Author Topic: Will Chasing Choice Riders Kill Bus Route Optimization?  (Read 3212 times)

Metro Jacksonville

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Will Chasing Choice Riders Kill Bus Route Optimization?
« on: July 28, 2014, 03:00:02 AM »
Will Chasing Choice Riders Kill Bus Route Optimization?



The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA) is doing a good thing. It is eliminating duplication and redundancy, consolidating routes to better serve the market. Moving from lethargic 45-minute and hour-long headways to 15-minute waits gets us closer to the 5-7 minute headways of larger cities and our own long-lost streetcar system. Metro Jacksonville's Robert Mann asks the question, will the pursuit of the evasive choice rider destroy the impact of a great makeover?

Read More: http://www.metrojacksonville.com/article/2014-jul-will-chasing-choice-riders-kill-bus-route-optimization

DaveBaldwinJax

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Re: Will Chasing Choice Riders Kill Bus Route Optimization?
« Reply #1 on: July 29, 2014, 06:09:28 AM »
As one of the "choice" riders Mr. Mann derides, I really must comment, but where to begin?

First, a little background is in order. My wife doesn't drive, so we purchased our home six years ago with an eye to access to transit. At first, I drove every day. Then, my son entered sixth grade at LaVilla School of the Arts, and it became convenient for all of us to ride the bus most days.

We aren't motivated by financial concerns. Since we already have the car and pay for insurance, and my employer provides free parking, it would cost about $2.50 for me to drive each day, including dropping my wife and son off.

We certainly aren't motivated by convenience. While it is nice that our son can get to school and back on his own, my commute would take less than half an hour by car; it's about 45 minutes by bus, on a good day, and sometimes much longer.

We're motivated, quite simply, by environmental concerns. Riding the bus saves gas. Maybe our riding the bus will encourage others, saving even more. Several of the "choice" riders we're acquainted with express similar thoughts.

While we are motivated, obviously, there are limits to the sacrifices we're willing to make.

Currently, while neither of the two bus lines that run along the San Jose / Hendricks corridor provide great service, the combined service isn't too bad. We have a bus to / from downtown every half hour to 45 minutes, from early morning until mid-evening. When the Skyway is running, either of us can get to or from our respective offices in about 45 minutes. Weekend service is a bit more sketchy, but overall it's acceptable.

Under the proposed changes, we would have no direct service downtown other than the express bus that has been mentioned as possibly stopping two blocks south on San Jose twice in the morning and twice in the evening, weekdays only. All other buses would connect at St. Augustine Rd to a bus going to King's Avenue Skyway Station. The 45 minute commute we now have, with the only necessary connections being to the reliable Skyway, would become about an hour long, assuming that the connections work. Which brings us to the JTA's biggest failure in this process.

JTA is asking riders to trust them. You'll just catch this bus, and connect to that bus, and all the pieces will work, and the whole system will be better for everyone, they say. The problem is, our experience tells us otherwise. On most routes, the first bus of the day is generally on time. Later buses are generally a few minutes late. Delays of 20 minutes are not uncommon. Drivers who don't know their route and actually refuse to stop at certain places are not uncommon. Drivers sometimes ask passengers for navigational assistance. Simply put, we find it impossible to believe that an agency with such a poor record is going to suddenly transform itself overnight into one capable of making five-minute connections work. Their marketing campaign might actually be doing more harm than good, as far as the "trust us" message goes, because they seem to be talking out of both sides of their mouths. On the one hand, they schedule public meetings and announcements on the buses that say "we value your input." On the other, the public meeting format doesn't allow any formal input, the drivers are saying the route changes are a done deal, and comments recorded on the JTA web site are never even acknowledged.

The JTA's "route optimization" plan might be the best thing since sliced bread. We just aren't convinced JTA can make it work. Maybe they should set their sights a little lower for now... Train their drivers, answer the phones promptly, make what they have today work, before shooting for the Moon.


tufsu1

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Re: Will Chasing Choice Riders Kill Bus Route Optimization?
« Reply #2 on: July 29, 2014, 08:07:43 AM »
I would note that many of the same concerns were raised when Tallahassee restructured their bus system in 2011.  The results say the concerns were unfounded.  Because of the route restructuring, the buses are able to maintain much better on-time schedules and transfers are quite easy.  That is the plan here as well.

Now, in regards to Mr. Mann's list of missing employers....did you look at the whole JTA system or just the routes that will offer enhanced service?  Also note that Clay Transit (partially funded by JTA) serves just about every one of the employment centers listed in Clay County.

Ocklawaha

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Re: Will Chasing Choice Riders Kill Bus Route Optimization?
« Reply #3 on: July 29, 2014, 10:04:48 AM »
No derision intended on the customer of JTA, the derision is on JTA and the industry as a whole for often focusing so much on a particular group that they miss their primary market. Basing your success on how many BMW's are left in the garage while tossing the others under the bus is wrong.

And you are right about the agency (and the COJ for that matter) not paying attention to its citizens, this is why I refer to those meetings as dog and pony shows. For over 30 years we have had solid proposal for streetcars and we have been stonewalled every time. Even the JAX 2025 survey study groups which I know had many rail supporters in them seem to have come up with no rail... Done deal is correct.
« Last Edit: July 29, 2014, 10:08:49 AM by Ocklawaha »

DaveBaldwinJax

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Re: Will Chasing Choice Riders Kill Bus Route Optimization?
« Reply #4 on: July 29, 2014, 11:26:01 AM »
I would note that many of the same concerns were raised when Tallahassee restructured their bus system in 2011.  The results say the concerns were unfounded.  Because of the route restructuring, the buses are able to maintain much better on-time schedules and transfers are quite easy.  That is the plan here as well.

I would note that Tallahassee is much smaller than Jacksonville, with a much more simple bus system than what is proposed here, and I seriously doubt that their transit agency has ever been as dysfunctional as JTA.

As for whether or not concerns are "unfounded", that's easy to say when how good a day you have is not directly dependent upon the success of the system.

DaveBaldwinJax

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Re: Will Chasing Choice Riders Kill Bus Route Optimization?
« Reply #5 on: July 29, 2014, 11:28:53 AM »
Basing your success on how many BMW's are left in the garage while tossing the others under the bus is wrong.

I would argue, though, that every Prius left in the garage is a success!

DaveBaldwinJax

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Re: Will Chasing Choice Riders Kill Bus Route Optimization?
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2014, 11:52:55 AM »
For over 30 years we have had solid proposal for streetcars and we have been stonewalled every time.

Is there any reason a small group of property owners couldn't form a neighborhood improvement district and build their own streetcar line? Maybe just along San Marco Blvd, or maybe a San Marco - Hendricks loop?

Ocklawaha

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Re: Will Chasing Choice Riders Kill Bus Route Optimization?
« Reply #7 on: July 29, 2014, 11:15:30 PM »
<a href="http://i196.photobucket.com/albums/aa111/Ocklawaha/JAX-now_zpsf04c5b79.jpg" target="_blank" class="new_win">http://i196.photobucket.com/albums/aa111/Ocklawaha/JAX-now_zpsf04c5b79.jpg</a>

Who said JTA was first? NOT!

ProjectMaximus

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Re: Will Chasing Choice Riders Kill Bus Route Optimization?
« Reply #8 on: July 30, 2014, 03:22:28 AM »
check out the activities of Oak Cliff.  An artsy little district that went on to bring fixed transit back into dallas.

Spent some time in Oak Cliff recently but did not know about the streetcar line until I googled just now. That's a might fine neighborhood which will benefit greatly from better connectivity to the rest of the Dallas core.