Blog Fewer Bus Routes, More Frequency
On days when telecommuting won’t work, I park my car on a side street in West Seattle and take the bus downtown. After one or two round trips per week for four months, I’m not on the verge of driving instead, but I’m pretty unimpressed with King County Metro’s on-time performance. The #54 is regularly five to ten minutes late getting to its Alaska Street stops on the way downtown, and two days in a row last week, between 2:30 and 4:00 p.m., the #55 bus from downtown back to West Seattle was running at least ten minutes late. The first time, when it finally did arrive, we sat through a green light while the driver finished up a personal cell phone call. The next day, more than 10 minutes after the #55 was to have left a stop two blocks north of where I was waiting on First Avenue, it still hadn’t showed, and I boarded another bus headed near enough to where my car was parked.
For several years, riders on some Metro routes have been able to use certain cell phones or handheld Internet devices to tell when their buses are really expected to arrive. Now, a research project underway at the University of Washington is examining improvements in bus tracking via wireless Internet and global positioning system technologies. More and better information will be helpful, but, knowing the bus is running late doesn’t get it there on time.
We may need to really re-think how our region’s bus system is arranged. Quite possibly, what’s needed are fewer routes, more greatly concentrated along selected major corridors, running to and from designated transit hubs with increased frequency. Add to this a greater reliance on paratransit options for the last few miles.
Punctuality is a minimum baseline expectation in the world of business and education. Managers and elected officials need to ensure their public transit systems conform to that expectation, and convey added value through speedier service delivery.
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