frequent network maps: cincinnati

The Frequent Network mapping campaign continues. Here's a Cincinnati map by Nathan Wessel, which can be compared to the agency's full map here. It reveals an intensely radial system, with not many chances to connect other than downtown.  (Click pic to enlarge, or download sharper PNG file here.

Cincy freq

27 Responses to frequent network maps: cincinnati

  1. In Brisbane January 29, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

    Interesting- it looks a bit like Brisbane’s BUZ network- like Brisbane, there are hardly any cross-town or orbital bus routes.
    Why do transit agencies shy away from frequent cross town and orbital bus services? Do they think no-one will catch them, so they don’t put them on, which completes the self-fulfilling prophecy?

  2. Jarrett at January 29, 2011 at 7:28 pm #

    Brisbane and Cincinnati have in common not just a strong CBD focus but also a lot of natural barriers to orbital travel, including both ridges and a river with relatively few crossings.  Having said that, I think Brisbane's 598/599 should be able to support more frequency. 

  3. In Brisbane January 29, 2011 at 8:05 pm #

    We do have a strong CBD, though there are many local hubs (Toowong/Indooroopilly/Carindale/Garden City/Chermside, many on the excellent BUZ network).
    I don’t really believe that the river is that much a barrier as it is being made out to be, though. Certainly there are hills, but these are much further out (the exception being Mt Coot-tha,and parts of St. Lucia)
    We have the CityCat (well, not at the moment since the flood took then out of action temporarily), Why not simply terminate orbitals at citycat ferry stops and let people make the connection?
    Certainly, there is no rule that says that all orbitals must run a full circle.

  4. In Brisbane January 29, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

    Just out of curiosity- Cincinnati, does it have ferries (or could there be a prospect of one?)

  5. Nate Wessel January 29, 2011 at 8:18 pm #

    Here in Cincinnati we have a private ferry on the west side of town about five miles out from Downtown. Other than that, there are four bridges downtown, and bridges for the beltway(interstate) about 10 miles out on either side.

  6. rhywun January 29, 2011 at 9:47 pm #

    “Why do transit agencies shy away from frequent cross town and orbital bus services?”
    Easy: either the ridership is too low to justify the expense of operating them – even with typically generous subsidies, when money is tight the lines with the lowest ridership have to go – and/or there’s no rapid transit line providing an easy connection to downtown. Buffalo is a great example of this: there’s a remarkable number of crosstown routes, all of which were either coverted from spoke routes or were allowed to survive as crosstown routes because the city scored a subway down Main Street in the ’80s.

  7. In Brisbane January 29, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

    “Easy: either the ridership is too low to justify the expense of operating them – even with typically generous subsidies, when money is tight the lines with the lowest ridership have to go – and/or there’s no rapid transit line providing an easy connection to downtown.”
    I don’t believe this. Melbourne has its orbital smart bus routes and now some routes are seeing complaints from overcrowding on saturdays. It is a well patronised, despite being orbital and not going to the city.
    I feel the better explanation would be – the buses are not put on, so the demand cannot be observed, because and so trips like these are being done almost exclusively in car.

  8. Wad January 30, 2011 at 12:24 am #

    I really could have used this map back in the fall when I put together the World Series of Transit, in which I ranked the Major League Baseball teams in playoff contention based upon the quantity and quality of their local transit.
    Cincinnati fared poorly on everything except its bus services, which were the best out of the four National League teams.
    Cincy won because its ballpark was in downtown and a few short blocks from the central transfer point of all its routes.
    I pored through each schedule to see what service is available. Cincinnati’s bus services are weak. It’s purely a radial system, typical of very small transit agencies that compensate for low service with centralized connections.
    Cincinnati has centralized location, but not any kind of connectivity. SORTA, the Cincinnati system, plans its service seemingly with the idea that riders will use one and only one bus line per day.
    Each line has its own “ecosystem” of frequency and service span. There are very few routes that have similar frequencies, unless they are interlined. SORTA also has very few routes with clockface scheduling. One route had a frequency of 18 minutes, another had 40, a third had 45, and so on. Downtown is the only logical transfer destination, but there can be no effort to sync up buses for transfers.
    Also, services end at different times of the day. Cincinnati, to its credit, has many routes that run past midnight, but these can vary by day. A late-night route on weekdays might end at 9 or 10 p.m. on a weekend, and end times all depend on the individual route.

