Transit Score Debuts

The good folks at Front Seat, who brought us Walk Score, have now added Transit Score to their evaluation of your favorite address. It includes some very cool multi-modal comparison tools for your commute trip.

There’s been a lot of coverage around the web, so I won’t go into details, but I was struck that it appears to be a pretty high bar. My NW Portland address (with a 95 Walk Score) only rates a 59 Transit Score, despite access to 4 transit lines within blocks. I think to get a high score, you have to be on a high capacity line (e.g., MAX).

I’ve got a project in the works to use Transit Score to try to answer some of those nagging transit equity questions in the region. More on that later!

10 Comments

10 Responses to Transit Score Debuts

  1. Jason Barbour
    August 18, 2010 at 9:26 am Link

    I cannot seem to find a single link that takes me to the Transit Score site or provides me with one.

    I for one think transit usability is highly subjective. The following are some hypothetical examples of how computer programs might not always provide the best answer. Kinda like how automatic spell check alone won’t tell you if you’re using the wrong version of “there/their/they’re.”

    Let’s say that an individual lives next door to a rail station and a bus stop. The rail station takes them to downtown at one end and a park-and-ride at another every 15 minutes 7 days a week. The bus stop is for a bus that runs every 30 minutes weekday rush-hours only but services the closest real grocery store, the local general practitioner, and the business park housing that individuals’ place of employment. However, the individual doesn’t work a traditional schedule. Therefore, even though a computer program could say the individual has excellent transit access, it’s of little use to them because it doesn’t fit their needs.

    Or, let’s say that a low-income individual lives in a community served by one transit district, and their job is in another community served by another transit district. Neither accepts each others fares, coordinates schedules, or runs direct service to transfer points, requiring an individual who wants to transfer to wind through neighborhoods, downtown, and professional business districts. Even though transit is available and commentators can say that the individual is close to jobs, it doesn’t work for getting to their job.

    Third, an individual works for a private grant-funded think-tank, who lives a unit of a low-cost four-story apartment building across the street from the local coffee shop. They’re paid for writing slanted comments on websites that tout a particular political position, which includes anti-transit rhetoric, in the coffee shop on the shop’s wifi while using the time to recruit new members. Never mind that they’re served by a transit center with a rail line and multiple bus routes in every direction–they’ll never use it.

    Finally, let’s consider an individual who lives in either had a full-time government-related rank-and-file job in the downtown of the main city in the area. They could live in either arrangement above because the transit serves the downtown area. However, because of public displeasure for government spending, they were laid off and now have no reason to use transit. Due to the economy, they have to consider jobs with unwieldy transit commutes just to get by. They would love the living arrangement the hypothetical think-tank pundit above has, but can’t get it because the apartment is obviously unavailable.

    BTW, none of these examples are based on any real people or any real transit systems, I’m trying to get everyone thinking of what kinds of services are needed to promote expedient economic recovery.

    I’m still waiting for someone to prove how computer programs know the difference between Portland, Oregon, and Flint, Michigan.

    (I have a feeling someone will respond with something like “*sigh* Jason, it’s still early, and unless someone else posts something really crazy today you’re already the winner of the unofficial ‘most bizarre post of the day’ award.”)

  2. Bob R.
    August 18, 2010 at 10:08 am Link

    Jason Barbour: I cannot seem to find a single link that takes me to the Transit Score site or provides me with one.

    There’s no separate Transit Score site… if you go to WalkScore.com and enter your address, a separate transit score is provided on the results page if you scroll down a bit.

    Chris Smith: My NW Portland address (with a 95 Walk Score) only rates a 59 Transit Score, despite access to 4 transit lines within blocks.

    Yes, I think MAX has something to do with it, as my house in NE Portland, about 2 blocks from the NE 60th MAX station, rates a transit score of 68. I’m also on a bus line which, while not “Frequent Service”, does run pretty regularly throughout the day.

    My walk score, however, is only 71, and I’d actually rate it lower than that due to infrastructure factors that WalkScore may not be aware of, based on similar scores I’ve seen them hand out to other parts of Portland which I consider a bit more walkable.

  3. Michael, Portland Afoot
    August 18, 2010 at 10:14 am Link

    Ha! My middle-NE location beats Chris’s fancy-schmancy one with a 66, for just the reason he mentions — we’re 5 minutes from the Red/Green/Blue MAX line.

    Is there a name for this stretch between Gateway and Rose Quarter, which now has rail service every 3-5 minutes all day? Because there should be. The “trunk”?

    Jason, I had trouble finding the score, too. Basically it’s just a new box at the bottom of your Walkscore results.

    Also glad to see them being increasingly transparent about their methodology. With a wiki, no less.

