Los Angeles: building the frequent network, and making hard choices

The main Los Angeles County transit agency, Metro, has released a set of “Blue Ribbon Committee” recommendations that show the agency trying to find its way toward higher ridership with the limits of its operating budget.  These are not yet Metro’s recommendations to the pubilc; the agency is still thinking about them, but they are out there for public discussion.  The main presentation of them is a PowerPoint, not all of which may be easy for the average person to follow, but here are the big important points.

(Full disclosure: I have advised Metro in the past on strategic bus network planning, but I was not involved in this process and have no contract with them now.)

The proposal would do one really important thing, and would also do two controversial things to pay for it.

The important thing is to expand the Frequent bus network.  Frequent service means that service is coming soon, all day; the specific definition at Metro is service every 15 minutes or better.  Frequency is the essence of freedom and spontaneity for transit users, and it’s also essential for people with busy complex lives, which is true of many people across the income spectrum.  Finally, frequency is essential if you’re going to connect from one transit service to another, which is essential for getting where you’re going in a city like LA where there are many destinations, not just one downtown.  High frequency, in places of high demand, leads to high ridership.

Here is where the frequency expansions would occur.  Blue already has frequent service, red is top priority for new frequent service, purple is second priority.  (Green is the rail system.)

La metro frequent network priorities

 

This expansion looks like it’s all about affordability and opportunity.  The focus is on South LA, some of the South Bay, the San Fernando Valley, and the San Gabriel Valley.   These are areas with relatively affordable housing, but they are often far from concentrations of jobs and opportunity.  People are moving to these areas in search of affordable housing, but transport must also be affordable. Expanding frequent service in these areas means that lots of low- to moderate-income people will have less need to own cars, because more jobs and opportunities will be readily available by transit.  That benefits everyone.

What are the tradeoffs?

First, the proposal suggests reductions to low-ridership coverage services.  These services run in areas where demand is predictably low due to land use factors such as low density or walkability.  People will be angry about these service reductions, but Metro is saying, in effect, that it has to focus its limited resources on areas of higher ridership potential.  One possibility in Los Angeles is that local city governments can choose to run some of these services themselves; many already have municipal transit systems.

Second, the proposal carefully increases the acceptable standard for peak crowding.  

This will be very controversial because on the surface it sounds horrible, and it’s hard to explain.  But it’s not that bad, and the tradeoff is a real one.

Metro, like most crowded transit systems, has a standard for how crowded buses can be allowed to get before they add another bus.  These standards accept lower levels of crowding than many of their peer agencies, such as New York and Chicago do.  That sounds nice for passengers, but it’s very expensive, which is why many other needed services in Los Angeles don’t exist.  These standards require Metro to pull out additional buses for short periods of peak demand, and remember, this service is expensive because (a) you have to pay drivers more to work very short shifts and (b) the number of buses an agency must buy, store and maintain is based on the peak demand, not the all day demand.*

So smart transit agencies, facing the growth of all-day demand that is easier to serve cost-effectively, are questioning every peak bus, and making sure that the demand for that bus justifies the high cost of peak only service.  That’s the context in which this has to be understood.  So the talking point is this:

Saving a little peak service unlocks a lot of all-day service.

More crowded buses!  A sympathetic person unhappy about losing service!  It will be easy for the media to make this proposal sound terrible.  But to me, this proposal is exactly what you should expect a transit agency to do, if you tell it serve more people without more money.

 

*  There’s further reason for optimism about crowding, but it’s so geeky that I thought I should leave it to a footnote.  Here goes:  Metro staff have advised me that they think this change in loading standards will have little noticeable impact because they are also changing some details about range of  situations over which they average to calculate that load.  The proposed change focuses the calculation more narrowly on trips that are  likely to be crowded.  This narrows the range of variation between loads on different trips, which reduces the difference between the average load — which is all a standard can discuss — and the apocalyptic worst case load, which is what everyone remembers and tweets about.  This means that a higher average load doesn’t necessarily mean that worst cases get any worse, or even become much more common.  They will still happen, and everyone will tweet about them when they occur.

 

87 Responses to Los Angeles: building the frequent network, and making hard choices

  1. Fbfree July 7, 2015 at 4:17 pm #

    I’m curious about how the loading standards are being evaluated. There’s a good explanation of crowding and the intricacies of setting loading standards (from a Chicago perspective) here. Is Metro doing something similar?
    If Metro is considering crowding as well as average load when calculating the service needed on a route, then poor headway will show up as a capacity constraint. Will this improve Metro’s ability to push for right-of-way improvements?
    Thank you Jarrett, this seems like good news.

  2. calwatch July 7, 2015 at 4:27 pm #

    As the person who first flagged this issue on various sites, my main objection is the process. Rather than presenting the choices to the riding public and letting us decide whether coverage is better than frequency or vice versa, you have an unelected group of bureaucrats and political aides forming some “Blue Ribbon Committee” to make decisions that will be rubber stamped by elected officials. This is why I thought it was important to get in front of the issue and make sure the public has their voice heard, if they agree or not.
    While coverage routes are less important for residential areas, in a weak economy with many low-wage jobs in factories, warehouses, and logistics hubs, coverage routes that serve places of employment don’t need to be cut. Bus service to a major all-day employment hub that happens to be outside the county limits (Disneyland/Anaheim Convention Center), especially when it’s performing adequately, should not be targeted for elimination solely because it crosses the county line.
    The problem with turning over coverage services to local jurisdictions is that many of these coverage services, especially in the San Gabriel Valley (slide 14 of the link), is that Metro is uniquely qualified to run them since they cross multiple cities. This was the reason why Metro was created, and although I agree they could be contracted out, who would run it?

  3. Michael July 7, 2015 at 4:58 pm #

    This coverage verses ridership idea is really starting to get ridiculous, and further shows why most North American urban areas will never have high transit usage rates.
    If you cannot access certain areas of the urban area because no service is operated, then having frequent service on some corridors does nothing for anyone.
    I understand having to find creative ways to offer better service. But that does not mean totally cutting people off from transit service, because a planner has deemed an area not “transit supportive” or because a certain bus routes does not perform well.
    I was actually just talking with a transit planner from Europe, and he was telling me how route performance is not something that is at the top of the list of things to worry about, because every route serves a purpose, and everyone must have access to transit.
    The idea that you would cut people off from transit, just to offer more service somewhere else, does not lead to good transit usage.
    Jarrett. You really need to address how transit is supposed to be a viable travel option and alternative to the auto, if whole swaths of a city are cut off from transit service.
    I can tell you right now, I would not be using transit, if I knew I could not get to certain areas of my city. I don’t care how often the bus runs on the street near my house. It does me no good if I can’t get to all areas of my city and region by transit.
    I can understand saying that an agency will push the walk limit from say a 5 minute walk to a 6 or 7 minute walk. Freeing up resources to improve service. But deciding to totally cut off areas makes no sense, if you are really trying to build an alternative travel option to the auto.

    • ararar January 30, 2016 at 6:41 am #

      you wouldn’t use transit because you don’t own a car/isn’t worth paying a car share or taxi for when you have to get to those places?

      What matter to traffic and urban pollution are daily commutes and shopping trips, not dinner at the Joneses. Better-than-minimum coverage service isn’t good spending of money.

      In Europe coverage service goes everywhere because many old people don’t drive regardless of where they live, but that means one bus every hour even in fairly dense (by comparison with US suburbias) peripheral areas maximum with no service in the evening and night and holes in the early afternoon.

      And that’s the extent of money that should be spent on coverage service, not more, otherwise you’re wasting money better invested in frequent network upgrades.

  4. Jarrett July 7, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

    Michael.
    I’m sorry, but in European urban areas, relatively few people live in places that are physically impossible for transit to serve with attractive service. In America, many people do. I can’t change the geometric facts about how density, walkability, and the nature of the street pattern govern transit’s effectiveness.
    If you want the same level of service to low density areas as to high density areas, then you want massively more spending per capita on low density areas than on high density areas. Those two ideas are mathematically identical. Why is that fair?
    Sorry, there are no simplistic answers until you understand the actual geometric problem. If you really want transit to get to every last resident, you will bankrupt the budget getting to the last few hundred who are hardest to get to. Read my book!

  5. Michael July 7, 2015 at 6:20 pm #

    Jarrett, with all due respect, as Paul Mees said, these are “excuses for inaction”, and it is “time to stop making excuses for inadequate public transport”.
    If we followed your arguments, then 90% of Toronto’s TTC service area would have no or limited bus service. Following your arguments, countless low density subdivisions much less dense than many in LA, which currently have very frequent transit service, would have little or no transit at all, because they don’t fit the transit planners stereotype of what makes a good corridor for transit.
    Are there some areas that are harder to serve? You bet. But cities which cut off whole swaths of their built up areas from transit, are not providing a viable alternative to the automobile, and are also limiting the possibilities of the transit dependent to access jobs and other services.
    LA is the densest urban region in North America, and the development pattern while not perfect, is far from the mess it is made out to be.
    Again, lets stop with the excuses. If we are to make transit viable, then we have to serve everyone with attractive transit.
    I think you have to address the issue, that you are not offering a transit alternative if you are deciding cut people off from transit.
    You also have not addressed why other cities can’t do the Canadian way. Put out a good basic level of service to everyone, and then build up the high ridership corridors?
    Also, you might want to check some street views of European suburbs. Yes there are more pathways for access to transit. But there are some pretty low density suburban areas surrounding European cities. It is not all high density apartment utopia.
    Lets find solutions for serving people. Not punishing them.
    I write this message as I sit in a 1960’s low density suburban area, with buses passing by my house about every 5 minutes at 9pm at night.
    Clearly it is service that matters more than the development. So lets stop punishing people. It will not advance the cause for transit or solve our transportation problems.

  6. Michael July 7, 2015 at 6:27 pm #

    “If you really want transit to get to every last resident, you will bankrupt the budget getting to the last few hundred who are hardest to get to. Read my book!”
    Clearly it has not bankrupted Canadian and European transit systems. In fact, fare recovery ratios (and ridership) are higher than American cities which do not serve everyone.
    But that makes total sense, as you can’t expect a transit system which leaves whole areas without service to attract riders.
    This is not about getting a few hundred people within a 5 minute walk of a bus. There are walking tradeoffs, and that is why there are provisions in many systems that 5 – 10% of the population can be beyond the maximum walking distance standard (but still within access to service). In the TTC serve area in Toronto, there are a small number of neighborhoods where the walk to the bus stop is about 10 minutes. Beyond the 5 minute industry standard. But it is acknowledged that due to street layout this is acceptable. But whole areas are not cut out.

  7. EngineerScotty July 8, 2015 at 12:03 am #

    Cities still manage to maintain paved roads throughout their jurisdictions, whether or not the street is a dead-end local serving a few homes, or a major thoroughfare.
    Of course, were public works budgets slashed–we might see similar rationing of where pavement is poured, and many little-used neighborhood streets allowed to fall into states of disrepair.
    Here’s an interesting exercise: Ignoring capital expenditures (including cost of buses and bus facilities), and simply looking at the question of operational costs per route-mile or route-hour: How would your local transit network look with ten times the operating budget? Three times? 10% more? 10% less? A third? A tenth?
    Chances are–most cities would be able to provide frequent service to the majority of their population, including in many North American sprawvilles, with a tenfold increase in service–and the service would become utterly useless were it cut 90%, no matter how carefully the planners pruned.
    Finally, an often-neglected parameter beyond where the bus runs, or how often–is span of service. One of the drums I constantly beat is seven-day service; a bus line (or agency) that shuts down for one day a week (assuming there are no cultural/religious imperatives that make service utterly superfluous) greatly limits its usefulness to the car-free. And likewise for services that only run during the peaks, or during daylight hours.

  8. P July 8, 2015 at 1:53 am #

    Michael’s point of view is so common. There is this idea that only new routes can be added but none ever deleted. Worse, it suggests high-frequency service can be run in areas that would see low patronage.
    Like many debates, there is a lack of numbers. At least with Toronto they are transparent with how much things cost, you see the dollar figure
    Ridership and cost statistics for bus and streetcar routes, 2012
    http://ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/Transit_Planning/Surface_Ridership_2012.jsp
    For example, I can see that the 192 Airport Rocket cost the TTC around $16,100 per day to operate.
    This is one of those situations where I think games or ‘draw and submit’ competitions would work well. Objectors should make the tradeoffs themselves and offer their alternatives – i.e. maps with lines on it. Show us the alternative map.
    Paul Mees did compare Toronto and Melbourne. I think cost recoveries are lower in Melbourne because (a) the bus system is poor and (b) there is more rail in Melbourne- hence more total maintenance cost, and infrastructure costs to operate a branched rail network and service frequencies are sparser.
    Toronto’s TTC subway is small compared to Melbourne, well connected by buses, is non-branched and is intensively used.
    There is a solution to this. The agency is trying to get results by keeping funding fixed. How can funding be increased? Land taxation, approved by the residents. Offer the people improvements in exchange for increased land taxation on their residential properties.

