The Seven-Day Itch

TriMet’s frequent service network is an important element of the regional transportation system. But there’s a larger network (which includes the frequent network) which offers a level of service lower than the FS network, but which is nonetheless a critical service gradient. I speak of seven-day service.
Frequent service

TriMet has generated (and received) a lot of publicity for its frequent service network. While TriMet’s definition of “frequent” is lackluster by international standards (in many parts of the world, “frequent service” means “you can always see the next bus/train coming”, not “every 15 minutes during rush hour”), having service that runs frequently enables the rider to simply show up and catch a bus, without having to worry (too much) about a schedule. TriMet’s example helped inspire many other agencies (and transit activists unconnected with the agencies they patronize) to produce their own frequent service maps, highlighting the parts of the system which are convenient to use.

Seven-day service

However, there’s a lower standard of service, offered by many (but not all) TriMet lines, which is also important: seven-day-service. Many TriMet offerings aren’t frequent, running only at half-hourly (or worse) headways, but at least run seven days of the week. Just as frequent service is an important service gradient in that it enables riders to throw away the timetable; seven-day service is important because they can throw away the calendar.

When an area is well-served by seven-day service, this makes car-free living practical, as residents will always have some access to transit, at least during daylight hours. In areas only served with a lesser standard of service–both weekday-only and six-day (no Sundays) service are commonplace in the region–there’s at least one day of the week when people need another way to get around. While far less commerce occurs on Sundays than other days, it still occurs; and weekends are of particular importance for retail employers. Why is this important? Many retail jobs are lower-paying; and many retail workers are thus likely to be transit users. But if their job requires them to work weekends, it’s too far to walk or bike, and the bus isn’t running… this provides an incentive to go out and buy a car. And once that is done, there’s little more incentive to use transit at all–much of the expense of car ownership is incurred even when the car sits in the garage.

As a result, ideally all lines providing primarily residential service ought to have seven-day service at a minimum.

There are a few exceptions, of course.

  • Peak-hour commuter lines which are redundant with a regular-service seven-day line, such as the TriMet 99.
  • Lines which primarily exist to serve an office park, factory, college, or other facility which is not open seven days a week.
  • Commuter lines which, while not redundant with seven-day service, are targeted towards white-collar commuters with M-F schedules.

Beyond that, lines which don’t run every day are limiting their potential ridership base.

Where are the seven-day lines?

To highlight the importance of seven-day service, we have created a seven-day service map. A thumbnail is below, here for a full-size map. It is an “integrated” map which includes both TriMet and C-TRAN routes. (Unfortunately, SMART offers no Sunday service anywhere in the system). seven_day_map.png

For those who prefer prose to pictures, here’s a list of all the seven-day service routes, including the frequent service ones. Note that several frequent-service routes only offer frequent service over part of the line, with a lesser standard of service at the extremities.

TriMet’s seven-day routes are:

  • 4-Division/Fessenden. FS
  • 6-MLK Jr. Boulevard. FS.
  • 8-Jackson Park/NE 15th. FS. It would be rather useful if TriMet could extend this one to Delta Park to connect with the Yellow Line and C-TRAN, by the way.
  • 9-Powell/Broadway. FS between downtown and I-205; 7-day service in NE Portland and E. of I-205.
  • 12-Barbur/Sandy Blvd. FS between King City and Parkrose; 7-day service between Sherwood and King City and east of Parkrose.
  • 14-Hawthorne. FS.
  • 15-Belmont/NW 23rd. FS between NW 23rd and Gateway; branches west of NW 23rd.
  • 17-Holgate/NW 21st, between downtown and 134th/Holgate. (No Sunday service to Sauvie Island).
  • 19-Woodstock/Glisan
  • 20-Burnside/Stark
  • 22-Parkrose
  • 31-King Rd, between Milwaukie and Clackamas Town Center (no Sunday service downtown)
  • 33-McLoughlin. FS from Oregon City TC north; all-day non frequent service to Clackamas Community College.
  • 35-Macadam/Greeley
  • 44-Capitol Hwy/Mocks Crest
  • 45-Garden Home, between Tigard and Multnomah Village (no Sunday service downtown)
  • 52-Farmington/185th
  • 54-Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy FS east of Raleigh Hills (multiplex with 56). 7-day service to Beaverton.
  • 56-Scholls Ferry Road. FS east of Raleigh Hills (multiplex with 54); 7-day service to Washington Square.
  • 57-TV Hwy/Forest Grove. FS
  • 58-Canyon Rd
  • 62-Murray Bvld
  • 70-12th Ave
  • 71-60th/122nd Ave (by far the most oddly-shaped route in the system)
  • 72-Killingsworth/82nd. FS
  • 73-NE 33rd Ave
  • 75-Lombard/39th (Cesar Chavez). FS.
  • 76-Beaverton/Tualatin
  • 77-Broadway/Halsey
  • 78-Beaverton/Lake Oswego
  • 79-Clackamas/Oregon City
  • 80-Kane/Troutdale Rd
  • 88-Hart/198th
  • 89-Tanasbourne
  • 155-Sunnyside

While C-TRAN doesn’t define “frequent service”, they do have several lines which provide seven-day service, and one which likely meets TriMet’s frequent service definition. C-TRAN’s “limited” lines (lines with only one inbound and one outbound run daily) are excluded.