  4. EngineerScotty
    August 18, 2010 at 10:14 am Link

    Knowing the difference between Portland and Flint isn’t hard–the latter has far fewer places reachable on transit, by virtue of having far fewer businesses with open doors, period.

    You do bring up good points—metrics like TransitScore and WalkScore are aggregates; if a particular person’s circumstances don’t fit the pattern, they’re not usable. Particular WRT jobs; it doesn’t matter if someone else’s job is reachable by transit, if yours is not, it’s far less useful to you. (OTOH, many of the services considered in FooScore are things that most people use; so it’s not entirely useless). Certainly, people ought to research their own situations in more detail, and not just assume that because a neighborhood has a high TransitScore, that their particular needs are met.

    The only “bizarre” part of your argument is the hypothetical anti-transit shill. Obviously, TransitScore is useless to him, but so what? He’s not going to be a customer of the service.

  5. JayinPortland
    August 18, 2010 at 3:21 pm Link

    Ha, got a 53 transit score (Creston-Kenilworth) even though the 75 stops almost at my front door and the 9 and 17 (and the rush hour 66) lines are all within a few blocks of me in either direction, and the 71 and the 19 and the 4 and the 10 and a few other lines are within a mile walk or a three minute bus ride.

    My old place in NE near Gateway TC? Yup, a 69. Definitely train-centric.

    Interestingly enough, the old address even gets a WalkScore a few points higher than my current neighborhood. Now I don’t know about you, but I’d rather go for a walk on SE Gladstone than along NE 102nd any day!

  6. Jason Barbour
    August 18, 2010 at 6:56 pm Link

    Jason, I had trouble finding the score, too. Basically it’s just a new box at the bottom of your Walkscore results.

    I figured it out: the Walkscore site doesn’t have enough patience to work on dial-up. Unless there’s something I don’t know about, Walkscore doesn’t have a “low-bandwidth” or “text only” site.

    The only “bizarre” part of your argument is the hypothetical anti-transit shill.
    Part of my point, some of those who have never used transit and say they never will for whatever reason live in some of the places that those who want (or need) to use transit would find extremely desirable, causing unavailability of desirable housing for those who use transit (and lower overall satisfaction with their local transit district).

    Now I don’t know about you, but I’d rather go for a walk on SE Gladstone than along NE 102nd any day!
    I used to live at 39th & Gladstone, so I know what you’re talking about. The usual bus I took to downtown was the 10-Harold, due to how crowded 9 and 17 are/were!

  7. nuovorecord
    August 19, 2010 at 10:45 am Link

    97 for my ‘hood’s walk score! (Yay!) But only 58 for transit. (Boo!) Not close enough to light rail, but smack dab between two Frequent Service lines (4 & 14). I’d say I’m satisfied with that.

    I also like the commute cost calculator (did you guys notice that?) It still needs a bit of work, but I think it’s a good tool for comparing costs and giving people a better idea of their options.

  8. Tom
    August 19, 2010 at 11:43 am Link

    It appears that the transit score creators set a high bar, which is not really a problem as long as the ratings are consistent. Compared to New York or many European cities, Trimet has a long way to go.

    However, based on comments here and elsewhere, there appear to be some inconsistencies between the transit score and human judgment of the actual transit quality. In some cases, human judgment would rank location A higher than B, while the transit score gives B a higher score.

    Humans consider the destinations a transit line serves, while the transit score does not appear to. To most people, a line that serves several employment, shopping, and entertainment areas is more useful than a similar line that serves a primarily residential area (unless you have friends/family in the residential area).

    Reading the Transit Score website (http://www.walkscore.com/methodology.shtml and http://wiki.walkscore.org/transit-score), it appears that number or type of destinations served by a transit line does not factor into the transit score, nor does the walk score. Only distance to transit, line frequency, transit type (rail, bus, etc), and number of lines are listed as factors. Not sure if the times of the first and last run of the day is considered as part of the line frequency, nor how low frequency very early and very late runs on a high frequency daytime and early evening line are factored.

    Availability of transfers, while less desirable than direct routes, is also not considered. And like the walk score, transit stops that are nearby but blocked by a barrier appear to be counted as though there was no barrier.

    Based on the above, the transit score could be improved by considering the available destinations from a transit line. Since many people walk on at lease one end of a transit trip, factoring the walk score of areas along a transit line seems like another good improvement. A small weighting for available transfers (at leas high frequency transfers) may be a good idea as well.

    Tom

  9. Cameron Johnson
    August 22, 2010 at 3:45 pm Link

    Whaaaa…

    I’m near the Green Max, the 14, the 10, the 19, the 71 and 72, and I got a 59. OK…

  10. jojo
    August 24, 2010 at 9:43 am Link

    I got 89 transit score – 49 nearby routes: 41 bus, 7 rail, 1 other.

    95 walk score.

    My place is around PSU. ;)

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