  9. Michael July 8, 2015 at 3:39 am #

    I never said routes can’t be deleted. But you do not delete a route if it is the only service in that area.
    You do not have a viable public transit network, if people cannot access certain built up areas.
    And contrary to what is said here, you do not get ridership if people cannot access jobs, homes, and other destinations across the metro area.
    America has a transit crisis. It is the only country that has reports detailing how few jobs people can access by transit, or how few people have access to transit. This is because planners have decided that certain areas should not get transit, despite evidence from other cities and countries that transit works.
    Like Paul Mees said. The overriding factor in transit use is service levels, not the density or built form of a place (it is nice to have dense and properly built developments. And we should strive for that. But we should not be using that as an excuse to not provide transit service). And it shows in cities like Toronto, and elsewhere, where suburban areas have outstanding service and ridership.
    Further telling people they have to choose between ridership or coverage does not help the sorry state of public transit in the USA, or the issues with access to jobs.
    I do not see why Jarrett cannot comment on why a transit agency should not provide a basic level of service to everyone, and then build up the high ridership corridors from there.
    Clearly this is the kind of planning that has led to high transit ridership and fare recoveries.
    So why must places choose? Again, this does not mean everyone has a bus 5 minutes from there house. There are trade offs, and you have to try different walk access buffers. But you never fully cut whole swaths out of the service area.
    If LA does not have money, then they don’t have money. You don’t cut whole areas out just to put service elsewhere.
    Do you maybe a cut a route that is lightly used, and ask people in that area to walk 7 minutes to an alternate bus instead of 5 minutes to their current bus? Yes you do. But you don’t cut that route if the nearest bus is a 30 minute walk away.

  10. Rico July 8, 2015 at 5:54 am #

    Michael, even in relatively transit friendly Vancouver (recent referendum asside) you cannot get complete coverage for everyone. And those coverage services are the most expensive to provide….so when Translink needs to cut its budget (which it will) should it completely cut the route that sees 30 people a day…or should it reduce services from a well used bus that has 3 buses an hour to 2 buses an hour? Coverage is good, but providing it has a cost. Does a coverage route with say a bus every 2 hours even work for someone who is trying to be car free?

  11. P July 8, 2015 at 6:52 am #

    There is a direct relation between coverage/patronage oriented routes. In econospeak this is called a ‘production possibilities frontier’ (Link: http://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/productionpossibilityfrontier.asp).
    Jarrett has a nice picture of the patronage/coverage trade-off in his book.
    You can think of two goods the transit agency is trying to produce: more social service or more patronage service.
    A point like point Y (see link) is impossible because it lies beyond the horizon of possibilities. No combination of choices can capture position Y. The only way to reach Y it is to maximise the transit agency budget, which I am sure the transit agency is lobbying for. However, if public agencies adopt budget maximising behaviour, competition emerges for funds (analogous to market competition) because taxpayers are tax-minimising. (Perhaps this explains the recent Vancouver referendum result).
    For example, consider four different ways to use four buses in one hour.
    Here are the possibilities, frequencies in minutes:
    A) 1 x 15 min bus route
    B) 1 x 20 min bus route, 1 x 60 min bus route
    C) 1 x 30 min bus route, 2 x 60 min bus route
    D) 4 x 60 min bus routes
    Which one of these options (A-D) satisfies your definition of ‘viable’ and ‘good basic level of service?’
    It is possible to provide improved service with more money, so long as people are comfortable with paying more for it. Maybe they would be happy with paying more. Maybe they wouldn’t.

  12. P July 8, 2015 at 6:55 am #

    I should add option E) 2 x 30 minute bus routes

  13. Marc July 8, 2015 at 10:22 am #

    Michael, I’m beginning to see your point.
    As indicated in my comment, on the one hand I’m *sick and tired* of seeing transit agencies repeatedly bend over backward to serve monomodal places (ie. development that can only be accessed by car, and not by transit, walking, biking) with poorly-performing coverage routes. Once the agencies run these “sympathy routes” they’re consequently attacked about “being subsidized” or “running empty buses” when *in fact they’re being FORCED to subsidize idiotic development patterns.*
    So it’s not actually the transit agency that’s leaking money, it’s the effing *development pattern* that’s a drain on the economy. Every time we build in a way that forces the grandma to dial-a-ride from the podlike nursing home ghetto, or the teenager to beg for rides to get to her job at the mall, or the 20-year-old to resort to drunk driving because he’s in a place that can’t support weekend bus service, the real “subsidy” here is for our idiotic and massively inefficient development pattern.
    The windshield-perspective politicians and bureaucrats (L. Brooks Patterson in Michigan is a great example) are too thick to see it this way, so IMO the only way to get the equation right is to invert the conversation about “subsidies” to point to the true culprit, and not to continue forcing transit agencies to continue being the “subsidy” punching bags via continued coverage service, which only delays the much-needed inversion in the public conversation about “subsidies.”
    But I take your point too: those who’ll suffer most from loss of coverage service will be the poor with *no other choices.* The development pods might send out fancy techy shuttles for their 9-to-5 drones (Silicon Valley comes to mind), but the janitors, secretaries, cleaning ladies, suppliers, and myriad other support staff – everyone who doesn’t sit behind a screen – will be left out in the cold.
    So I kinda get what you’re arguing: do we really want more cities to become like, say, Baltimore or Philadelphia, which have a surprising number of high-frequency routes in their old rowhouse cores, but have EXTREMELY POOR or even NONEXISTENT service to many of the employment nodes on their fringes. Ultimately it doesn’t matter if I can traverse North Avenue in Baltimore (where the recent riots took place) on the 13, a bus that runs every 10 minutes, if I still can’t tolerably get out to the office/industrial/military parks around Fort Meade, Odenton, and Laurel, where so many of the jobs are.

  14. Jarrett July 8, 2015 at 10:42 am #

    Marc.
    You’re right that poor people living in coverage areas have a particularly acute problem. Many people are increasingly comfortable with the notion that poverty is one of the best justifications of coverage services. Still, though, you’re talking about relatively few people. Most poor people benefit from good frequent networks as well. Our Houston redesign was bad for a few hundred low income people and massively liberating for hundreds of thousands. At what point do you accept that this is the balance? Poverty doesn’t change the geometric facts about what transit can do efficiently, and where another tool is more appropriate.
    It’s easy to say that people who chose to live in remote cul-de-sacs have already chosen not to rely on transit, so they shouldn’t have as much of it. This is harder to say when we’re dealing with poor people, but still, we’re talking about the consequences of choices. The locations of poor people are also the result of choices, and the people who made those choices can and should be held responsible for them, even if those aren’t always the poor people themselves.
    A great example is the government agencies that serve poorer people, which often locate based on cheap real estate rather than transit access, and then complain because the transit system isn’t serving them. This is just childish and needs to be called out as such. They’re saving money by dumping the costs on the transit agency.
    Also, even most poor people have some choices about location, and a frequent network, in the long run, provides a basis for those choices to be more informed. One of the best things about an extensive frequent network (as opposed to planning that’s just obsessed with rail) is that frequent networks can be extensive enough that they can’t possibly drive up real estate costs everywhere they serve, as higher-order transit so readily does.

  15. Marc July 8, 2015 at 11:01 am #

    “They’re saving money by dumping the costs on the transit agency.”
    I agree that this is the fundamental problem, and it’s not just other government agencies doing the dumping. It’s not just the Housing Authorities and the Departments of Aging, but a vast number of private entities who make poor geometric decisions (isolated locations, dendritic, disconnected streets – for which DOTs are also responsible!) because they comfortably know that a public sop – the transit agency – will subsidize access to their disconnected pods for the MAJORITY of people who can’t drive (once you include kids, the elderly, the disabled, and the poor).
    And yet the public conversation always blames the transit agency for these massive inefficiencies enforced at every level of public and private governance – from the DOTs to the planning departments to the banks to developers who are almost just the tails on the dogs.
    When does all this switch so transit agencies are no longer just weak, reactive pod-chasers? I’d like to see them have the power and influence to dictate development that is transit-efficient in addition to being accessible by walking, biking, and driving. Like a New Urbanism movement for transit!

  16. P July 8, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

    I will raise two points.
    Coverage routes have low frequency, say once per hour. That should be cheaper (i.e. 1/4 of the cost) compared to running a high frequency service which is coming every 15 minutes.
    The second point I will raise is land taxes. A good land tax can encourage development (because underused or empty land is taxed the same as well used land) and can recapture increased land prices from large transport projects. It also falls on land holders rather than tenants (as tenants are mobile they can avoid paying the tax).
    If areas want to increase transit service, they can vote themselves a land tax increase.

  17. Michael July 8, 2015 at 6:36 pm #

    Rico,
    Service standards are used as guidelines for the equitable distribution of transit service across a region. If there are budget cuts, then yes a bus route that is the only option to a neighborhood should be kept over running more frequent service on a busy route.
    When the TTC lost almost half its operating funding in the 1990’s, they did a great job of ensuring every area of the city still had access to transit service. Some people had to walk further to a bus route, and we had to stand on busy routes at midnight, like it was rush hour. But that is what you get when a government decided to cut. The very crowded conditions caused residents to complain, and to vote out the government which caused the cuts in the first place.
    The poor service was not a transit problem. It was a funding problem, and the angry residents calling their councillors, and government leaders gets transit on the radar for improved funding.
    Having equitable service standards does not mean you spend large sums of money to bring a bus route to every far off street. It means choosing a reasonable walking distance for the majority of residents, with the understanding that some residents, be it 5 or 10% will fall out of this reasonable walking distance, but will still have access to transit.
    This is how Canadian transit planning is generally done, and it ensures that almost all jobs and residences within an urban area have access to transit.
    If you are going to choose ridership over coverage, then you are not building a viable transit network. Do you really expect people who have a choice to use transit, if they cannot access all areas within the city?
    Further to this point, almost all American cities follow the idea of putting transit service in areas where ridership is expected, and very little or no coverage service. If this is supposed to create high ridership and reduce costs, then tell me why American cities have the lowest transit usage rates in the industrialized world, and the highest government subsidies?
    It does not work, because people are cut off from whole swaths of their region, that transit is not viable to anyone who has a choice.
    I grew up and live in your typical 1960’s suburban subdivision. Over 25% of work trips, and about 20% of non work trips are taken by transit. I don’t have a car, and many people I grew up with also have chosen to not have a car. Many families have one car, and transit is used by people across all income brackets.
    I am car free, because I have attractive transit service available within a reasonable walk from my house. And that transit service allows me to reach almost any point within the built up urban area of the region. I am not at a disadvantage for not driving, because I have a viable transit service I can rely on.
    But having a planner, be it Jarrett or someone else come and tell me that I don’t deserve good transit because I live in an area that would be deemed “not transit supportive” is ridiculous, and does nothing for advancing transit as a viable travel option.
    Whether planners like it or not, we have a lot of suburbs, and we need to come up with ways to provide viable transit. Not write these places off and tell them “no transit for you”.
    There are flaws in telling people they have to choose ridership verses coverage, and Jarrett has to address those flaws.
    Every time a transit agency tells a neighborhood they do not deserve transit, you are creating a whole population that will probably never use transit. Kids will not grow up taking transit and becoming life long riders, parents will not decide to buy one less car and use transit for some trips, and you lose political support for improved transit funding.
    Jarrett has still not addressed the fact that under the coverage verses ridership idea, vast swaths of suburban Toronto which would be deemed “transit hostile” would have limited or no transit. However these very areas support high frequency bus services and high transit mode shares, because planners did not use density as an excuse for poor transit.
    One last point about this issue: Yes budgets are tight, and you have to find creative ways to offer good service. However, going in and telling city governments that you can just choose to focus on ridership, just encourages poor funding of public transit.
    Transit planners at some point have to stand up and just say that if you want to build a viable transit service, the existing funding in city X is not enough. You can keep cutting one route to fund another. But good luck in building a viable transit alternative.
    Approximately 50% of American’s in built up urbanized areas have no access to transit within walking distance of their homes. In many American metropolitan areas the stats are even worse. For example, In Birmingham, AL only something like 30% of metro residents have access to transit.
    Is it any wonder people are not using transit?
    Jarrett has still not addressed why he does not advocate cities set equitable transit coverage goals, like most Canadian cities do.
    Most Canadian cities set guidelines that 90% to 95% of residents and jobs must be within a 95 or 10 minute walk of a transit service that operates a certain span of service and frequency.
    Some cities like Quebec City even set goals for high frequency service. Quebec City hopes to have 50% of residents and jobs, and 90% of post secondary schools within walking distance go high frequency service.
    Why Jarrett is setting a minimum coverage goal not something you advocate? How do you expect transit to be viable if you can’t access whole areas of your region by transit?

  18. Michael July 8, 2015 at 6:44 pm #

    I would like people to look at the street view in the following link:
    https://www.google.ca/maps/@43.786378,-79.386223,3a,75y,294.44h,87.18t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1s_5W130UZ9tqP6bIUz20XfQ!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo3.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3D_5W130UZ9tqP6bIUz20XfQ%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D100%26h%3D80%26yaw%3D166.3085%26pitch%3D0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en
    What kind of transit service do you think this kind of area can support? Under coverage verses ridership, would it even get service?

  19. Erik Griswold July 8, 2015 at 11:36 pm #

    I hope all the non-Los Angeles commenters do know, and Jarrett did allude to it in his post, that there is service to many of the blank areas on this (THOMAS BROTHERS!?!) map that are provided by “The Munis” (20-plus large transit operators run by some of the 88 independent cities in Los Angeles County).
    Most of them are now on the TAP RFID Farecard system:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transit_Access_Pass#Agencies_using_TAP

  20. J. Brant July 9, 2015 at 12:56 am #

    American land use is messed up. Wide hypertrophic streets everywhere make it unpleasant, unsafe, and unviable to walk in many places. Why do European transit agencies do a better job of coverage? Density is much higher because less land is used for roads and more is used for homes and businesses even in suburbs and rural villages.

