Next time you visit Pike Place Market and pass the selfie-snapping hordes in front of the “original” Starbucks — locals know it’s not really the coffee giant’s first location — instead of rolling your eyes, consider this:
According to a new survey, tourists spend on average $195 per day during their visit to downtown Seattle.
An intercept survey is pretty much what it sounds like: Interviewers simply stop people on the street to ask them questions. The interviewers were stationed on six busy corners spread out around Seattle’s Central Business District. They worked different times of the day and on both weekdays and weekends. The survey was conducted between May 10th and June 4th.
Most of the people out and about in downtown Seattle don’t live there, according to the data. Only one out of five respondents said they are downtown residents. More than one-third said they were downtown because it’s their place of work.
One of the striking findings of the survey is just how few people drive alone to get to downtown, no matter what their reason for going — a mere 8 percent. Nearly half of respondents took some form of public transit, and one-quarter got there by foot or on bicycle. One reason the pedestrian numbers are so high is that many out-of-town visitors stay in hotels, making downtown accessible by foot.
The survey data show that while people who drive downtown spend the most per person on average, their total numbers are so small that they’re easily outspent by transit users and pedestrians.
Interestingly, nobody spends less in a typical day downtown than people who commute via personal vehicle — just $7.51, on average. That’s maybe a grande latte and doughnut, and then back in the car to go home. Downtown workers who take transit are much more likely to enjoy the neighborhood, going shopping or out to eat, or catching a movie. Their average spending downtown is more than triple that of the car commuters at $26.36.
“The transit customer in total spends more than anybody,” Hopkins said. “This is useful information for business owners to understand where their business is coming from.”
He also points out that growth in downtown visits is primarily going to come from transit, not cars, so it’s critical that we create inviting public spaces downtown for folks arriving by transit. While we have a nice new fleet of Metro buses and spiffy light-rail trains, the visitor experience can take a turn for the worse once they get on the street.
Hopkins notes that at light rail’s Westlake station, riders exit at a downtown intersection notorious for drug dealing and other crime.
“Imagine somebody getting off light rail at Third and Pine,” Hopkins said. “There’s some work to be done to make those spaces inviting.”
More than half of survey respondents said they were downtown primarily for one of three reasons: Work, shopping or sightseeing. But a long list of responses to that question were tallied, from nightclubbing to doctor’s visits to workout sessions at a gym.
Amusingly, when asked about their reason for being downtown, 1 percent of respondents — that’s about seven or eight people — said they were, well, not sure.