Improving transit for the University and beyond

Metro bus at campus stop.

By Douglas Esser
King County Metro is using a survey and research by University of Washington Bothell students to help plan service improvements for the University and the Bothell-Woodinville area.

A multiple course community-based research project was conducted over winter quarter by students in Santiago Lopez’s GIS 442 Advanced GIS and Shauna Carlisle’s independent study classes with help from students in two of Kari Lerum’s BIS 312 Approaches to Social Research course.

Through this cross-disciplinary collaboration, students learned about social research by designing and carrying out the survey of Bothell and Woodinville residents. The survey asked about possible transit options, such as a shuttle, ride-sharing or van-sharing, possibly with volunteer drivers, and incentives such as reserved park-and-ride parking.

Students analyzed results with Geographic Information Systems technology. They offered their findings at end-of-quarter presentations in early March to city and Metro officials, said Kara Adams, interim director, Community-Based Learning and Research.

Yulia Kit, a sophomore in health studies, says she started the project with very little to no knowledge about the Metro transportation system.

“After analyzing the results from the survey, I feel like I got to understand a lot more about the way that the Metro transportation system works," Kit said. "I really enjoyed getting to see the actual numbers from the survey and having the responsibility of reporting the results to King County.”

Kit was surprised by survey results that showed a high income for many bus riders.

Using cost-distance analysis, the students found that downtown Bothell and Woodinville have relatively good walking accessibility to the Metro network. Among the most-trafficked areas were the Woodinville tourism district, Bothell Park and Ride and Canyon Park. Students found residential neighborhoods west of Bothell and south of Woodinville could benefit from additional services.

It was also interesting that most people were either somewhat satisfied with the Metro system or somewhat dissatisfied, said student researcher Kit. There were no extreme results.

“I expected people to be very opinionated and either love or hate the Metro transportation system,” she said.

The student survey supported ideas that the city and Metro are considering for alternative methods of transportation in the Bothell area, said Peter Troedsson, Bothell assistant city manager.

“It’s all still in the planning stages but one of the alternative services is a community van,” that would loop between the university and downtown, he said.

Three other alternatives are real-time ridesharing through a smart phone app; VanShare, which transports people from their home to a transit center; and TripPool, which typically carries the same group of people on a regular schedule from their homes to a park and ride or transit center.

“We’re eagerly looking forward to the prospect of establishing a transportation link between the University and the town center, and further on to Woodinville and surrounding areas,” Troedsson said. “This is a chance to further strengthen the ties between the city and the University, as well as to help mitigate some of the congestion in the downtown area.  We’re very appreciative of King County Metro’s efforts to develop alternative transportation services in the area.”

Metro is analyzing the survey findings and says it appreciates the student help.

“UW Bothell’s Community-Based Learning and Research program is a great example of integrating the classroom into the community,” said Dan Anderson with the King County Department of Transportation. “We’re grateful for the work the students contributed to the project and for the university’s engagement.”

Students provided important local insights into travel patterns and needs, Anderson said.

“The students asked good questions, raised important issues and brought their experiences to the process.”