  21. P July 9, 2015 at 1:08 am #

    “Why Jarrett is setting a minimum coverage goal not something you advocate? How do you expect transit to be viable if you can’t access whole areas of your region by transit?” – Michael
    Well Michael, how familiar are you with Jarrett’s work? That decision is really up to the politicians in the political area to work out. Like ordering a pizza, you get to choose what toppings you want (or don’t want) and then the pizza baker makes it.
    “This conversation can lead, in turn, to an informed decision by
    appropriate elected officials. The resulting policy typically takes this form:
    Devote ___% of resources to services justified by patronage, and
    the remaining ___% to maximizing coverage.”
    It is really up to the elected officials to fill in the blank spaces there.
    Source: http://geography.upol.cz/soubory/lide/hercik/SEDOP/Purpose-driven%20public%20transport%20creating%20a%20clear%20conversation%20about%20public%20transport%20goals.pdf

  22. Michael July 9, 2015 at 3:39 am #

    P,
    The whole idea of even bringing up ridership verses coverage, is telling elected officials to throw out the whole minimum coverage area guideline from planning documents.
    When Jarrett went to Edmonton, he basically told them they would have to decide to not service certain ares if they want to build a ridership system. That is not advocating a minimum coverage standard.
    I think Jarrett should comment on why setting a minimum coverage goal is not better than this deciding on coverage verses ridership.
    Clearly a coverage goal is much more equitable, ensures transit is a viable option for everyone, not just the poor, and creates high ridership, as everyone has access to transit.
    On the comment about American suburban development. Yes a lot of the development is bad. But American suburbia is not all a lost cause. There are plenty of higher density and even typical suburban areas which are no different than Canadian suburbs. The only difference is the American ones have zero transit, while the Canadian ones have transit.

  23. Stephen July 9, 2015 at 5:40 am #

    “One of the best things about an extensive frequent network (as opposed to planning that’s just obsessed with rail) is that frequent networks can be extensive enough that they can’t possibly drive up real estate costs everywhere they serve, as higher-order transit so readily does.”
    Jarrett- Thank you very much for this. I had never thought of it this way. In the city in which I live, a billion dollars has recently been pledged by the provincial government to construct a twelve-kilometre LRT line. There’s no possible way we could ever have hoped to get that kind of money to improve our bus system, even though it could mean huge changes and building out a network that serves more areas frequently, and provides better service to the few areas now facing serious overcrowding. Politically, it would have been unthinkable to get that kind of money for “more buses.”
    The people who are proponents of the LRT line use the arguments that it promotes development and increases land value, but they are also generally the same people chattering about gentrification. I had failed to see the contradiction in this until you summed it up very nicely in your comment above. Some of these advocates have expressly stated their preference for less coverage of LRT over more coverage by buses or BRT. With our situation it is very likely that this will result in a few neighbourhoods with very good access to frequent transit which will also become generally unaffordable, and vast swaths of the region with very poor transit where the poor to which the poor will migrate.

  24. jfruh July 9, 2015 at 7:27 am #

    Can someone explain why the tradeoff here is being framed as “Some places will be getting more frequent service, while some other places will see more peak crowding”? This on the surface is comparing apples and oranges. I’m *assuming* what this really means is “Some places will be getting more frequent all-day service, while others will be seeing less frequent service at peak times”, yes? Why not frame it that way, and instead frame it as the confusing “service vs. crowding”? Or am I missing something?

  25. Fbfree July 9, 2015 at 8:18 am #

    @jfruh
    It’s framing the problem around how the customer will experience the changes. The routes evaluated based on ‘crowding’ will maintain frequent service, but will have maybe 6 buses per hour instead of 8 after the restructure. The customer is likely to notice a 25% more crowded bus than a 75 second longer average wait. In contrast, on routes that increase frequency to 4 buses per hour from 2 buses per hour, the time savings will be more noticeable to the customer. While technically the frequency is just being shifted around, the customer experience trade-off is frequency for crowding.

  26. Marcotico July 9, 2015 at 10:53 am #

    I will start by saying that I work in planning, and I am a huge Jarrett Walker fan. Having revealed my bias, @michael is raising some interesting points but also misreading (or hasn’t read) a lot of the points in Jarrett’s book. I hope the following is taken as constructive disagreement and not personal attack:
    Michael is right that Jarrett has a bias towards a ridership design versus a coverage design. But he is very clear that it is a spectrum, and not a binary opposition. He cites as a best practice the agency that determined that 85% of their funding decisions are based on increasing ridership, versus 15% coverage. I think the mention of 60’s style Toronto suburbs is also a misunderstanding of the geometry of american style suburbs. An area does not have to be an “apartment utopia” to qualify as transit friendly. Many of the areas that will be served by the re-designed network are 1960’s single family neighborhoods. Michael states that instead of cutting lines planners should just extend the distance people need to walk. That is much of the decision making behind the new network. If you read Jarrett’s book, it is not just urban form of the buildings, but really curvilinear road networks, and non transit friendly alignment of destinations. Even with the LA Grid pattern, many destination centers are on alternating arterials. Finally, Michael needs to remember that Los Angeles, and Houston are in the process of repairing their transit networks after a nearly three decade hiatus of serious transit planning. So it seems like Toronto made some important choices during a funding crisis in the 90’s. Well in the 90’s these three american cities were just coming out of a 25 year funding desert. In most American cities from 1965 to 1990, transit provided neither coverage or ridership.
    I would also like to unpack this sentence from a So Cal perspective: “I grew up and live in your typical 1960’s suburban subdivision. Over 25% of work trips, and about 20% of non work trips are taken by transit. I don’t have a car, and many people I grew up with also have chosen to not have a car. Many families have one car, and transit is used by people across all income brackets. I am car free, because I have attractive transit service available within a reasonable walk from my house.” I would argue that there is feedback loop. You and your neighbors don’t own a car (or second car) because of access to transit. However you have access to transit because you are non car owning, high tax paying, socially- contracted Canadians. Now in 2015 we are just on the verge of having those 3 characteristics in our 1960’s era suburbs (not the Canadian part), but very far from having those characteristics in our auto-oriented suburbs.
    Finally I would like to point out the scale issue. From Wikipedia: Los Angeles: Population 12,828,837 (2,010) – Density 2,645.0/sq mi (1,024.7/km), Toronto Population – 6,054,191 Density 849/km2 (2,199/sq mi). So already the Toronto region is twice as transit supportive as the Los Angeles metro. So when you say that Toronto transit can reach every corner of the urban environment. That is a ridership decision, because the urban environment in Canada, has already been developed with the types of real estate decisions that are conducive to transit.

  27. calwatch July 9, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

    “This conversation can lead, in turn, to an informed decision by
    appropriate elected officials. The resulting policy typically takes this form:
    Devote ___% of resources to services justified by patronage, and
    the remaining ___% to maximizing coverage.”
    As a reminder, the Blue Ribbon Committee are generally not elected officials (although a few are, they are appointed not by the constituent cities but as representing a Council of Governments). The policies are being developed by a group of bureaucrats making assumptions on the public’s preferences.
    There is a coverage criteria in the existing Transit Service Policy: “Service is to be provided within one-quarter mile of 99% of census tracts within Metro’s service area that have at least 3 households per acre and/or 4 jobs per acre. Fixed-route service provided by other operators may be used to meet this standard so as to minimize service duplication.” It’s vague enough but justifies the existence of many of the low performing coverage routes that only have peak hour service. With the new policy being proposed, these routes will be eliminated with nothing as a replacement.

  28. P July 9, 2015 at 3:50 pm #

    “The whole idea of even bringing up ridership verses coverage, is telling elected officials to throw out the whole minimum coverage area guideline from planning documents.” – Michael
    That not my reading of the relevant paragraph or Jarrett’s book. As you can see the spaces are blank. The political class needs to fill the numbers in. That’s what they are paid to do.
    “Devote ___% of resources to services justified by patronage, and
    the remaining ___% to maximizing coverage.”
    And given the opposition that transit network redesign entails, I’m sure there will be no shortage of people advocating for social service retention.

  29. Transit Rider July 9, 2015 at 5:03 pm #

    Certainly, in some cities there are opportunities to restructure routes or combine services that parallel each other a block apart. However, that is generally no longer the case in Los Angeles, where decades of route “optimizations” have already resulted in dozens of route cancellations above and beyond transfers of routes to municipal operators. Take a look at a 1980s RTD map and compare it to today, and you will see how framing an insufficient funding issue as a ridership vs. coverage one has played out and ultimately weakened the system.
    Please take a look at some of the routes on the hit list. Consider the 534 Malibu bus which goes to a “non transit-supportive” area in transit planner lingo. That route is a lifeline for low-income workers who need access to jobs. It’s hardly low-ridership either – these buses are operating as often as every 10 minutes in the reverse peak direction. (If anything, the Expo Line extension to Santa Monica next year will make this route even more crowded). Jarrett himself pointed out the absurdity of running the 220 Robertson Blvd bus (a glaring north-south underserved gap on the Westside) only once an hour. So before endorsing this proposal, please consider its impacts on real people.
    The true “hard choice” here is getting more funding to prevent cannibalizing one route to benefit another. Actually, it is not really a “hard choice” because the voters of Los Angeles County in recent elections have supported transit by overwhelming majorities to fund better transit. They recognize that the transit they have is simply not enough and they want *more* of it, not less and not robbing Peter to pay Paul.

  30. Michael July 9, 2015 at 5:45 pm #

    Devoting a certain percentage of service to coverage and a certain percentage to coverage does not address access to transit.
    The only goal that does is a goal to coverage a specific percentage of the urban area within a given walking distance of transit. Again, in Canadian cities this is usually 90% to 95% of the population is targeted to be within a 5 or 10 minute walk of a transit stop, depending on the time of day.
    You cannot build a viable transit system if you do not provide service to all areas within the built up area.
    The whole logic of transit supportive areas is also something planners need to get away from. The quality of transit service offered is much more an influence on transit usage rates, than the size of ones backyard or housing type.
    Canadian cities tend to have more uniform transit usage rates across the urban area, regardless of the fact of if it is the inner city or suburbs. The reason is because a quality transit service is provided across all kinds of density types and development types.
    Planners can keep coming up with all the excuses for not serving suburbia. But that is all these reasons are, excuses.
    Yes America has some bad suburbia. But there are plenty of suburban areas that are no different than their Canadian counterparts.
    Planners need to come up with ways to make transit viable in all areas. Making excuses and waiting for entire suburbs to be demolished is not going to advance transit or provide alternatives to the auto.
    Everyone should read Transport for Suburbia. It is the best book about how we can fix public transit and provide viable transit to all areas.
    I would also like to add that the way transit is planned in most parts of the USA is a reason transit is not used by everyone. Planning a transit system to only touch areas of poverty does not build a viable transit system to get poor people around, or to attract people of all income groups.
    That neighborhood a planner decides is not transit supportive and cuts a bus to, might have jobs low income people need to access.
    I still do not understand why people seem to be against having a minimum walking standard and coverage goal.
    Non of you have come up with any good arguments as to why a place should have to choose coverage or ridership.
    Setting a minimum walking and coverage standard is a much better approach. It ensures equitable transit service is provided to an entire urbanized area. Once that basic coverage is there, you then work on your ridership corridors.
    This whole ridership verses coverage debate also pits routes against each other. Who is to say a so called low ridership corridor won’t become a high ridership corridor?
    I know of bus routes running hourly service and with low ridership, that have now behind high ridership routes and are operating every 10 minutes. Why? Because the transit agency put money into service and boosted service. All of sudden people decided to ride.
    What I find more troubling, is that Jarrett is still not answering why a transit agency should not have a minimum coverage goal. Why is having a basic coverage across a region, and then spending the rest of the funding on ridership services not something to advocate?

  31. Michael July 9, 2015 at 5:52 pm #

    “You and your neighbors don’t own a car (or second car) because of access to transit. However you have access to transit because you are non car owning, high tax paying, socially- contracted Canadians. Now in 2015 we are just on the verge of having those 3 characteristics in our 1960’s era suburbs (not the Canadian part), but very far from having those characteristics in our auto-oriented suburbs.”
    I do not agree. Toronto’s post war suburbs were very car centric, and transit was losing the battle. Ridership was plummeting. Toronto then extended high quality transit service with service levels comparable to the inner city. The results? Transit ridership skyrocketed in the suburban areas, and Toronto become one of the few western urban areas to not only grow ridership, but increase the per capita ridership levels across the metro area.
    Yes our suburbs have special paths to allow access to bus stops, etc. However, they are not that different from many suburban areas in the USA. It is just an excuse to say American suburbia cannot support transit.
    You will also find that there are suburban areas in the Toronto area that developed beyond the borders of the Metropolitan Government and the TTC service area. These suburbs have very very low transit usage rates, despite the fact they are not that much different from the inner suburban areas, and in come cases denser. The reason transit ridership is lower in these newer outer areas, is because these suburbs are now just starting to provide attractive transit service. In the new suburbs that provided more attractive service, ridership is skyrocketing, and they are on their way to becoming transit success stories like the older suburban areas.
    But it took running buses more often than once an hour.

  32. Robert Wightman July 9, 2015 at 5:53 pm #

    There has been some comment here concerning the TTC. The TTC is planning to expand its frequent service, which is every 10 minutes or better in the fall. (http://stevemunro.ca/2015/06/15/ttc-reannounces-ten-minute-network/)
    They also plan to improve their Blue all night service which operates every 30 minutes or better all night. http://stevemunro.ca/2015/05/25/ttc-proposes-service-restorations-and-expanded-blue-night-network/
    I have ridden many transit systems in the US, Canada and overseas. Many people in Toronto complain about the “lousy service” that the TTC operates but it is so much better than most of the others I have ridden though it is far from perfect.
    I learned in my travels in the US that except in very large cities, retired middle class white folk did not ride the bus system. I am used to using public transit in Toronto but when I asked what bus would take me to a destination in most US cities the local tourist bureau would direct me to a car rental agency.
    The only transit map that I could get in Baltimore was in Spanish. I rode the route 13 bus that Marc talked about to get to one store I needed. The one problem I had was that the schedule on the map (it is not that hard to read times in Spanish) were not the same as those on the post and definitely not the one that the buses followed.
    I learned that most middle class whites in the US never ride the bus and are afraid of the clientele that they might meet. I rode transit in many cities in the US during my 10 month travels and never felt in any danger, though I did meet some very strange but friendly people, none of them posed any threat to anyone. Many times I was told that certain areas were not safe but I never had any problems in daylight hours. I might not have wanted to be in them at night.
    I think that Canadian culture towards transit is different than in the US. We see it as an essential and necessary public service whereas it is viewed as a service for the down and out in may US towns.

