Archive | Frequent Service

Your Questions For Neil, “Round 5”, Part 3 – Service Planning

Here is Part 3 of our recent interview with TriMet’s Neil McFarlane, based on your questions. This segment is shorter than the others and deals solely with the topic of service planning, especially in suburban areas and more densely-populated areas currently lacking in comprehensive transit service.

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Have a look and let us know what you think, in the comments.

Your Questions For Neil, “Round 5″, Part 2 – Ridership / Operations / Budget

Yesterday, we posted the first in a series of videos featuring Portland Transport’s interview with TriMet’s Neil McFarlane, based on your questions.
Today, here’s Part 2…

Today’s topics are Ridership, Operations and Budget:

  • Recent press about transit at historically high levels, but TriMet’s has not fully recovered to pre-2009.
  • Some service has recently been restored, how much is based on local economic recovery and how much is based on TriMet’s demands for the ATU contract?
  • How do TriMet’s unfunded liabilities factor in to how much service can be funded?
  • TriMet has recently put an agency focus on reliability, particularly with regard to MAX. What are the results?

Special thanks again to the Portland Opera for providing the venue with the great views.

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A reminder: Transfers Need Frequency

In the recent SW Corridor thread, the prospect of a LRT line connecting Tigard TC with Washington Square and/or Beaverton TC came up.  Such a thing is outside the scope of the SW Corridor project as currently defined, but might well be a longer-term project for the metro area.  One specific question that came up for such a hypothetical prospect is the question of whether an LRT line in the corridor would follow the freight tracks as does WES, and require transfers (at Hall/Nimbus, or possibly Scholls Ferry) to reach the Washington Square Mall (and its rather busy transit center, as well as a park-and-right near the mall), or serve the mall directly via flyover tracks (something not feasible with WES).

Commentor Anandakos thought such a direct connection was necessary:

Agreed, except that it must serve Washington Square without a street crossing. It can be open air (though covered would be better), but a MAX line must cross 217 both north and south of Washington Square to make it work.  People would laugh if Tri-Met proposed spending half a billion dollars extending the Red Line to Wilsonville and bypassed Washington Square. Rightly.

Commenter Wells thought Anandakos was being a bit dogmatic.

Transit agencies (and advocates) must leave the ‘one size fits all’ thinking behind. The first sacred cow to go should be one-seat ride. No major transit system can work optimally without dedicated transfers. The original Interstate MAX S/N line was routed along I-5 from Going to Lombard taking out 110 homes and apartments. Interstate MAX fortunately evolved. Seattle planning agencies produce hypnotically grandiose designs and disappointing outcomes. Seattle Metro is the worst bus system I’ve ever seen.

While I tend to view Washington Square as an important-enough destination to get its own MAX stop, were such a line built (and I’d be tempted to further route the line up Hall Boulveard, rather than bypassing whole swaths of south-central Beaverton), Wells does have a point here:  Modern transit networks do depend on transfers.  You can’t have bus lines connecting everywhere with everywhere, and you especially can’t have that with trains.

But here’s the rub, though:  Transfers either need to be synchronized (as with a “pulse” at a transit center–something that works best in smaller, low-traffic cities), or connecting services need to be frequent.  As it is, 76/78 is nearly “frequent” in the corridor…but WES itself is not.

A big reason why the cuts to the high-frequency grid in 2009 and 2012, were so devastating to the quality of TriMet service, was not that the average wait to catch a bus along, say, SE Hawthorne went up from 7 1/2 minutes to 10 minutes.  The devastating thing is that riders who wanted to transfer to another bus (say the 75 or the 71) found that these transfers now took a lot longer time.  Grids require high frequency to work.  You can’t time transfers at all the connections in a grid, and grids abandon common transfer points in favor of a more efficient network of parallel routes–so to make transfers tolerable, the connecting services must be frequent.

Of course, this analysis may not apply in Washington County, particularly Tigard, where there is neither high-frequency service (only the 12/94 and 76/78) nor anything resembling a grid.  The street network there is poorly-suited towards a mesh topology, and the lower density makes it all but impossible for everyone to have a bus stop within walking distance.  In such an environment, use of transit centers (and structuring transfers so most of them occur at transit centers) makes more sense, and having major trunk lines (such as any expansion of MAX in the area) serve those transit centers ought to be viewed as an obvious step.