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Jarrett at HumanTransit.org


Alon Levy


Jarrett at HumanTransit.org


Jarrett at HumanTransit.org





Here is another question that is more of a challenge.

Typically transit agencies have a walking distance standard saying something to the effect that a certain percentage (85%, 95%, 100%) of addresses (residents, etc.) must be within a certain distance of a bus stop (400 m, 500 m, 5-minute walk).

What if, by restructuring the routes, you found that there were more areas of the city that exceeded this standard, but that it freed up buses that could then be applied to other routes to improve service and hopefully attract riders? Note that this is not necessarily a question to be asked as a budget-saving measure. This could be a case of a suburban area with lower-frequency service, and is it better to have east-west routes at 750-metre spacing running every 30 minutes or at 1.5-km spacing running every 15 minutes?

Much would rely on the context, such as ridership on the various corridors, surrounding land uses and densities, the network design and available connections, etc., but I would tend to lean more toward accomplishing more with less.

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

Basic rule is:  People will walk further to better service.  (But if you propose to move their service further away due to this rule, they'll yell at you first.)


A related question, thinking about some of the bus routes in Portland, and about the proposed serpentine LRT in Southern Maryland that you blog about in a separate post.

What, in general, do you think about serpentine bus lines, which make numerous deviations from a straight course to provide at-the-door service to destinations which are along some corridor, but at a slight distance away from the corridor's center? It seems to me if you make the route straight, you can improve service by two ways--a) the time to traverse the route is shorter, which enables b) headways to be improved for the same amount of money. (Or the operator to save money).

Jarrett at HumanTransit.org

Scotty, my point in the Maryland post is that once you've put all the destinations just a little bit off the corridor, you've made the corridor marginal for any kind of transit.  If you're going to do it all with one line, the deviation that such geography requires is just death on through-ridership.  Actually the deviation-penalty works much like the waiting penalty.  People are more content when they're moving toward their destination.  Both waiting and deviation defeat that desire, so people become more impatient, so they perceive the time as longer.

Alon Levy

Brett, 1.5 km spacing is very wide for a bus. Most subways average 1.2 km, most bus systems much less.

Besides, the only way to double frequency is to halve the run time. Doubling the station spacing isn't enough for that. When you start with 750 meters, there may not be any way of halving the run time at all.


Ah, a thread where I can cheaply plug an effort that I am doing on MetroRiderLA.

I like to run a series called Open Source Transit, where a transit user would employ methods similar to planners to create services that would be better for the end user.

My newest series is for LADOT.

LADOT, which runs the Commuter Express and DASH buses in Los Angeles, is also restructuring services citywide as it is also facing revenue shortfalls and a $260 million operating deficit over 10 years.

The solution I proposed, free to the city of Los Angeles, is for LADOT to refocus its DASH services to ... as the kids today would say ... pick up Metro's sloppy seconds.

LADOT has two problems: It is collecting too little of a fare (25 cents) and most of the DASH routes owe their productivity to overlapping portions of productive Metro services. This doesn't really expand services or choice, and it splits a captive market.

LADOT's asset is that it can operate a bus for half the cost of Metro. LADOT, using private contractors (lower paid but union), operates a service for about $55/revenue hour. Metro's cost is $110/hour.

So I propose that LADOT take over unproductive Metro services (those typically running less than 30 minutes) within the city of L.A., and charge a fare that could be anywhere from 25 cents to $1, so riders would still pay less than Metro's $1.25 cash fare.

Metro would continue to focus on high-productivity lines, and LADOT would salvage services that may be on Metro's kill list.

The prologue is here, and has a poll for what you would think would be a good fare:

Jarrett, you're a pro and you have some knowledge of the L.A. area. Stop by and look at the services I propose.


Alon, to clarify, I mean the spacing between routes, not the stop (or station) spacing. That is, if you reduce the number of routes by reducing the route density, and then take the buses that would have been assigned to the eliminated route and use them to beef up the service on the remaining routes. The remaining service becomes more attractive for riders within its catchment area. For riders outside the "ideal" 400- or 500-metre catchment area you have a longer walk, offset by improved frequency.

Bill Bryant

Hi Jarrett - Could not start Outlook email program, so will attempt to communicate this way. It's been great to see your site, and would be fun to catch up sometime on Seattle events - drop me a line sometime:

bill.bryant@seattle.gov (no longer at metro)




I agree totally - sometimes a service, like a good pruning, is just what the doctor ordered. I had the privilege of interning at Atlanta's MARTA as they prepared for their biggest service cut ever...

Taking effect in September 2010, it ended up just being an 11% cut to bus revenue hours. However, it cut a system of 131 bus routes down to just 90. While there was a lot of fear before hand, (and I don't want to downplay those who were inconvenienced,) I heard a lot of good feedback - people could still get where they were going about as easily.

Overall, I feel like the MARTA service cuts made the bus system a lot leaner, and has allowed the agency to bounce back fairly well. They have added some service back and made some small changes... but it helps when you are tweaking on an overall system that is up-to-date.

Interesting thing about that situation - they originally planned for a 34% cut to bus service, so they were really planning for a worst-case scenario, and then adding-back service. Of course, it helps when you have AVL-linked APC data, performance metrics, and regular performance reports... they were able to look at fairly precise ridership numbers by stop and time of day.

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the firm

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