  33. Michael July 9, 2015 at 7:44 pm #

    The view of transit in the US as a last resort option, is partly because transit planners are advocating not providing transit to middle class and suburban areas.
    Of course, when you only focus on serving areas you think are transit supportive (usually high poverty areas), and do not work to build an equitable transit system that serves everyone, you are going to have issues.
    Everyone must be served and feel a part of their transit system.

  34. Wanderer July 9, 2015 at 8:05 pm #

    People can “demand” transit for everyone, but they have to pay for it. One option would be to greatly increase the transit budget. Which taxes do you want to raise for that? Some places in California have raised sales taxes to expand bus service, but nobody has raised them anywhere near enough to provide service to 100% of housing units. It actually wouldn’t be legal here–the tax level would exceed the state’s limit.
    And realize that as you try to serve lower and lower density, remote areas, the cost to serve each household would go up. The system gets less and less efficient. Think about transit in places like Benedict Canyon.
    Alternatively, you can hold the budget constant and cut all the strong, frequent routes in order to provide service to affluent neighborhoods with 2 units per acre. That’s not only inequitable, it’s a sure recipe to lose ridership and have those famous “empty buses” that some people complain about.
    Density doesn’t equal poverty. Places like Santa Monica and West Hollywood make that clear.
    There is indeed a coverage/ridership tradeoff, which transit agency policy boards have to grapple with. But wherever one lands on that tradeoff, it doesn’t create a magic shower of money that can fulfill every conceivable demand.

  35. Michael July 9, 2015 at 8:06 pm #

    The following in the outer reaches of the TTC service area in Toronto, probably receives one of the lowest transit service levels in the Toronto’s TTC transit system.
    https://www.google.ca/maps/@43.796893,-79.134977,3a,75y,139.92h,71.98t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sKwKk9CGaAfUaLbDuzPoPUA!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo0.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3DKwKk9CGaAfUaLbDuzPoPUA%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D100%26h%3D80%26yaw%3D38.095772%26pitch%3D0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en
    This area gets a bus every 10-12 minutes during weekday am/pm peak periods, approximately every 20 minutes during weekday midday periods, every 20 – 30 minutes weekday evenings and weekends. Last buses depart at around 1:30am 7 days a week.
    For residens who are willing to walk 10 – 15 minutes. They can access an alternate bus service that operates approximately every 12 minutes during most time periods.
    This area would be considered not transit supportive by planners. But if you provide an attractive service, people use it. Transit mode shares in this area are lower than the city as a whole. However approximately 10 – 20% of all trips in this area are taken on transit.
    Building transit use does not mean cutting people off from transit. It means working to build an attractive system to everyone.

  36. Jarrett July 9, 2015 at 9:58 pm #

    What an interesting conversation!
    In response to Michael’s question a while back, minimum coverage standards are routine in the industry, and it’s fine to adopt one if you really know what it costs and are content to spend that much of your budget on coverage instead of ridership.
    When leaders adopt this policy without tracking the cost, it can set up a mechanism by which coverage service grows faster than ridership over time, leading to a lower ridership and less effective network. Again, it’s any community’s right to do that consciously if that’s what they want, but it usually isn’t conscious.
    This was our observation in Edmonton. They had strong policies requiring transit to grow as new horizontal suburbs (most with dreadfully anti-transit street patterns) were built. They had no comparable policy requiring transit to grow in high ridership urban areas as those areas grew in population. Essentially their policy framework said that new Edmontonians who locate in hard-to-serve areas have an immediate entitlement to transit resources, but those who move into easy-to-serve areas (denser, with a street grid) have no comparable entitlement.
    Minimum coverage standards have costs, which trade off against other costs. I encourage boards to have a conscious conversation where they understand the consequences of their choices, and finding the right balance of ridership and coverage is the real choice.
    Another reason I do it this way is that I show boards which of their services are ridership and which are coverage. The idea is to help them get off the notion (much loved by conservative commentators) that low-ridership service are “failing.” Services designed for coverage aren’t failing if ridership is low, because ridership isn’t the purpose of coverage resources. If it were, you wouldn’t deploy them in low-ridership places.

  37. Michael July 10, 2015 at 2:28 am #

    You are making a judgement that Edmonton’s newer areas are transit hostile. Are the road designs a problem? Yes they are.
    But Edmonton has mostly uniform transit usage rates across the city, including in the so called transit hostile areas.
    If you are going to provide an viable travel alternative to the auto, then you have to have transit service touching all areas, and most importantly, you have to have transit service in new communities, as soon as possible. If you wait too long, people will establish their travel habits with a second car, etc, and then your potential transit ridership will take even longer to materialize.
    It is not the outer residents fault if a transit agency is not providing more service on higher ridership corridors.
    As was stated before. Removing coverage services does nothing to address the real problem, that transit agencies need more funding.
    If the argument was to ask Edmonton if people would be ok to walk an extra minute or two, because it would allow for more straight bus routes that are more direct. I would agree with that. But telling residents they are going to have to choose and decide if some areas receive no service at all, while also demonizing outer Edmonton residents. I don’t agree with that.
    Clearly Edmonton is doing something right, as the transit usage rates are better than Portland. And part of that doing right, is ensuring everyone has access to a basic level of transit service.
    Do you be decide not to build streets in lower use areas? No we don’t.
    I think it all comes down to what you want transit to do. Is it going to be something everyone uses, and that actually offers a viable travel alternative? Or is it just meant to serve niche markets and the poor (and doing a bad job at it, if they can’t access everywhere in the urban area).
    If it is the former, then you have to have a minimum coverage standard for built up area.

  38. Ivan July 10, 2015 at 5:37 am #

    Michael, I think you are missing the point because you are mixing two different trade offs. We actually have two different trade offs when we talk about how much service is going to be provided to certain places:
    One determines how much public resources will be destined to transit (which will always be a limited amount no matter how big it is) and therefore how much service is going to be provided in the whole network.
    The other one is coverage vs. ridership trade off that Jarret mentions, which determines how those resources are going to be distributed but always assuming that they are limited. So if we want transit to improve in a low density area it will have to worsen somewhere else (that’s why it is a trade off, you can’t have both).
    ” The overriding factor in transit use is service levels, not the density”
    Ridership is proportional to the density around a stop, therefor we should not underestimate it.
    Last I want to mention that I live in Europe and the reason why transit works so well here is not because we have a higher coverage ratio, because we don’t. Places that are transit-unfriendly don’t have any type of coverage most of the times but it doesn’t matter because it doesn’t use to be anything vital there (they are mainly private urbanizations or farmhouses) and the people who lives there use to have a high rent and therefore no problem to own a car which won’t be a problem for the community since as I said before they are very few.

  39. P July 10, 2015 at 5:47 am #

    “But Edmonton has mostly uniform transit usage rates across the city, including in the so called transit hostile areas.”
    Do you have the figures for these? What’s your source?

  40. mrsman July 10, 2015 at 7:02 am #

    In my view, there definitely needs to be balance between ridership and coverage.
    From looking at the list of cuts [page 13 on the link in the article], many of the buses deserve to be cut, because they don’t provide anything useful. The shuttles are basically circular routes that don’t go very far. Nobody would use these to go more than a few blocks, and ridership shows it. Plus, many of these shuttles are pretty close to regular routes.
    Some of the routes are very close to the rail routes. Route 202’s notrhtern section is right next to the blue line. Route 156 provides a local alternative to Red Line and Orange Line.
    Essentially, for most of the routes, there is no loss in coverage if the routes are lost. It will likely mean an additional transfer for most people.
    However, certain routes are critical for coverage and should be kept even if they have low ridership. I’m thinking specifically of 534 to Malibu. This route should probably be run from Santa Monica to Malibu, especially when the Expo line reaches Santa monica, but do not cut off the Malibu end. Also, the 161 between Warner Center and Thousand Oaks provides the only transit link for the far western part of the county.
    And it seems that the bus for Disneyland has favorable ridership, so there really is no need to cancel it either.
    To the extent that a municipal operator will take over a low-ridership route, MTA should cancel it. To the extent that it won’t, they should only cancel the routes that have a reasonable alternative, not the routes that provide critical coverage to areas without other alternatives.

  41. Dave July 10, 2015 at 8:06 am #

    P – “Coverage routes have low frequency, say once per hour. That should be cheaper (i.e. 1/4 of the cost) compared to running a high frequency service which is coming every 15 minutes.”
    Yes, but…
    What if that coverage route costs $10,000 to operate and carries only 100 people per day… meaning the cost is $100 per person served… and what if that high frequency service costs $40,000 to operate (4x as much per your math) but carries 10,000 people per day… meaning the cost is $4 per person served.
    Why is it fairer for the 100 people per day out in the boonies to get 25x the subsidy of the 10,000 people living in the denser area, especially if the system faces budget constraints and needs to cut something?
    Let’s now say that the transit agency charges everyone $2 per ride and everyone above takes a roundtrip. The coverage route earns $400 per day from its 100 riders. The high frequency route earns $40,000 per day from its 10,000 riders. Now the high frequency route is COMPLETELY COST NEUTRAL while the coverage route is losing $9,600 PER DAY on serving its customers. The transit agency as a result has to jack up fares on everyone or seek more tax subsidy or cut service somewhere to make up the imbalance. Why should the riders of the more financially sound route have to pay more (in fares or taxes) or suffer a loss of service (that will surely drive some of them to switch to driving)?
    You can’t simply look at costs. You have to also look at ridership and the revenue ridership brings in.

  42. P July 10, 2015 at 9:10 am #

    Good question Dave. One must have an ethical values concept to determine how to value things when answering questions of the form ‘What should I do?’
    Some people value patronage above all else. But for other people it might be the other way around. For any government to maintain stability and legitimacy, it needs to serve both goals (or face a revolution / be voted from office).
    FAIR is one of the most vague concepts around. What does FAIR mean? It can mean many different things to different people.
    You refer to costs per passenger, and financials. That is one way of valuing something. But there are other ways to value things, which will give you different answers.
    Think about all the different ways one can value things:
    1. Maximise the greatest good for the greatest number
    2. Share the pain as much as possible over as many people as possible, minimising pain intensity for any single person
    3. Concentrate the pain as much as possible, so that 99% of people escape the pain altogether, but the 1% left feel intense pain
    4. Set a minimum basic standard (safety net) that no person need fall below
    5. Abolish the minimum basic standard – Set the highest standard (everyone must get THE BEST, no less!), (Health and education systems tend to fall into this category- nobody wants ‘minimum basic’ health or education)
    6. Maximise profit
    7. Maximise aesthetics – fun, beauty, ‘atmosphere’ (particularly with the ‘slow transit’ movement)
    But o get back to your question – Why should people in the financially sound area cross-subsidise loss-making routes elsewhere? Because willingness to pay isn’t equal to ability to pay, and a purely financially maximising approach will leave a large gap of unmet need. Because those people pay taxes too and because those people also vote.

  43. Chris, Public Transport July 10, 2015 at 9:49 am #

    There are a couple of points that have not been addressed.
    How you evaluate a bus route’s performance affects the results. Routes 161 and 534 do poorly in Metro’s evaluation because they carry passengers a long distance without any turnover. Perhaps adding a zone fare would be appropriate on those two routes, which would certainly improve their performance.
    For the other routes, it is unclear if they are not doing well because they are in a bad area for transit or they are not doing well because of poor service. Would the previously mentioned hourly #220 do much better if it was every 15 minutes? Certainly, and especially now that it can connect to the Expo Light Rail Line. On the other other hand poor #202 mostly serves heavy industrial areas like an oil refinery.
    When we cancel coverage routes, we also make patronage routes less productive to the extent that people taking coverage routes are transferring to or from patronage routes.
    I agree with the poster who said that Metro has already made a lot of optimizations to its line. I believe Los Angeles has relatively few bus routes for a city of its size and area.

  44. Jarrett Walker July 10, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

    Michael, Chris.
    We know more about ridership than you infer. I laid out this argument in Ch 10 of my book, but briefly:
    The relationship between ridership and density is geometrically obvious. It costs the same to run a bus of service quality x through an area of density y as it does to run through an area of density 2y. But in the latter case, there are twice as many people, jobs, reasons to travel within walking distance of every stop. So of course, all other things being equal, ridership will be twice as high for the same service cost.
    If you told me that ridership in the two areas was actually the same, that would be so amazing that I’d look for some other explanation. Mathematically, it would mean that people at high density are less likely to use transit than people at low density. That would be really bizarre.
    But in fact, once we drill down and actually look at ridership-density relationships, we see exactly what you’d expect: ridership varies strongly with density. In fact, ridership at density 2y is usually more than twice as high as it is at density y, because of lots of other ridership-encouraging factors that vary with density.
    The point about road networks is similar. If two areas have the same density but the bus has to drive twice as far in one case than the other because the roads are crooked, it will cost twice as much to get the same ridership — so ridership per unit of cost will be half as high.
    Fuzzy datasets can appear to say all kinds of things. That’s why you have to think about the underlying geometry. Once you understand the geometric relationships, you know how to query the data, and you inevitably find that the facts of geometry are true!

