    Sure would be cool to find out where the surveyed people live. It’d be interesting to see if residents from the outer stretches of beaverton/lake oswego likely make up a larger percentage of the driving segment, and where the bus or bikers were originally coming from.

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  • JR January 7, 2009 at 6:44 am

    Interesting to see reasons for the transportation choices. Clearly, parking costs are a factor and give transit a clear advantage over autos. I’m surprised time was not a top three factor for bicycle commuters since I can save time over driving or taking transit, but i suppose I’ve always chosen to live close-in to get that advantage. So if time isn’t a top three factor, maybe the respondents are coming from places further out?

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  • El Biciclero January 7, 2009 at 10:25 am

    It is interesting that 13% “used bikes to get to work” yet 6% of “total trips” were by bike. This suggests that either the 13% of bike users were occasional bike commuters who used other modes on some days, or there were tons of trips to the city center that weren’t commutes to work. Either way, it doesn’t sound too outrageous, especially since other surveys/traffic monitoring have confirmed the 6% bike mode share.

    Not to imply that the sample used in this survey was large or random enough to be truly accurate…

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  • Steve Hoyt-McBeth January 7, 2009 at 11:02 am

    For a comparison, the Portland Business Alliance Survey surveys its Central City members annually.

    The bike commute mode shift for 2007 was 6% (page 11):

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) January 7, 2009 at 11:11 am

    thanks for the reminder Steve. I updated the story to include that information.

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  • Skeptical January 7, 2009 at 1:37 pm

    El Biciclero, you spotted the same thing I did and have been complaining about: there are lots of non-commute trips (shopping, entertainment, dining) and they have a much lower bicycling useage than the work trips. And, yes, there are “tons of trips to the city center that are not work trips.” But, I think the 6 percent you cite from other studies also reports on commute trips, not total trips.

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  • Maculsay January 7, 2009 at 8:09 pm

    Just ride.

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  • BURR January 8, 2009 at 6:43 am

    Steve – the Portland Business Alliance is still clueless (and has been for years) when it comes to bikes and bicycling, the City really needs to work on educating them better.

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  • BURR January 8, 2009 at 6:43 am

    Steve – the Portland Business Alliance is still clueless (and has been for years) when it comes to bikes and bicycling, the City really needs to work on educating them better.

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  • Good point Steve January 8, 2009 at 12:24 pm

    If the PBA survey is to be believed, and if it is truly and accurate representative sample of mode share by commuters, AND if the downtown area represents the part of Portland that receives the highest percentage of commute trips made by bicycle, than the 6% figure would represent the maximum the bicycle commute share is in Portland. And I suspect that all of the above are likely to be true. This would mean that the true bike mode share (for commute trips) in Portland (city-wide) is almost assuredly less than 6%. A range of 3-5 percent would seem to be quite reasonable, depending on time of year.

    Therefore, data showing bike mode share greater than 6% is just not to be believed (at least not with a straight face).

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