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As someone with a city/suburbs reverse commute, I've spent a lot of time thinking about the effects of transit frequency on ridership, beyond just the potential capacity issue. I think the main problem with infrequent service is that it makes connections impossible. I take a very frequen rush hour train (every minutes or so) half way, and an infrequent bus (rush only ever 30-50 minutes) to make my trip. It's never a problem because I have enough flexibility that if I need to shift to the next bus in the morning occassionally and I dont have say kids to pick up at daycare if i miss my bus because I was stuck at work 5 minutes longer than I meant to be there. But my trip would be impossible and I would buy a car if I had more than my usual 5 minute connection wait and instead had to wait 15 or 30 minutes between buses every day in each direction. Basically what I'm saying is that infrequent transit isn't a terrible thing, but it has to be built on a base of at least some core frequent transit or it strongly limits mobility.


Sometimes, when designing infrequent suburban milk runs, unfortunate tradeoffs are required between people connecting to/from core services to the city center and people just making local trips within the suburb, not connecting to anything. People in the first group want routes that pull off the road into transit centers, people in the second group want routes that just move quickly in a straight line. People in the first group would rather see longer headways to match an infrequent route being connected to, people in the second group just want the bus to run as frequently as possible. People in the first group want a bus that holds if a connecting bus is late, people in the second want a bus that shows up on-time every day, without artificially introduced delays.

If you have enough resources for frequent service, you can largely have it all, but when funds are tight, agencies are often forced into choosing which group of riders is most important to attract.


What was the reduction in vehicle trips/miles during the 2009-13 period as a result of lower frequency, and the corresponding decline in ridership for the entire period?

Would be interesting to know the effect on occupancy.

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