  45. Michael July 11, 2015 at 6:52 am #

    Jarrett,
    Of course a higher density area could potentially have more riders per route KM. But there is also a chance it could not.
    And it does not address the fact that if transit is to succeed, we have to stop worrying about the density of every single census tract, and work on building a viable transit service that transcends different density levels.
    Why does Toronto have such high ridership? It is not from the ridership in the inner city, but rather from the ridership in the suburbs. The TTC accomplished this by extending city level transit service to the suburbs.
    My suburban subdivision has a bus just as frequently as my friend who lives in an inner city area.
    Density is the not the be all and end all of creating high ridership. And if it was, then there are plenty of American cities which should have bus routes bursting with ridership. But they don’t, because the most important factor is service levels, in determining if someone will use transit.
    I am very concerned that planners continue to push this idea that there is certain density target, after which someone should get no transit, or poor transit service.
    If they did this in Toronto, I would most certainly be in a car today, with millions of other riders in suburban Toronto.
    At the end of the day, do you want to provide a viable transit service that actually does create ridership? If so, then the entire built up area must be served by an attractive basic level of service, with higher levels of service on busy corridors.
    This whole talk about coverage routes taking money from high ridership routes is basically rubbish. Because in a transit network all routes work together and cross subsidize. In fact, we should not even be classifying routes as ridership or coverage. They all act together and have an important part to play. In fact in society as whole we pay for different services at different levels for different people. That is not a bad thing.
    You will also find that in transit systems that follow this ridership verses coverage concept, costs can often be higher for coverage services, because planners have made a value judgement that areas with coverage service are “transit hostile”. This means, that the service is often pathetic, with a bus every 60 minutes. This in turn does not generate ridership, which means the bus is mostly empty.
    You contrast this with a minimum service standards, like the TTC, where all bus routes must operate every 30 minutes or better (everyone must have a basic attractive level of service). And what you get is bus routes which tend to do well financially across the board.
    In fact in the TTC area, suburban and inner city routes tend to have similar cost recoveries. Some suburban routes have better cost recoveries than inner city routes.
    As I have been saying. We are building a transit network, and suburbs are here. Punishing certain residents is not going to create high ridership.
    It is going to continue the idea that transit is not a viable travel option.
    Canadian systems must be doing something right, as their usage rates are much better than American systems. And part of this has to do with the fact that everyone has transit available to them.
    You do not have a transit system if people are cut off from transit.
    So lets stop worrying about the cost of a coverage service, and look at ways to actually fix suburban transit and make it viable.
    Again, people have to read Transport for Suburbia. It really goes into this topic, and is probably the best resource on transit. If I was professor teaching transportation planning, this would be the one book that would be a must read.
    As for the Edmonton numbers. They have a transportation report on their website. It showed the transit mode share for different areas of Edmonton. There is some variation, but what it showed was that across the city, transit usage rates were not drastically different. Some inner city and suburban areas had low transit usage rates. Some inner city and suburban areas had high usage rates.

  46. Ivan July 11, 2015 at 7:28 am #

    Michael, you’r simply asking for more transit, not discussing how to distribute it. They are different things.
    “As for the Edmonton numbers… …it showed was that across the city, transit usage rates were not drastically different”
    That can be true, but if we have half the people in the same amount of space (half the density) and the transit usage rate is the same, we have… yeah, half the users, and the cost will be the same becuse it depends on the space, not the people on it so that’s twice the cost per capita.
    You should read Jarret’s book because it explains it very well in chapter 9 with the “Sprawville and Denseville” example and I’m sore you won’t dissagre with nothing it sais, basicaly because there are all facts and not opinions.
    Respect to the Paul Mess’s book; he advocates for more transit but not how to manage it. Its easy to give coverage to almost the whole city when you have so many transit found and so few sprawl (in proportion) comparing with other places, but if you do the same in Oklahoma or Raleigh for example, you’ll end up with something like a bus every two hours in the most powerful corridor.

  47. P July 11, 2015 at 12:04 pm #

    I don’t think there is anything in Jarret’s work that contradicts the central principles of Mees. I have read both Mees and Walker, and in many ways Jarret’s work is a practical extension of it, sans the shrill that sometimes flavoured Mees work. (Mees spent much of his time blasting the Victorian Government transport department).
    Paul’s thesis was that density did not really matter, network planning did. His argument was that most areas were already dense enough to support PT and that low patronage was really down to government policy incompetence. Mees advocated getting buses and trains to work together in a single network, rather than have buses fight trains, privatisation, separated ticketing etc. Mees’ emphasis was on network planning, integration and that networks can be changed faster than density can.
    Jarret’s work tells you how to go about doing the network planning and offers the math and geometric micro foundations for its justification.
    Jarrett has already written a post about ‘conceptual triangles’ that influence PT usage, such as service level, density, and ridership http://www.humantransit.org/2011/01/basics-conceptual-triangles.html
    The paper ‘Purpose driven public transport’ goes into detail even further.

  48. Michael D. Setty July 11, 2015 at 1:17 pm #

    One thing about Canadian suburban areas that has gone un-commented on here is how local street patterns in most places (particularly Calgary and Edmonton) are conducive to transit, even in the relatively low density suburbs. Unlike the U.S., a look at Google Maps (a part of South Edmonton https://www.google.com/maps/place/Edmonton,+AB,+Canada/@53.4438057,-113.4997354,1307m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m2!3m1!1s0x53a0224580deff23:0x411fa00c4af6155d) reveals the curving collector street on which buses run is within 1/4 mile of all housing units.
    Unfortunately, many suburban areas of the U.S. do not have similar street patterns, and are rather a jumble of seemingly random collections of curvlinear streets. Many U.S. suburban areas are also far below even the 3,000/sq. mi. gross density of Edmonton, e.g., at net densities of 2-3 units/acre, vs. the 6-8 units/acre which appear to be the minimum in Edmonton, at least from a cursory look at the Google aerials.

  49. EngineerScotty July 11, 2015 at 1:26 pm #

    If I may attempt a crude synthesis of Jarrett and Michael’s positions:
    Density is necessary to attract sufficient levels of patronage to justify the existence of crappy transit service.
    In other words–if high quality service is provided (e.g. ten minute headways, and reasonable connections to most parts of a metro area), transit will be an attractive product even in lower-density areas. If much of the city is not reachable (or reachable only with long wait times at transfer points to infrequent services), then even frequent service on a few select trunk lines is not going to be an attractive product, as the service will only be useful to those travelling along the trunk line (or elsewhere within the frequent service network).
    Here’s an interesting exercise: Go stand alongside your average suburban arterial during midday, and count the cars going past. Depending on the width and speed, you will probably count 10-40 cars per minute. Now if every one of those motorists were instead in a bus–what bus frequency would be needed to support that demand? A lot more often than four buses an hour.
    Yet most everyone in the ‘burbs chooses to drive, and does so for virtually all their trips–the bus doesn’t exist for them.
    If the bus only comes once an hour, and not at all on weekends–it’s pretty much useless to anyone whose transit elasticity coefficient isn’t high (the polite, economics-lingo way of saying “transit-dependent”). While serving that population may be an important part of a transit agency’s mission, if an agency wants to broaden its appeal, then decent comprehensive transit is probably a better way to go about it than high-quality transit in a few places.
    Focusing on high quality transit in a few places, but abandoning others, diminishes the network effects that makes transit work. Unfortunately, the funding environment in much of the US does force transit agencies to often choose between poor alternatives. And unfortunately, there are many places in US metros where the built environment is so hostile to transit (both in terms of not providing efficient bus corridors, and in terms of making it inconvenient if not dangerous to walk to and from the bus stop) that I can understand why cash-starved transit agencies might wish to write such places off. (In particular, if there aren’t enough funds to provide even basic service everywhere, then providing basic service to the most dense residential and commercial areas is probably as good as you’ll be able to do).

  50. Rico July 12, 2015 at 6:43 am #

    Michelle, one point for you to consider with regards to Edmonton and Toronto is the service area of both the TTC and Edmonton Transit don’t really cover a lot of areas of suburb sprawl. Edmonton Transit only covers the City of Edmonton, not the surrounding suburbs and same with the TTC it basically covers downtown and the inner suburbs.

  51. Jeff Wegerson July 12, 2015 at 7:10 am #

    EngineerScotty’s characterizations of the positions strikes me as accurate.
    I see Michael repeating two major assertions:
    One that echos a repost by Jarrett a bit back – (http://www.humantransit.org/2015/06/pity-the-poor-city-bus-writes-jacob-anbinder-in-an-interesting-essay-at-the-century-foundations-website-anbinder-b.html) Michael is saying “build it and they will come.”
    The second repeated assertion Michael makes seems to be that as proof of the first assertion look at suburban Toronto (or maybe Europe).
    Michael then appears to ignore various practical objections that suggest that there is no easy way to get there from here.
    I suspect that everyone here would agree that if we gave enough money to some transit district willing to test Michael’s assertions that indeed it would be possible to effect a significant shift away from cars to transit.
    But that offer is not on the table anywhere at this time in the U.S. So we are left with policy makers having to decide on some percentage ratios dividing the money available between coverage routes and service routes. The end result of starvation budgets is that some places that could support service routes must pretend to make do with coverage routes instead and places that could pretend to make do with coverage routes get nothing at all.
    It’s regrettable but we live in a time when even the threat of catastrophic climate change caused by fossil fuels is not enough to bring about the removal of sociopathic, neo-liberal, oligarchic, anti-government, so-called capitalistic, concentrations of power that stand in the way rational transit systems.
    It’s a hyperbolic thought but this thread is an example of intelligent people who mostly agree with each other fighting over scraps.

  52. Michael July 12, 2015 at 9:34 am #

    “But that offer is not on the table anywhere at this time in the U.S. So we are left with policy makers having to decide on some percentage ratios dividing the money available between coverage routes and service routes. ”
    And some of this issue has do with planners giving support to limited funding, by talking about transit hostile areas, and areas which do not deserve proper transit service.
    Take Houston for example. Yes the bus redesign is going to make service better for some. But less than half of Houston residents are going to be served by attractive transit service.
    Instead of planners saying how great it is they have redesigned the system for one million people. How about talking about how over one million people will still have crappy transit because of limited funding, and how if Houston really wants to change transportation outcomes, then more money is going to have to be provided.
    Do you think any city from Toronto, to Copenhagen, to Vancouver, has created a transit culture without spending money?
    By continuing to say it is ok to choose coverage verses ridership, planners are giving justification to governments to not spend money.
    Lets take Edmonton. Edmonton does not have a funding problem. But what Jarrett has done by going there, is tell the government “hey you don’t need to spend more money. Just cut service to areas planners don’t believe are transit supportive, and you can create outstanding service to a small segment of the population)”. What Edmonton needs to be told is that they do a pretty good job, but that they need to fund transit more to ensure they can continue to provide good service and enhance the service to all residents.
    Sooner or latter optimization does not work, and you just need to spend money.
    Also concerning the service areas of Edmonton and Toronto’s TTC. Both systems serve very suburban areas. And the same lessons are being seen in Toronto’s outer suburbs which have their own systems. On the systems which have invested in service, you are starting to see ridership levels similar to the suburbs under the TTC service area. It comes down to service.
    I refuse to stand for defeat. I believe in what Paul Mees stood for, that we need to find solutions and advocate for good transit for everyone. That is the only way we will ever make transit a viable travel option.
    If you can’t rely on good transit, then you are not going to use it.
    1 million people may have good transit in Houston. But over 1.5 million will not, and of the 1 million that do have good service, thousands will not be able to use it, as good service does not extend the other areas.

  53. P July 12, 2015 at 4:25 pm #

    Well I don’t agree with that view at all.
    How you cut the pie and the size of the pie you are given are two independent things. You can’t make a pie bigger but cutting it a different way.
    It would be good to see actual emprical numbers on these kinds of things.

