countering the “empty buses” myth — with video!

The Pinellas County, Florida transit agency has done this video to help counter the impressions people get from seeing empty buses around the area.  Seeing empty buses often causes people to complain that the buses are too big, are obviously not needed, should be replaced with smaller ones, etc.   

Some viewers may be irritated by the "big number" rhetoric:  We hear the systemwide annual ridership over and over without any context for understanding it.  It's certainly not true that the system's 14m annual rides mean that buses aren't empty a lot of the time, as the video has already explained and justified.

But it's a very worthwhile effort, and transit agencies need do to these things. APTA or some other pro-transit entity could be commissioning them for all transit agencies to use, but home-grown ones will always have some advantage because so many people respond only to data from their own community.

Thanks to Michael Setty for the tip!

9 Responses to countering the “empty buses” myth — with video!

  1. allurban February 7, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    That’s very useful. If only more transit agencies reached out this way.

  2. RidePSTA February 8, 2013 at 9:02 am #

    Thank you all for the kudos! We are thrilled with how it came out, and that it’s being shared far and wide.
    This is actually part of a series we call Bus Buzz — swing by our You Tube channel (RidePSTA)

  3. Roberto Eroom February 8, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

    Noticed the buses had a bicycle carrying rack on the front. Very useful if your bike breaks down or you need to get cross a difficult part of a city- hilly, bad roads, etc.

  4. Jim Lampe February 9, 2013 at 6:08 am #

    One data point does not make or confirm a trend.

  5. Peter Laws February 9, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

    I didn’t like the explanation of why smaller buses aren’t used. The reasons, all accurate, were inverted! PSTA (or any other transit agency) runs real buses all the time **because of the fleet maintenance and driver issues**.
    Sure, there are grant-related federal regulations concerning the topic, but if those were all repealed, it’s not like PSTA (or any other agency) would immediately put out an RFP for shorties!
    Other than that, I thought it was pretty good.

  6. JJJ February 10, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    Peter Laws, not the case. While big buses work for 15-20n years, the small buss barely last 5.

  7. Ethan Rauch February 11, 2013 at 7:16 am #

    Grace Crunican put it best: “An empty road is considered an opportunity. An empty bus is considered a sin.”

  8. Andrew February 12, 2013 at 3:55 am #

    I’m a resident of Pinellas county. My reason for not riding the bus here is twofold – first, the bus stops are spaced so close together that I can often beat the bus to my destination simply by riding a bicycle at a relatively leisurely pace; and second, the frequency of buses generally makes travelling by bus inconvenient. Even during rush hour, I don’t think I’ve seen a single bus schedule where buses arrive more often than every twenty minutes, and an hour between buses is far more common.
    Also, Pinellas has an issue in the shape of the county – 15 miles from east to west, and 40 miles from north to south. A series of “express” buses that travelled north/south with limited stops would do a lot to improve the speed of travelling via bus in this county.
    I’d also like to see buses with the ability to carry more than two bicycles…but I’m not sure that’s practical.

  9. Ivy February 13, 2013 at 4:37 am #

    I personally feel reassured when I hear a bus passing by in the middle of the night, comforted that should I or someone I know ever need to get somewhere at that hour, the buses are there.

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