frequent service, mapped to your door

Vancouver's TransLink is one of several agencies who — with some input from me — have adopted Frequent Network brands that are designed to highlight services that are always coming soon, generally every 15 minutes or better all day and weekend.    I've always insisted that the Frequent Network can be both a short-term service branding tool (to build ridership by helping time-sensitive customers see where the network can serve them) but also a land use planning tool.

TransLink always understood it was both, and for several years has had a goal stating that half the region's population and jobs will be on the Frequent Network.  This is both a land use planning statement and a transit planning statement.  The message is not that TransLink will extend Frequent service to half the current population, but rather that it will do some of this while land use planning will also bring put residents and jobs on the existing Frequent Network.  More recently, Translink finally highlighted its Frequent Network on its maps for the public.

Ultimately, the Frequent Network, if properly mapped and promoted, should sell real estate, because the high level of all-day access should have a clear value as a city as a whole becomes more transit-oriented.  So this kind of micro-mapping should be really handy:

This map (click to enlarge and sharpen) of transit access in New Westminster, British Columbia is by Jonathan X. Cote, a City Councilor in that city and also an urban planning student at Simon Fraser Univerisity. He takes the standard walking distances of 800m to rapid transit and 400m to local transit and plots the portion of his city that has access to those networks.  I've seen these maps before, and even if they are not drawn they are what lies behind any coherent statement about what percentage of population and jobs have transit access, within a given walking distance, to service of a given standard.

Remember:  If your city wants to do really honest transit analysis, it needs very small analysis zones.  This map shows you the kind of clarity that you get when you can analyze right down to the parcel.  You don't need that much fine grain, but the zones need to be small.  And a parcel-level map like this is certainly ideal for land use planners, who need to minimize walking distances for the centroids of transit-oriented developments. 

Notice what a good tool this is for analyzing bus stop spacing as well.  You can move the stops a little apart and count how many parcels fall out of the walkshed.  Out to about 400m (1/4mi) spacing the answer is usually "fewer than you expected."

8 Responses to frequent service, mapped to your door

  1. Patrick Meehan September 25, 2012 at 1:24 pm #

    I’m sure it’s just a typo, but the councilor is Jonathan X Cote not Coe. Also, his middle initial is X, which is just kind of awesome.

  2. September 25, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

    Check out Jonathan’s write up on New Westminster’s FTN on our blog!

  3. Brent September 25, 2012 at 6:40 pm #

    Two more reasons why this is particularly valuable:
    – it refers to actual walking distance, not the usual “as the crow flies” radius; and
    – it refers to walking distance from stops and stations, and doesn’t just offset 400 metres from the bus route itself.
    Not only does it illustrate nicely how walkshed could be adjusted with stop locations, but it also shows the effect of the street network (see the northeast section of the frequent bus network).

  4. mike0123 September 25, 2012 at 7:09 pm #

    The existing bus network in New Westminster was not designed for frequent transit. It looks like it might have been designed to provide bus-bus connections in Uptown, a declining subregional centre, and on the expectation that people will walk only 200 metres to transit. More likely, instead of being designed for anything in particular it is merely the product of a serious of tweaks and accidents over the decades.
    New Westminster has only two bus routes that are considered Frequent Transit on 6th Street and 8th Street, and also infrequent routes on 2nd Street and 12th Street. The crux of the issue is that the bus routes – not just these ones but nearly all of them – are twice as close together as they are in Vancouver proper. For example, the two frequent transit streets are parallel and 340 metres apart. If the network had been designed for frequent transit, it would have frequent routes on 6th Street and 12th Street – its historical retail corridors and streetcar routes that are 960 metres apart – and no transit at all on 8th Street – a mostly residential street.
    New Westminster is one of the most densely parts of Metro Vancouver and its arterial street grid is remarkably conducive to providing a grid of frequent transit – the spacing between arterials is just like in Vancouver. The present transit network has routes that are not organized around the arterial grid, so they poorly match the city’s street structure. It’s too early to formulate a land use plan around the Frequent Transit Network. First, the Frequent Transit Network should be designed around the city.

  5. Bambul September 26, 2012 at 2:18 am #

    Reducing the number of bus stops, so long as they are no more than 400m apart, doesn’t reduce the walkshed coverage much. But it does increase the average distance that people need to walk to the nearest bus/train/tram stop.
    How much study has been done into the magic 400m/800m distances used for determining walksheds? Intuitively, you’d assume that someone 10m away from the nearest transport stop is more likely to use it than someone 390m away, yet both are within the 400m distance.

  6. Sean Nelson September 26, 2012 at 7:51 am #

    Bambul wrote: “Intuitively, you’d assume that someone 10m away from the nearest transport stop is more likely to use it than someone 390m away, yet both are within the 400m distance.”
    So it’s probably more reflective of reality to use a “heat map” approach using more saturated colours closer to the bus stop and less saturated colours as you approach the 400m or 800m “limits”.

  7. Thomas September 26, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    Those 800-metre walksheds omit one important detail: the vertical dimension. It’s a pleasant downhill stroll from Uptown to New Westminster Station, while going up the other way is not for the weak of heart. Some of those stops along 8th and 6th Streets might look close together on the map, but believe me, removing any of them could mean brutal uphill walks for some people, including yours truly.

  8. Chris M. September 26, 2012 at 7:16 pm #

    I think analysis parcel by parcel can be very useful in illustrating the walkability effects of piercing culdesacs and circuitous streets with walkways. Where I live, if I climbed my neighbour’s fence and walked through his yard, I would reach the bus in fifteen seconds, but instead have to walk five minutes.

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