  54. P July 12, 2015 at 4:30 pm #

    You can see some of the effects operating in the Houston example, which had to also pass scrutiny for not making minority and low income areas worse off:
    In particular, look at some of the graphics in the article:
    http://www.citylab.com/commute/2014/05/houstons-plan-get-amazing-new-bus-system-no-new-money/9078/
    The new Houston network significantly increases access to jobs on the frequent network. It is a massive increase in mobility.
    “The bigger change was Metro’s decision to prioritize ridership over service area. That means focusing on corridors with high ridership patterns at the expense of those serving more remote areas with fewer passengers. The trade-off with this decision is that some residents who currently rely on the bus will likely see their access get a little worse. (Walker writes that the share of riders who will need to walk farther to reach the bus is small, and that for the longer walk they’ll get a better system.) ”

  55. Transit Rider July 12, 2015 at 6:22 pm #

    P posted the following comment: “How you cut the pie and the size of the pie you are given are two independent things. You can’t make a pie bigger but cutting it a different way.”
    Using examples from Toronto, Michael contends, “Sooner or latter optimization does not work, and you just need to spend money.”
    Well, let’s take a look at how the pies have changed in Los Angeles and Toronto from 2008 to 2013. These are readily available data points from the National Transit Database and TTC Operating Statistics. (Because we are comparing systems in two different countries, the categories are slightly different but we can still draw valid conclusions based on trends.)
    Los Angeles (MTA buses)
    Peak buses – 2,234 (2008); 1,860 (2013) (-11.9%)
    Vehicle Miles – 73,549,838 (2008); 90,281,714 (2013) (-18.5%)
    Ridership – 387,520,373 (2008); 350,385,593 (2013) (-9.5%)
    Toronto (TTC buses)
    Total buses – 1,737 (2008); 1,851 (2013) (+6.5%)
    Vehicle km – 114,149,000 (2008); 129,577,000 (2013) (+13.5%)
    Revenue Passengers (Systemwide only) – 466,700,000 (2008); 525,194,000 (2013) (+12.5%)
    Between 2008 and 2013, Los Angeles cut nearly 1 out of 8 peak buses and 1 out of 5 bus vehicle miles. While a detailed list of these cuts would span pages, they consisted of many complete and partial route abandonments, service thinning (e.g., reducing headways from 15 to 25 minutes), consolidation of rapid/local services and coordination with Gold Line eastern extension and Metro Expo Line (this last factor is very minor compared to the other factors). The greater point of this “optimization” still stands: Los Angeles has already sloughed off many of its “low-performing” service, and the results are not pretty. In just five years, bus ridership has fallen by over 37 million annually, or roughly 125,000 per day.
    In contrast, Toronto has expanded its bus system in spite of deliberate attempts by Mayor Rob Ford to dismantle the service improvements of the previous administration. TTC Chair Adam Giambrone, whatever his personal faults, understood the need to provide a comprehensive transit service (not just in the old city of Toronto) and launched the Ridership Growth Strategy. Overall TTC ridership (individual bus numbers are not available) has ballooned by roughly 60 million per year, or 200,000 per day.
    During the 2008-2013 period, both LA and Toronto were influenced by harsh economic conditions and had to cut service at points. But Toronto’s overall philosophy which Michael describes has helped that city’s transit system grow (and survive the transit-hostile Ford administration) while Los Angeles’ service optimization philosophy has resulted in a much diminished bus system.
    The TTC made a political decision to articulate a vision to grow ridership and seek additional funding while the Los Angeles MTA made a series of cuts that only customers noticed. It’s really sad that the LAMTA did not make a political case for more service because they likely would have done very well. Los Angeles County voters have supported measures to improve transit infrastructure overwhelmingly in recent years by huge margins (but also face a daunting 2/3 approval threshold).
    So Toronto’s pie has grown while Los Angeles’ has shrunk. Why is Los Angeles trying to rearrange deck chairs on the Titanic instead of striving to get back to at least where it was in 2008?

  56. EngineerScotty July 12, 2015 at 6:39 pm #

    Here’s another way to look at it.
    When a transit agency is looking at its available budget, vs the service needs of its coverage area–the first question to ask is:
    Can we provide useable service–for some definition of usable–to everyone? (Or at least 90%+ of everyone, there will always be a long tail that can’t be efficiently reached by anything less than a personal bus line :P).
    If the answer to that question is no–which is unfortunately true in many US transit contexts (turning that answer to “yes” is also an important thing to do, but a political and not a technical problem), then the coverage-vs-ridership debate becomes important. Do you try to maximize the utilization of the service you can provide, and try to fill as many seats as possible? Or do you try to cater to more socially useful trips–weighting connecting a poor community with a job center higher than allowing yuppies to get to their favorite cafe in style? And of course, increasing fare revenue does increase the service hours that can be supplied, even though farebox recovery ratios in the US are often well south of 50%.
    If, on the other hand, your agency can afford to bring service everywhere (or most everywhere)–than you should do that as the first order of business. Transit network effects are an important consideration, and if you can maximize the network by making it comprehensive, you should. Then you identify key services for higher capacity and increased frequency. And once you have GOOD high frequency network to much of the metro, augmented by additional lines filling in the gaps, then you should consider things like upgrading trunk lines to rail. (A common error of US transit agencies is installing rail in places where the connecting bus service sucks).

  57. Michael July 12, 2015 at 7:42 pm #

    Engineer,
    I totally understand your point. The issue with the USA is that if minimum coverage and service goals are not made stronger, then transit will never become a viable option for everyone, and it will continue to be a last resort option for the poor.
    Like the TTC says, the first goal is “every residents RIGHT TO MOBILITY”. This is why the minimum guidelines set a standard for a basic attractive service to everyone.
    I guess the main question is why Jarrett feels he has to tell cities to try and dismantle these great standards which are working, and move to a ridership verses coverage goal?
    Edmonton, for the suburban setting it serves, has pretty good service standards. The goal is for most areas to recieve a basic 30 minute daytime service, with 60 minutes allowed in the evenings. More frequent services operates on main routes.
    I don’t understand why Jarrett would go there and show maps on how they could cut daytime service to a whole host of neighborhoods to every 60 minutes (because Jarrett thinks they are transit hostile), and reinvest those service hours into other areas.
    That does nothing to make transit a viable service and improve the mobility for everyone, if people have to rely on a 60 minute service in whole areas of the city.
    What needed to be said was that Edmonton is doing pretty good, and that they could do two things to make it better:
    1. Increase funding to allow for the building of a larger frequent service network.
    2. Maybe some suburban routes could be streamlined to offer more direct routing. All while respecting and ensuring all communities still have access to quality transit service. Streamlining could mean these communities could get more service with the same resources. Not less as Jarrett proposed.
    There is a way to optimize. But it does not mean making whole areas transit deserts.
    If you are going to promote something, then you have to be prepared to speak to the negative consequences that can happen, like what happened in Fredericton, New Brunswick.
    Planners there decided they wanted to join the ridership verses coverage group. They decided that two outlying subdivisions separated from the main part of the city did not deserve anymore transit service, and that they could invest those hours into the core routes.
    These two outlying communities already had limited service.
    The move to cancel all service would have left residents unable to drive due to medical issues without a way to get around.
    The two communities started a group to save their bus service, did their own ridership counts, which showed the two limited bus routes actually had good service utilization, etc.
    They partly won, and the service is remaining for another year, although with less trips. The reduced service makes the bus service less attractive in this community that so wants more bus service.
    This is where the Canadian way of ensuring a basic service to everyone creates a true transit network, and the ridership verses coverage debate is just a stop gap measure make it look like service is better, when the truth is many people have to rely on worse or no service to pay for the improvements elsewhere. That does not create the “right to mobility” except for a few lucky. In Houston’s case, less than half the population.

  58. Michael July 12, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

    I would also like to add, that in the Fredericton communities that were facing losing their transit service, it was not just about serving people that could not drive. Despite the low densities and almost semi rural areas, some residents in the subdivision were able to rely on only having one car in the family, because of the bus service.
    These people were making a choice to use the bus.
    However, by cutting service, it would only reinforce that people need a car for everything, and that there is no use in trying to live a less car centric in different areas of the city, that planners do not perceive as transit worthy.

  59. Twin Peaks July 12, 2015 at 9:17 pm #

    Let’s visit another city which has received Jarrett’s consultant advice: San Francisco. The second-densest city in the United States, San Francisco has limited parking and high transit ridership. But like everywhere else, there are variations in the Muni service area (some areas are flat, others are hilly; some have a greater percentage of homeowners, others have more renters). The “coverage” routes in San Francisco would be the “community” routes that primarily serve the hilly areas in the center of the city. They consume about 5 percent of Muni service hours while delivering 2 percent of the ridership (in other words, hardly worth worrying about). And of course, these people likely transfer to other, more “productive” services, and without their ridership the whole network would be weaker.
    Jarrett advised:
    It is important not to define this brand so positively that people begin to think of it as an entitlement … (B)randing should be careful not to overproduce these services or make them sound especially special. Their purpose is exactly the opposite: to provide minimal basic mobility solely for areas that are hard to serve with more efficient Grid services. There is a further risk around the word “community”, which commonly attaches to services such as these. Community has such a positive feel that it can generate feelings of entitlement that are contrary to this category’s purpose…Other terms might be explored.
    In other words, let’s not try to market these services positively. That might not only build ridership, but also actually attract a constituency for transit who would fight to have buses retained as a public service. So if these community services were to be eliminated, would it be a game changer for Muni’s budget relative to the social cost of isolated residents? Likely not.
    But of course we could just let them eat cake because there is such a plethora of options:
    (A) Uber or Taxi – Possible for the occasional trip, but not financially sustainable over the long term, especially for senior citizens or people with disabilities living on fixed incomes
    (B) Move – This is an unrealistic option given the low availability and astronomical price of housing in San Francisco, where people wouldn’t be able to purchase the homes they are now living in or people under rent control who would see their rents skyrocket
    (C) Drive – Where would you park for a reasonable price? Do you really want people with varying driving skills trying to park everywhere or drive on heavily-congested streets with a high number of pedestrian collisions?
    Nothing is free. Certainly, some places are more expensive to serve than others, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have basic transit accessibility. No one is expecting that these areas have Geary Blvd levels of service, just something useable. And like another poster said about Los Angeles, the voters of San Francisco overwhelmingly supported two transit funding measures and rejected a pro-car one last November. So clearly people are willing to pay for more transit.

  60. Twin Peaks July 12, 2015 at 9:31 pm #

    (Corrected from previous post)
    Let’s visit another city which has received Jarrett’s consultant advice: San Francisco. The second-densest city in the United States, San Francisco has limited parking and high transit ridership. But like everywhere else, there are variations in the Muni service area (some areas are flat, others are hilly; some have a greater percentage of homeowners, others have more renters). The “coverage” routes in San Francisco would be the “community” routes that primarily serve the hilly areas in the center of the city. They consume about 5 percent of Muni service hours while delivering 2 percent of the ridership (in other words, hardly worth worrying about). And of course, these people likely transfer to other, more “productive” services, and without their ridership the whole network would be weaker.
    Jarrett advised:
    It is important not to define this brand so positively that people begin to think of it as an entitlement … (B)randing should be careful not to overpromote these services or make them sound especially special. Their purpose is exactly the opposite: to provide minimal basic mobility solely for areas that are hard to serve with more efficient Grid services. There is a further risk around the word “community”, which commonly attaches to services such as these. Community has such a positive feel that it can generate feelings of entitlement that are contrary to this category’s purpose…Other terms might be explored.
    In other words, let’s not try to market these services positively. That might not only build ridership, but also actually attract a constituency for transit who would fight to have buses retained as a public service. So if these community services were to be eliminated, would it be a game changer for Muni’s budget relative to the social cost of isolated residents? Likely not.
    But of course we could just let them eat cake because there is such a plethora of options:
    (A) Uber or Taxi – Possible for the occasional trip, but not financially sustainable over the long term, especially for senior citizens or people with disabilities living on fixed incomes
    (B) Move – This is an unrealistic option given the low availability and astronomical price of housing in San Francisco, where people wouldn’t be able to purchase the homes they are now living in or people under rent control who would see their rents skyrocket
    (C) Drive – Where would you park for a reasonable price? Do you really want people with varying driving skills trying to park everywhere or drive on heavily-congested streets with a high number of pedestrian collisions?
    (D) Bike – Not everyone is a 25-year old guy, and even they would have a tough time ascending many of San Francisco’s hills on a bike especially with groceries
    Nothing is free. Certainly, some places are more expensive to serve than others, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have basic transit accessibility. No one is expecting that these areas have Geary Blvd levels of service, just something useable. And like another poster said about Los Angeles, the voters of San Francisco overwhelmingly supported two transit funding measures and rejected a pro-car one last November. So clearly people are willing to pay for more transit.

  61. uno July 13, 2015 at 10:11 am #

    -Should the transit system guarantee everyone a basic degree of mobility?
    -Should the transit system prioritize ridership over coverage?
    -Should the transit system prioritize service to the 90% of people within relatively easy reach of transit over the 10% who aren’t, or try to reach everyone with relatively equal service without distinction?
    The above are all questions of how to distribute the goods and services of society, in this case transit. That is, the above are all political questions. They need to be decided by politicians and voters. A paid consultant like Jarrett has no business making those decisions, because we the people have no recourse if we don’t like what he decides.
    The proper role of a consultant like Jarrett in all this is to explain how to get the effects we want, how to build the transit system we want, and what the implications will be, all within the resources the agency is given. If the people/politicians decide that they want a frequent network and give the agency x dollars to do it, the agency will have to make choices. If you don’t like the choices they make, you will have to take that up with the people/politicians. If you think the transit system should always provide a frequent level of service for 99% of the people in its coverage area, regardless of how conducive the geometry of their neighborhoods is to effective transit, then you will have to convince the people of that–and more likely, convince the people to pony up for it.
    To Jarrett’s credit, he seems to understand this. Either way, I would rather have the people demand an ineffective transit system, get it, and have to live with the consequences than have a paid and unelected consultant deciding political questions for me. The consequences of paid, unelected consultants making political decisions for us are a lot scarier.

  62. Michael July 13, 2015 at 12:28 pm #

    Uno,
    Some points:
    – If public transit is to ever be a viable travel option, it must provide attractive service to the entire built up area of an urban region. There is no question to that.
    – The USA is one of the only countries that does not have minimum coverage targets for transit systems.
    – A transit professional is supposed to yes plan given the resources available. But a professional must also state what is best for specific outcomes.
    In terms of making transit a viable travel option, and increase transit mode share, you just are not going to get that if you are not serving everyone with some sort of attractive service.
    – I really question this whole notion that you can have ridership without coverage. Example: My friend who lives in Memphis would love to go car free. He lives along a major corridor in Memphis, which has some of the best bus service in the region (the service is still lacking). But he can’t go car free, because transit does not serve the office building he works in. Transit does not serve whole areas of the region either, which means he would be confined to a few areas transit services.
    So Memphis is not getting his ridership and many more, because it does not matter if they can rely on a bus on a main corridor. They can’t get anywhere where else.
    As I have stated before. We need to come up with solutions for hard to service areas, and many places have already done that. In some Canadian cities, hard to serve neighborhoods are provided with a taxi bus service, which works great.
    And other neighborhoods have shown that they can support quality regular bus service, if it is provided, even though they are considered not ideal transit neighborhoods.