  • 2-Lincoln.
  • 3-City Center.
  • 4-Fourth Plain. FS.
  • 7-Battle Ground
  • 25-Fruit Valley and St. Johns
  • 30-Burton
  • 32-Hazel Dell & Evergreen/Andresen.
  • 37-Highway 99 and Mill Plain. 20-minute headways.
  • 72-Orchards.
  • 78-78th Street
  • 80-Vancouver Mall/Fischer’s Landing
  • 92-Camas/Washougal

Corrections to the above table/map are of course welcome. I seldom visit Vancouver and and not very familiar with C-TRAN’s system, so it is likely to contain errors in particular. Have a happy Fourth!

7 responses to “The Seven-Day Itch”

  1. C-TRAN’s “limited” lines (lines with only one inbound and one outbound run daily) are excluded.

    I thought the “limited” was as in they only serve a “limited” number of stops. The 44 runs like every 30 minutes, doesn’t it?

  2. In C-TRAN parlance, “limited” routes are those that go to the MAX stations, but not central Portland.

    But one issue is that some routes that still run on Sundays have very minimal service, e.g. a total of one bus that goes back and forth for one shift, during the afternoon only.

    Also, I made a to-scale map of TriMet routes (using their GIS data) with Sunday service highlighted if you want it.

    It would be rather useful if TriMet could extend this one to Delta Park to connect with the Yellow Line and C-TRAN, by the way

    The problem with this idea is that there’s little potential ridership to serve along the way, so it would mostly be extra costs. It doesn’t enable many trips that aren’t already possible. Plus, there’s no good routing to Delta Park–buses would have to go up to the Marine Drive interchange and go back through the Expo Center or down to Schmeer Road.

    If there wasn’t a need to have a bus line that can go into the I-5 congestion and all route ends were equal, I would have Line 8 go across on Lombard and have Line 6 serve Jubitz like before. Combined with having the Yellow Line extend farther, it would mean 1-transfer service to Jantzen Beach and/or Vancouver.

  3. It might be a good idea to update the map with a disclaimer that ‘this is an independently-produced map, not affiliated with/endorsed by any transit system, subject to errors and changes at any time, etc.,’ just to cover the bases. (I’ve seen a similar statement on the Seattle “fan” maps.)

    IIRC, the C-TRAN “limited” service denotes routes that run to light rail vs. “express” service to Downtown Portland or, currently in one case each, Lloyd District and OHSU.

    The 44 runs like every 30 minutes, doesn’t it?
    Close to that, but weekday rush hours only, and no 7-day service.

  4. What an excellent piece of work here!

    Some of those “seven day” pieces however run an extremely limited service, like 10am-6pm, once an hour, basically excluding working people from using them.

    Impressive stuff coming out of Portland Transport these days!

  5. Thanks, Al. And yes–service hours can be sparse. I excluded once-daily routes (which C-TRAN has lots of; TriMet not so much) from the list, but those which run regularly during daylight hours were included, even if the frequency leaves much to be desired.

    An interesting question: Which is more important–temporal coverage (running seven days a week, or during the night) or frequency (running often during hours of operation)? My belief is that the former is more important to establish a baseline service; and once you’ve got that in place, then you focus on frequency.

    One interesting phenomenon. The suburbs (excluding Portland and Vancouver themselves) with the best transit seem to be those with MAX. Beaverton arguably has better transit than Salem does (Cherriots, after all, only runs Monday-Friday); and Gresham has very good east-west transit (though the N/S connections aren’t anywhere near as good–181st avenue should have seven-day bus service, and it doesn’t). Why that is is left as an exercise for the reader. :)

  6. As someone with direct experience in bus service planning (retired as Direcotr of Service Planning from an East Coast transit agency), I agree with EngineerScotty that temporal service is more important initially than frequency. The market will quickly let you know where more frequency is warranted, resources permitting.

    Two examples based on a CMAQ (Congestion Management Air Quailty) grant my agency received in the mid-90s that enabled us to add service (and that we continued to operate after the grant money was used up):

    1. Route had very frequent peak weekday service and 20 minute midday weekday frequency; but Sunday service operated as one bus on a 90 minute cycle for one 8 hour shift (since 1971 when the predecessor private agency reduced Sunday service). Initially, we added a second bus giving a 45 minute frequency for an 8 hour span. Ridership doubled and has since continued to grow. Currently, Sunday service operates for a nineteen hour span with 45 minute or better frequency throughout the day.

    2. Area had no Sunday service (again dating back to the late ’60s or early ’70s). There were two routes serving the general area. Initially, we added Sunday service on an hourly headway on the stronger segment of each route (one single combined route). We now offer both routes, each with a 17 hour span. The weaker route has a 65 minute headway. The stronger route has a 30 minute headway for 8 hours and hourly or better service over the rest of the day.

  7. It was pointed out to me that my previous post did not clearly explain why example 1 was temporal and not an argument for frequency.

    The 8 hour (actually 9 hour pull-in to pull-out) one bus Sunday service that had existed since 1971 had strong ridership metrics, much stronger than some routes that ran hourly. Thus, the ridership told us that additional service was warranted. So, with the limited funds available, we doubled frequency. Additional ridership growth during this small service span window with the doubled frequency suggested we expand the span, which we did as the budget permitted.

    Note that example 2 was an example of a successful introduction of Sunday service. Other introductions never grew beyond the initial base hourly headway and some added services were cut as they did not achieve ridership goals.

    Finally, to support the argument for wide span and 7-day service, it is relatively cheap to add such service (no peak bus required) if the service added has reasonable ridership levels.

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