  9. Nicholas Barnard January 30, 2011 at 9:55 am #

    Another simple thing about radials: This is two systems: Metro/SORTA on the Ohio side and TANK on the Kentucky side. The Kentucky system goes into and stops in the central business district in Ohio, whereas the Ohio system doesn’t stop in Kentucky. (A few of the express routes run through Kentucky, but don’t stop there.)
    Northern Kentucky has a pretty strong identity, and would probably be against merging for fear of losing service.

  10. Nicholas Barnard January 30, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    For fairness here is the Northern Kentucky map, which is also represented by the frequent transit map:

  11. Alex B. January 30, 2011 at 10:16 am #

    Did I miss it or does he not define frequency on the map?
    While it is a cool map for introducing riders to a bus system, and is great for a quick overview of the system, if I’m already used to taking the bus somewhere else, how do I know if Cincinnati shares my idea of frequency? For example, what if I prefer to check a schedule if it’s less frequent than every 10 minutes but Cincinnati defines very frequent as every 15 minutes?
    I guess I’m just suggesting he put the actual frequency definition next to his line thickness description in the legend.

  12. anonymouse January 30, 2011 at 10:36 am #

    @In Brisbane I feel like the success of orbital routes depends on the density profile of the city. One possibility is a city with a single high density area at the center, and density smoothly decreasing as you get further out from that center. An “orbital” route would end up relatively far out on this density slope and would thus be running entirely through relatively low density. If the transit in the city is already marginally viable, it just won’t get enough ridership under any standard. Unlike the radial bus routes, it would not have the benefit of a high-density anchor at least at one end.
    The other possibly case is a lumpier distribution of density, with one big high-density center, and other, smaller concentrations scattered around it. In this case, an orbital route can link these secondary centers, and do quite well. Los Angeles is a good example of this, with routes like the 180/181, which can be considered part of an orbital network, and connects the secondary centers of Hollywood, Glendale, and Pasadena, and thus gets fairly good ridership and service.

  13. In Brisbane January 30, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    @anonymouse. Is this the case with Melbourne?
    If density “profile” is the main determinant of ridership, then why did patronage on the orbital Melbourne SmartBus routes increase when only the frequency was changed?
    I refer to this newsletter, the bus below does not go into the CBD:
    Melbourne’s first Orbital SmartBus, route 903, has already generated around 30,000 new passenger trips per week after services commenced in April 2009.
    Route 903 runs from Mordialloc to Altona via Chadstone, Box Hill, Northland, Coburg, Essendon, and Sunshine (refer map below), and is now carrying around 17,000 passengers each weekday, 10,000 on Saturdays and 8,000 on Sundays.
    Seriously, I think we might need to reconsider whether it is density or service quality and frequency that explains these increases.

  14. In Brisbane January 30, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

    If you run the numbers, this bus route is carrying something like 4 million+ trips per year!
    If that is the case, that orbital is exceeding the number of trips of Brisbane’s busiest bus route- the 199 from West End-CBD-New Farm which recorded about 3.4 trips in 2009.
    You can see why I am scratching my head…

  15. In Brisbane January 30, 2011 at 1:40 pm #

    *correction: 3.4 million, not 3.4, lol!

  16. Michael D. Setty January 30, 2011 at 1:59 pm #

    “Seriously, I think we might need to reconsider whether it is density or service quality and frequency that explains these increases.”
    My educated guess is the “network effect” may explain much of this. That is, the route connects a large number of intersecting routes, rail, bus and tram. Density certainly plays a part, but so do the connections.

  17. In Brisbane January 30, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    I suspect it is so- I don’t consider Perth to be high density either, their 99/98 Circle route runs every 15 minutes most times. It also does not go into the CBD, and is (according to the TransPeth website) carrying 100 000 passengers every week.
    That works out to be 5 million+ passengers per year- again, also grossly exceeding the patronage of Brisbane’s busiest bus route, the 199 from West End-CBD-New Farm, which runs directly through our CBD and possibly through the highest density suburbs in Brisbane.
    So, I don’t know- is it really true that nobody is interested in catching an orbital or cross-town bus route?

  18. In Brisbane January 30, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    It would be interesting to do an experiment- boost Brisbane’s Great Circle line bus route to high frequency BUZ standard. 6am-11.30 pm, every 15 minutes, 7 days.
    Sourcing buses in the off peak for this task can be done by using idle buses that are surplus from peak hour.

  19. John January 30, 2011 at 3:01 pm #

    If you’re interested in Ohio transit, I made a frequent network map for COTA in Columbus, but I don’t think it’s as graphically pleasing as the Cinci map.