  63. uno July 13, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

    Michael, I think you are completely talking past me.
    Whether the transit system should provide attractive service to 99% of the entire region’s populace is a political question. Whether the transit system should be an alternative to owning a car as a means of transportation, and not just an alternative to driving to work or driving to the airport, is a political question. They’re not questions that transit planners and consultants should be answering (and the ones that are answering it are stepping outside their lane). So, unless the transit planners and consultants who are stepping out of their lane, you shouldn’t be aiming your anger at them. If communities want a transit system that caters primarily or solely to commuters, airports, and tourist destinations, then it is the communities’ minds you will have to change.

  64. P July 13, 2015 at 3:54 pm #

    http://transit.toronto.on.ca/spare/0011.shtml
    “The TTC service plans throughout the past two decades carefully examine each route change proposal to see how much subsidy per boarding would be required to maintain the route, and how many riders the change would benefit. Whatever new route they create, the funds for that route will have to be taken from elsewhere in the system. If service has improved in your area, this has been achieved by decreasing service in another area. The TTC can’t get any more blood from the stone — they must work with what they have in order to achieve service improvements.”

  65. P July 13, 2015 at 4:03 pm #

    HOW THE TTC PLANS SERVICE (EXERPT FROM 1999 SERVICE PLAN)
    Source: http://transit.toronto.on.ca/bus/8101.shtml
    “PLANNING TRANSIT SERVICE
    The TTC has two major objectives in planning its transit services:
    1. To maximize mobility within the City of Toronto by ensuring that public transit is provided in the right places, at the right times, to satisfy the changing travel needs within the community.
    2. To ensure that all transit services operated by the TTC are as efficient and cost-effective as possible and, therefore, affordable to both TTC customers and taxpayers.
    SERVICE QUALITY STANDARDS
    Minimum levels of service are set to ensure that a reasonable, attractive level of transit service is available on all routes. Service levels below these limits are generally unacceptable from the customers’ perspective, and are not attractive enough to develop a consistent base of ridership. The basic minimum level of service for bus and streetcar routes is a 30-minute service. Service will operate more frequently than this if it would be overcrowded, based on the vehicle loading standards described later in this section. A 60-minute service will be operated if the ridership levels will not support a 30-minute service. ”
    continues….

  66. P July 13, 2015 at 4:06 pm #

    HOW THE TTC PLANS SERVICE (EXERPT FROM 1999 SERVICE PLAN)
    Source: http://transit.toronto.on.ca/bus/8101.shtml
    “The TTC’s financial standard is that a service change will be made only if it improves the financial situation of the TTC. This means that, if the cost of operating the new service is paid for by removing another service, the number of customers who would start using the TTC because of the introduction of the new service must be greater than the number of customers who would stop using the TTC because of the removal of the other service.”
    FINANCIAL STANDARDS AND COMPARISONS
    The TTC’s financial standard has been established to ensure that a service change will be made only if it improves the financial situation of the TTC.
    The financial standard allows business decisions to be made as to whether a service should be kept, modified, or removed. The TTC has limited resources available, and can pay for new services only by increasing fares or by reducing other services.
    The TTC’s financial standard is applied this way: New services will not be introduced if the number of customers gained per dollar spent is below 0.23. Services which are on trial will be eliminated if the number of customers gained per dollar spent was below 0.23. Other services which are already being operated will be modified to reduce their costs or to increase fare revenue if the number of customers gained per dollar spent is below 0.23. If no suitable changes can be found for routes on which the number of customers gained per dollar spent is under 0.23, and if service reductions are required, either because of declining ridership or reductions in funding, then these services would be recommended for removal.
    If service cuts were to be required because of reductions in funding or because of declines in ridership, the services with the poorest financial performance would be the ones selected to be removed. This would ensure that the service cuts would result in the least possible decline in ridership and thus the least possible loss of fare revenue. This is the same approach as was used when service cuts were required in February 1996 after funding cuts from the municipal and provincial governments.”

  67. P July 13, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

    I won’t post the whole thing, but what I will say, if you are looking for an example of how to implement Jarrett’s ideas, I wouldn’t be suggesting Toronto is the exception. To me, it looks like Toronto is the rule.
    They appear to be very financially strict.
    http://transit.toronto.on.ca/bus/8101.shtml

  68. Michael July 13, 2015 at 8:37 pm #

    P,
    Some of what you posted are old service standards from the lost decade of the 1990’s during the height of the service cuts, when a few routes went to 45 or 60 minute frequency.
    The TTC has since brought the standard back to every 30 minutes, and there has not been hourly service on any route.
    Further, the TTC has implemented service on almost all routes until at least 1:30am, seven days a week, to offer mobility to everyone, and to ensure transit is an attractive service.
    The TTC was also planning on making the minimum service levels every 20 minutes. But that hit a wall when Mayor Ford was in power.
    The TTC is financially strict. But you have to remember that the TTC operates a very frequent service. When they reallocate resources, they are doing so on very frequent routes.
    So yes they will decrease a service from every 7 minutes to every 8 minutes, and put the buses on another route with crowding, and improve that service from say every 12 minutes to every 10 minutes.
    They do not just cancel routes and leave whole areas without service, so that they can focus the resources elsewhere. They ensure there is a basic service to all areas. And the service until 1:30am does not have minimum ridership guidelines. They will run the bus empty, because it is about having transit available. Of course, most of the buses are not running empty.
    Even doing the lean budget cut years, the TTC maintained service to all areas. They did not pick and choose, which is what a coverage verses ridership concept advocates.
    The optimizations the TTC does, can basically not really be done on most transit networks in North America, because they do not operate frequent enough service to do so.
    I really don’t see how people can be against a service standards that call for a minimum basic level of service to all built up areas. Seriously, how do you expect transit to be a viable travel option if it can’t take you everywhere?
    If you are happy with transit being a last resort option, and with people having limited access to opportunity, then fine. But if you want transit to succeed then it has to be available across the urban area, and at attractive service levels.

  69. Michael July 13, 2015 at 9:02 pm #

    P,
    Being financially strict does not mean you cut service to entire areas. Canadian transit systems are pretty efficient, and also provide more service and better coverage than their American counterparts, and do it with less funding.
    It should also be noted that thanks to increased funding, the TTC has reduced its fare recovery ratio over the past few years. This has allowed for initiatives such as expanded overnight service, and ensuring almost all bus routes operate until at least 1:30am (most service did already, and all Toronto residents still had access to late night service. But the new additions mean the walk distance is greatly reduced for many residents).
    There has been a great push to do basic improvements like guarantee all routes run until a certain time, because there is an understanding that people are not going to rely on transit if it is not there for them.
    The most recent improvement coming online is a 10 minute max network, until 1am, seven days a week. And some of these 10 min max routes touch outlying neighborhoods which would be deemed transit hostile in a coverage verses ridership concept.
    But you know what? People ride because the services are attractive.
    The TTC and most Canadian systems are models of equitable transit planning which transcends different development styles, incomes, and service concepts, to create a transit network you can rely on. There is work to do in some cities, but I would say the TTC is probably the number one system in North America in terms of service. Not even New York City provides the level of overnight transit service access that Toronto does. And NYC has gaps in service in some outlying neighborhoods.
    The fact that 95% of the Toronto’s population has access to overnight service, and about 85% of the population is within a 5 minute walk of 15 minute or better bus service is outstanding.
    No other system in North America has such a robust frequent service network (the 10 min max network) that touches not only high density areas, but also very suburban sections.
    Toronto has such high ridership, because the TTC allows you to rely on transit at any time of the day or night, to every area of Toronto.
    Providing outstanding service on a few key routes, at the expense of everything else, does not create ridership. It creates continued reliance on the automobile.
    If focusing on so called ridership routes at the expense of ensuring a basic level of transit access for everyone was so good for ridership, then cities that do so should have skyrocketing transit ridership and transit mode shares. But the fact is they don’t. Transit mode share is only high, where people can rely on transit on more than just a few busy corridors.

  70. Twin Peaks July 13, 2015 at 11:28 pm #

    Echoing Michael’s assertions, I would agree that Toronto has one of the most comprehensive transit networks in North America (vying with New York City Transit). San Francisco is another contender, but on a much smaller scale.
    Muni provides a route within 3 blocks of something like 95% of San Francisco residents, with service generally operating from 6 am to at least 11 pm seven days per week. There is only one route operating worse than every 30 minutes (76x, a weekend recreational bus to Marin). Owl service is also fairly extensive, with all but one route coming every 30 minutes (and this one may soon be upgraded).
    Unfortunately, the recession resulted in some routes during selected time periods being reduced from 20 to 30 minutes (enough to severely impact ridership) in 2010, but happily the majority of the most egregious service cuts were reversed a few months later after political pressure. Informed by the same consultants (TMD) who produced the Los Angeles scheme, there were some proposals to isolate entire San Francisco neighborhoods by gutting the community route network (which Jarrett refers to as an “entitlement”). Most of these plans, which would have “saved” a minuscule amount of resources anyway, were ultimately shelved amidst a huge public outcry. Is it any surprise that the consultant’s headquarters are located in a virtual transit desert in suburban San Diego County?
    People may complain that Muni is slow, but there is an understanding that it can take you everywhere in San Francisco. A lot of this goes back to visionary Muni transit planners in the early 1980s who established a grid network with policy headways and service coverage standards. Despite recent service “optimizations”, transit remains robust due to this decades-old framework, contributing to a relatively low auto ownership rates – 30 percent of households do not own a car. The bicycling, walking and transit mode share exceeds 50 percent. As importantly, there is a broad constituency for transit because average people can envision themselves using it, even if only occasionally. The relative completeness of the transit network is something to be celebrated, not dismembered.
    San Francisco does have some suburban-oriented neighborhoods, but nowhere near the extent of other places like Toronto. Providing a high level of service even to suburban areas is exemplary – and it has been part of TTC policy since Toronto development exploded following the Second World War. Toronto should be very proud of the TTC.

  71. P July 14, 2015 at 1:16 am #

    It is clear the TTC does distinguish between services on a financial basis:
    https://www.ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/Transit_Planning/index.jsp
    “An analysis was undertaken of the financial performance
    of every route in the TTC system. The analysis indicates
    that 52 routes currently have periods of service with a
    high level of subsidy required per passenger.
    If service reductions are required in the future, either because of declining ridership or because of reductions in funding,
    then service reductions would be made or these routes
    would be recommended for removal.”
    Having a financial standard that states the service will likely be removed if ” customers gained per dollar spent was below 0.23.” is an expression of patronage/ridership standard.
    The TTC draws the line at 0.23
    It was said that the material was old, I think they are still using this service standard.
    “Research on customers’ behaviour has shown that
    the ridership effects of these three options – adding
    service, eliminating service, or raising fares – balance at
    0.23 customers gained or lost per dollar spent or saved.”
    The TTC even goes through a list of routes here
    https://www.ttc.ca/PDF/Transit_Planning/service_improvements_2008.pdf
    It lays out all the costs, in black and white. For example, I can see that the 192 Airport rocket cost then $9,600 per day to operate.

  72. P July 14, 2015 at 2:57 am #

    Canadian cities (whole metro areas) do consistently better than US cities, as seen in Jarrett’s own posts http://www.humantransit.org/2010/10/further-cause-for-canadian-triumphalism.html
    But Australian cities also do better, and there isn’t fantastic service in Australian cities at all (perhaps Melbourne)

  73. Steve Munro July 14, 2015 at 9:21 am #

    A few comments about the TTC’s standards and methodology:
    They came up with the .23 customers per dollar several years ago as the inverse of the maximum permitted subsidy/rider. It used to be 5x the average subsidy per rider. The problem with .23 is that, contrary to TTC’s belief, this is not a dimensionless number, and as the cost of service rises, it takes more and more riders to achieve the goal. Because Toronto went through a period of retrenchment when just protecting the system from Rob Ford was job one, we didn’t look at the effect of that standard very closely, but it needs to be revisited.
    The current standard is based on boardings (unlinked trips) per vehicle hour which is a measure of demand independent from cost. There are also special considerations for “transit deserts” where keeping some lines operating is needed to preserve access criteria particularly where there is a high concentration of transit captives such as seniors.
    TTC used to attempt a profit and loss statement for every route, but in a flat fare system with free transfers, there is no allocation mechanism for revenue that avoids one distortion or another. The situation is even more complex because over half of all adult trips are by monthly pass holders who have a fixed cost, and hence a zero marginal cost (or revenue) of ad hoc trips beyond their basic usage.
    Many years ago they gave up, and simply publish the operating costs which are derived from vehicle mileage, hours and peak vehicle count.
    When citing policies from Toronto, be careful which version you use because some are obsolete, and others are changing to be service oriented rather than cost oriented.

  74. P July 14, 2015 at 12:50 pm #

    The TTC still appears to be using this. From the latest 2015 TTC Service planning report, pages 8 onwards:
    Source: http://ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/Commission_reports_and_information/Committee_meetings/Budget/2015/June_17/Reports/Report_3_Service_Planning.pdf
    Minimum ROI on new service expenditures:
    • determine required resources
    → gross operating costs
    • project new ridership, revenues (new to system)
    • calculate net operating costs
    • determine new riders gained / net dollar operating cost
    • minimum ROI threshold = 0.23 new riders / net dollar cost:
    − eligible for trial implementation
    − subject to budget availability
    Productivity standard: boardings per service hour
    • minimum productivity threshold = 15 boardings / hour
    • productivity of 10-15 allowed if no alternative service within
    600 metres (8-minute walk)
    • exceptions allowed in accordance with policy objective, budget
    availability:
    − eg – all-day, every-day: 9 boardings / hour
    Debate aside, the document is worth a read in its own right. There is a minimum floor standard of 30 minutes on bus services.

