To be a viable option for non-captive ridership, I think transit needs to be four things: frequent, fast, reliable, and convenient/comfortable
. Transit only works when you have all four of these; remove any one and transit ceases to be competitive. (in a subsidized system, the question of affordability
is a separate issue entirely)
Meeting these four requirements in turn requires three kinds of commitments, as I see it: transit-oriented infrastructure/capital investment, planning and scheduling, and day-to-day operation. Here are a few initial thoughts.
can improve both speed and reliability of service. Setting aside the question of the nature of the transit fleet itself (the future of which is to be determined, apparently, by criteria such as Rainer Bloess's tallness
), I can think of two broad issues that require addressing: 1) implementation of transit priority measures throughout the city – bus lanes, traffic signal priority, etc. Frequent service is meaningless if buses on a given route are waiting three traffic light cycles to make a left turn, or taking twenty minutes to get from the Rideau Centre to Bank and Sparks (to use a real example from the other day). These kinds of bottlenecks (and there are many, both on the transitway and across the city) both add to travel time and decrease reliability of service across the network. 2) short-term improvements to transitway infrastructure, with the aim of maximizing throughput / minimizing dwell time at busy transitway stations and improving the overall customer experience. Install real-time next bus information displays ASAP. Re-think the layout of physically large and/or busy stations and the way buses serve them (Mackenzie King, Laurier, Hurdman).
Planning and scheduling
determine frequency and, to a certain extent, comfort and convenience (minimizing the impact of walking and waiting time, transfers, and on-board crowding). A financial commitment needs to be made to offering all-day frequent service on trunk routes (as has already been suggested on this board). Conduct audits not just of route efficiency but also of seemingly minor things like existing bus-stop placement (stop spacing, benefits of farside vs. nearside placement at intersections, etc.) throughout the city.
Strategies of day-to-day operation
determine the difference between what a transit system looks like on paper and how it is actually experienced by its ridership, and are therefore essential to reliability, speed, and comfort. Line supervisors should be monitoring headways and crowding and adjusting service accordingly in real-time (GPS should be making this easier). In theory this is already happening, but one gets the distinct sense that there aren’t nearly enough supervisors or spare resources (extra buses on standby, e.g.) to make a meaningful difference. Delays due to traffic should be resolved in co-operation with the city’s traffic operations centre (the folks with the traffic cameras who control the traffic lights, again happening already in theory). The success of day-to-day operation should be measured by reliable on-time performance reports (not left to the Ottawa Citizen).