  20. Nate Wessel January 30, 2011 at 3:45 pm #

    “Did I miss it or does he not define frequency on the map?”
    I didn’t and I think I will now that you mention it. It’s certainly not impressive though. The thinner lines on this map wouldn’t make it on a frequency map in any major city, but I think that only says more about the dozens of lines I left off. :-/
    Frequency here tops out at around every 12-15 minutes for the 4, 31 and 17 routes. Better if we include redundant routes.

  21. Zoltán January 30, 2011 at 5:42 pm #

    With regard to that map, I find “be prepared to wait a little longer” quite intimidating!
    I really want to know what that means before I use the bus, even allowing for the fact I’ll wait longer in the evening etc., not have to wait around indefinitely for a bus before I get the idea of how he defines “be prepared to wait a little longer”.

  22. GD January 31, 2011 at 1:36 am #

    while i find the definition of frequency problematic after what I’ve read in the comments section, I have to say that in all other respects this is one great map.
    I especially appreciate the extra info – with street names and the most important stops represented, I feel like having the most important info without extra clutter. Also, the inormation on how the map and the general system work, would, I guess, work well even for non-transitliterate users, and are again free of clutter.
    beautiful work.

  23. Pete (UK) January 31, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

    Looks like a typical British radial network. I’m assuming Cincinnati is still built on a grid pattern though?

  24. Nicholas Barnard January 31, 2011 at 2:47 pm #

    @Pete UK. The core of the Cincinnati downtown area is on a grid network, but once you get out of the area there are some it’s of griddiness but I wouldn’t say Cincinnati is on a grid pattern (especially with the scale shown here.)

  25. Wad January 31, 2011 at 6:05 pm #

    @Michael D. Setty:
    In another post, Jarrett said that it’s a triangular relationship among density, ridership and service. The relationship is two-way among the three points.
    This appears to hold true.
    I remember once communicating with someone about how density affects transit. I also said it had to do with the supply of transit service.
    The cities we compared were Fresno and Long Beach, both in California. For a long time, the cities were similar in population. Fresno has surpassed Long Beach, by a few tens of thousands.
    Despite similar population sizes, Long Beach has more than double the transit ridership of Fresno. The other poster said it was density.
    I said it had to do with the service. Fresno’s bus system has a couple of 15-minute routes, with most service running every 30 or 45 minutes. Long Beach, though, has a cepahlopod-like routing grid that allows for trunking infrequent services in Long Beach to allow for high-frequency service. In the city of Long Beach, most residents are within an easy walk to 15-minute or more frequent service.
    Plus, in Fresno, there was really no relationship between high-frequency routes and density. The densest area in Fresno, according to Census maps, is west of Blackstone Avenue and north of downtown, and it has only two east-west routes and no north-south routes.
    Its busiest route runs through Fresno east of downtown, which doesn’t have that high of a density. Most of the ridership is along a north-south spine parallel to Blackstone, where there is moderate density.
    Long Beach has a decisive density divide between east and west. It has nothing to do with transit, but of how the city went into decline. The dense areas of the north and west are the poorest, but it wasn’t a poverty-density cycle mutually. Western Long Beach went through a transition, and it happened around a time when the city’s solution to affordable housing was to allow upzoning of residential areas.
    What had happened was as one generation of families moved out, the new owners bought the houses and erected the infamous “crackerbox” apartments — low-rent multiunit buildings consuming most of the land that was originally a pretty small single-family home.
    Areas in the east held on to their properties longer, and avoided the “crackerbox” period. Areas near the coast enacted protective land uses to prevent crackerboxes. Also, the coastal area is also very high-density but also high-rent and with a stable tenancy.
    It also helps that Long Beach cannot effectively corral its bus service in the poor areas and avoid wealthier areas of any density. One reason is that its university is on the eastern edge of town, while downtown is in the west.
    Then again, Fresno’s public university is north, while its downtown is south.

  26. MBT Shoes April 26, 2011 at 12:43 am #

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  27. timecruncher February 16, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    With Metro and TANK, and many US transit systems outside of the truly big cities, lack of funding to provide comprehensive transit . There is also a dearth of scheduling talent that actually creates patterns of routing or timing that make the service easy to understand. Furthermore, Metro, TANK, TARC (Louisville) and other nearby systems evolved from private transit companies whose route structures hailed from streetcar routes that when converted to bus included multiple branches where feeder routes once ran. Scheduling these multi-branch routes is a challenge. And then we have sprawl and demographic avoidance of transit to deal with here in the midwest (“only losers ride the bus, etc.”)… Incidentally, Metro routes 31 and 51 are fairly well-patronized crosstown routes in Cincinnati, but crosstown routes by nature get a lot of transfers, but generate little revenue.