  75. Michael July 14, 2015 at 4:26 pm #

    Every city is going to have productivity standards, the TTC included. Whether productivity standards should be something that are held to such high regard like in North America is another debate. Example, in some European cities, the network effect is more important, and so services are operated at a high frequency regardless of productivity.
    The difference with the TTC is that there is an attractive basic level of service to the entire service area. So while new services are evaluated, they are evaluated against the backdrop of an already robust transit network. It is different when you are modifying an entire transit network from scratch.
    I don’t want people to think I am against optimizations and modifying services.
    My only concern has always been the idea that have you to choose between ridership and coverage, and that we should be working towards creating viable mass transit systems that offer true mobility. To do that, you cannot cut off whole areas from transit, because they do not follow a checklist of what is considered a good neighborhood.
    We must find solutions and work towards making transit viable in all settings. Not just in select areas.
    In closing, the standards being talked about from the TTC stem in part from the budget issues in the mid 1990’s. The TTC has always had a list of services that would be cut if funding were ever cut again, because the TTC has been very cautious since those mega cuts in the 1990’s. The list and ROI is also to show political leaders what would go if the funding is not kept up.
    The new everyday until 1:30am network, for example, is not about productivity. It is about ensuring a minimum level of service is available. So there is exceptions as listed in the standards posted above.

  76. Tony Morton July 15, 2015 at 5:00 am #

    Just caught up with this very interesting discussion. Like many here, I’m an admirer of both Jarrett’s work and that of the late Paul Mees, with whom I’ve worked closely in the transport debate here in Melbourne, Australia. As Michael makes plain, Jarrett’s approach of trading off ‘ridership’ against ‘coverage’ service is the point – perhaps the only one of any significance – on which he and Mees part company.
    Anyone familiar with Mees would know he’d never allow a statement like “ridership is a function of density” to pass without argument. That doesn’t make Jarrett wrong when he explains the basic mathematical relationship between population density and transport demand. What we all really mean to say is that density determines the ‘exogenous’ component of demand (as an economist would say). Mees’ analysis focussed on the fact that the gap between exogenous demand for transport and actual use of transit services can be enormous – yet may turn on little more than the will of the transit agency to operate and defend a high quality of service, and of politicians to fund its provision.
    There are of course places, even in some metro areas, where the exogenous demand for transport is so low that the only level of transit service that can usefully be provided is what Jarrett calls a ‘coverage’ service – an hourly bus justified on the basis of social inclusion rather than by the relatively small number of users carried. My favourite example of this is remote villages in rural Switzerland (most of which have at least an hourly bus to the nearest rail hub), but I’ll concede the kind of barely-urban suburb that has a handful of dwellings per acre at the end of a mile-long tree of cul-de-sacs could fall into the same category.
    The problem is that we’re all far too quick to write off most suburbs as falling into this transit-hostile category on the basis of _actual_ transit use rather than the true exogenous demand for transport, which is typically far higher. The true marker of a genuinely transit-hostile suburb, with a very low level of exogenous demand, is an almost complete absence of traffic congestion. As EngineerScotty above points out, as soon as you see congestion on the roads that’s a signal that the exogenous demand likely exists to fill a frequent bus service to break-even level, even if only a certain fraction of travellers were to use the bus by choice.
    What we actually see across vast tracts of suburban North America, Australia, and even high-density regional Britain, is chronic traffic congestion side-by-side with (mostly empty) transit operated at no more than ‘coverage’ standard. As long as transit use in general remained static while car travel rose, planners and politicians with a car-oriented mindset could explain this away as people having an intrinsic preference for cars, and not be challenged. Now it’s the other way around, with transit use rising and car use stagnant, yet we still run a lot of substandard transit service under the guise of ‘demand responsiveness’. As Swiss planner Felix Laube wrote about 20 years ago (in a book called, rather topically, “Optimising Urban Passenger Transport”), demand-responsive service on low-frequency routes is always retractive in nature, because people don’t voluntarily queue up in the gaps between infrequent departures to demand a better service. It always takes an act of will to recognise that many ‘coverage’ services are actually ‘ridership’ services in disguise.
    OF course, when you have politicians starving your transit agency budget it’s difficult to argue for an expansionist policy, hence the drive to reorganise scarce resources in a way guaranteed on existing trends to generate as much ridership (equivalently revenue) as possible. It can simply be too risky to take an hourly bus service and propose it run every 15 minutes instead, purely on the promise that much of the additional cost will be offset by increased fare revenue. Even if it’s essentially no different to what every highway agency in the last half century did when waving through a new freeway or road-widening project.
    Both Jarrett and Mees stress the importance of frequent networks. What probably needs to be recognised more is that the further the frequent network extends and harnesses the latent demand for transit – including in many neighbourhoods previously thought to justify only ‘coverage’ service – the more it boosts the cost recovery of the system as a whole, reducing the subsidy per passenger. Michael will doubtless point out the TTC worked that out three or four decades ago.

  77. P July 15, 2015 at 7:08 am #

    Comes down to the pie. You cannot make a pie bigger by slicing a pie in a different way. The total size of the pie is fixed. (Try it yourself at home with a pizza if you don’t believe me).
    If you want the pie to expand then that comes down to tax policy, not transport planning. If every government agency, or even most, are budget maximising, then there is going to be strong competition for funds between different public agencies.
    It is all good and well for advocates to say “spend more here, spend more there”, but unless they actually advance credible funding/finance proposals to go along with their increased public goods purchases, then the whole thing is moot.
    Personally, I think bus networks in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney all need to be completely reworked from the ground up. This will release far more mobility for the existing amounts spent, as has been the case in Auckland and Houston. Massive waste and inefficiencies lurk within these networks.
    The other half is tax policy – land taxation is the elephant in the room the PTUA and other transit advocacy organisation should be advocating. Melbourne’s Grattan Institute recently had proposals regarding land taxation just this week.
    A good land tax not only generates increased revenue but it also encourages densification of cities. Australian cities waste so much land compared to European cities, it is remarkable.
    So the bottom line: There is a saying ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’. I would say ‘Don’t shoot the pie slicer’.

  78. M1EK July 15, 2015 at 1:04 pm #

    We must find solutions and work towards making transit viable in all settings. Not just in select areas.

    This is kind of a content-free statement. An aspiration that is unachievable in any rational universe, because you have not established any kind of lower bound to ‘viable’.
    What kind of transit solution would you work for for a farm 50 miles outside of your urban core?

  79. Steve Munro July 15, 2015 at 9:40 pm #

    Re P’s citation of a 2015 Service Planning report from the TTC: The methodology cited there, including the .23 number, has not actually been exercised since 2008 for various political reasons including our former mayor. What has been used is the boardings/hour number. 15 used to be the cutoff, but for planned improvements this fall, this has been reduced to 9 on the basis of “that’s what we can afford”.
    “There is sufficient funding to operate all the services that are projected to have nine or more boardings per service hour and, as such, this becomes the threshold for
    determining which services the TTC can afford to restore and operate.”
    From page 5 in this May 2015 report:
    http://ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/Commission_reports_and_information/Commission_meetings/2015/May_27/Reports/More_Off_Peak_Service_Expansion_of_All_Day_Every_Day_Network.pdf
    There was also a report on expanded all-night services:
    http://ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/Commission_reports_and_information/Commission_meetings/2015/May_27/Reports/Improvements_to_Overnight_Blue_Night_Service_Network_BR%201729.pdf
    There was a separate report in June about implementation of a ten-minute network:
    http://ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/Commission_reports_and_information/Commission_meetings/2015/June_22/Reports/TenMinuteorBetter_Service_Network.pdf
    Service standards are evolving in Toronto, and the current push is more to fill in gaps in the network, many of which were caused by cutbacks of the previous administration.
    It will be interesting to see what sort of consolidated standard the TTC will adopt if they ever get back to annual evaluation of proposed service changes.

  80. EngineerScotty July 16, 2015 at 1:34 pm #

    One comment or caveat on Tony’s remarks, echoing mine.
    Tony writes:

    he true marker of a genuinely transit-hostile suburb, with a very low level of exogenous demand, is an almost complete absence of traffic congestion. As EngineerScotty above points out, as soon as you see congestion on the roads that’s a signal that the exogenous demand likely exists to fill a frequent bus service to break-even level, even if only a certain fraction of travellers were to use the bus by choice.

    The fly in the ointment is, or course, the last mile problem. In many instances of suburban congestion, the points of origin of the travelers (and their vehicles) are too dispersed to serve efficiently with transit; and transit hostile road-networks (particularly cul-de-sacs, which are designed, in large part, to keep through traffic out of neighborhoods, including but not limited to buses) exacerbate this problem.
    The classic solution to this problem is the park-and-ride: use of automobiles to reach transit facilities, storing the vehicles during the day, and then use of the same vehicles to get home. Self-driving autos may mitigate this problem–either by eliminating the need for concentrated car storage, or making a PRT-like-thing practical for last-mile coverage.
    Many urbanists/environmentalists hate park-and-rides for various reasons; and park-and-rides invariably run into the lot-full problem (or else waste lots of space on parking). They are also not very useful for short-distance trips.
    That said, if a transit agency only serves a particular place during commute hours, then it’s a forgone conclusion that transit will only be used for work trips.

  81. Tony Morton July 16, 2015 at 6:30 pm #

    Traditionally, suburbs in Melbourne were developed based on a grid layout with an arterial road every half mile or so, and reasonably ‘penetrable’ local street networks without too many cul-de-sacs. This meant that you could have a comprehensive bus network that sticks mainly to the arterial roads yet is still within fair walking distance of most neighbourhoods. A lot of Toronto suburbs appear to be laid out in a similar way, and the TTC adopted a similar strategy early on.
    Jarrett rightly points out the severe ‘geometry’ problems that arise when suburbs are not laid out in this way, and as a result not even feeder buses can solve the last-mile problem very efficiently. This is a problem that appears particularly prevalent in the US, compared to other places that have more stringent planning controls. This is where it seems transit planners need to resign themselves to providing limited ‘coverage’ services if anything is provided at all.
    In those mainly European and Canadian cities where transit is successful, it functions largely as an extension of walking. As soon as transit becomes something most people have to drive to, you lose half the benefits it provides to those who live and work in cities, in terms of vehicle ownership costs, traffic congestion at transit hubs and health benefits from active transport.

  82. Steve Munro July 22, 2015 at 1:48 pm #

    Further to previous comments about service standards in Toronto: The TTC is about to adopt new off-peak standards that are based on an average seated load for all routes, not just for routes with headways over ten minutes. This will result in service improvements on many routes that now routinely have standees at off-peak times.
    http://ttc.ca/About_the_TTC/Commission_reports_and_information/Commission_meetings/2015/July_29/Reports/Improvements-Service_Frequency_Crowding-BR%2017408.pdf
    The affected routes are listed in the report, but the details of the changes for fall 2015 schedules have not yet been published.

  83. cph July 30, 2015 at 1:15 am #

    I don’t know much about Toronto, but I do know about some of the suburbs in the Los Angeles area.
    Take La Verne, for example. It’s about 30 or so miles east of downtown LA, population 31,000, density 3,600 persons per square mile. Here’s a map: https://www.google.com/maps/place/La+Verne,+CA/@34.1167837,-117.767663,14z/data=!4m2!3m1!1s0x80c3255c70c3954d:0x9b6d627316305b4c
    There are four bus routes that serve La Verne, all run by Foothill Transit (the bus operator for the San Gabriel Valley):
    * 187 – serves Foothill Bl, a street with commercial (strip mall), and increasingly, high-density residential development. Frequency is 15 minutes peak, 20 minutes midday, and 30 minutes at night. The span is phenomenal too: how about from approx. 4 am to after midnight?
    * 291 – this also serves Foothill Bl, but a smaller portion east of the center of town (“D” Street) and on into Pomona. Again, service is every 15-20 minutes throughout most of the day, running from 4 am to about 10 pm.
    * 492 – runs along Bonita Avenue, the historical center of La Verne, also serving the University of La Verne. 20 minute service during the morning rush, 30 minutes during the rest of the day and into the evening.
    * 690 – a peak hour express to Pasadena, 9 trips to Pasadena in the morning, 8 returning in the evening.
    187,291, and 492 (but not 690) also provide service (at a reduced level–at least 30 minutes during most of the day) on weekends and holidays.
    The North Pomona Metrolink (commuter rail) station is withing reasonable driving distance for most residents, and a dial-a-ride is provided for the elderly and handicapped.
    Pretty good level of transit for such a small town, right?
    What’s missing?
    Notice that all the bus lines run east-west through the city. There is no north-south fixed route bus service at all!
    Most of the development along the north-south streets is single family residential. South of Foothill Bl, Bonita High School is on “D” St, and the Metropolitan Water District takes up much of the frontage along Wheeler. North of Foothill, it is exclusively single family homes, with a few parks, and a golf course (and associated restaurant, etc). in the extreme north part of the city.
    Would a north-south bus route be warranted in La Verne?

  84. EngineerScotty July 30, 2015 at 7:47 pm #

    Would a north-south bus route be warranted in La Verne?
    Do people have a need to travel north and south?

  85. cph July 31, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

    Apparently, people want to, can, and do travel north and south in La Verne. They do it (mostly) in private automobiles, as well as on bicycles, on foot, in school buses, in prison buses (to the juvenile correction facilities located in the extreme northern part of town), on the aforementioned senior/disabled dial-a-ride, and possibly other ways as well.
    Is there a need for a north-south public transit bus route?

  86. mrsman August 20, 2015 at 6:49 pm #

    By taking a quick look at some maps, it appears that La Verne is deadlocked from communities to the south by Bonnelli Regional Park.
    A N-S bus within La Verne would be very short.
    There is N-S service to an extent — the 291 bus heads east to Garey Ave and then heads south through Central Pomona. For better or worse, this is La Verne’s n-s bus.

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