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Old 03-09-2015, 04:15 PM   #1
Arlington
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MBTA Bus & BRT

Here's an MBTA thread devoted to the ups and downs of the buses.

I'm going to start with the provocative point: in any system that hasn't been modified in a while, there are likely to be lots of underserved lines, and, at the same time, over served lines.

This seems particularly true of bus routes, even though one of their original virtues (vs streetcars) was supposed to be the ease of adapting service to demand.

Look at this chart from Chicago:


Some may weep that bus ridership (orange) is down. I rejoice that it looks like they did a great job of cutting underused lines (blue) while suffering little ridership losses. In fact, I'd say the CTA did a great job of trimming costs--whacking 25% of bus miles--without trimming benefits near as much (losing only 8% of ridership. It suggests that the buses whacked were only 1/4 as full as the ones that didn't get whacked.

In Boston, you could do the same thing, although as smart-or-smarter would be to redeploy the cut buses onto busy routes and really boost their frequency--and drive ridership even higher.

I'd say, for each bus garage, cut service on the slowest route, combine the next two slowest (that can be easily combined) and redeploy that bus on some top 5 route that would likely reward that bus with expanded ridership.

I suspect that I'm going to want to peruse the most recent Blue Book to find a good example.
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Old 03-09-2015, 04:30 PM   #2
winstonoboogie
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

The MBTA's unlinked passenger trips per vehicle revenue mile for bus have been going up since 2007:
http://www.ntdprogram.gov/ntdprogram...files/1003.pdf

CTA's improved but are on the way back down:
http://www.ntdprogram.gov/ntdprogram...files/5066.pdf
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Old 03-09-2015, 04:44 PM   #3
Matthew
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

It's hard to make changes in bus routes here. You might want to consult that history of the MBTA that contains a changelog of every bus route modification since 1964.

If you can't find it, I have it around somewhere.

I know that there's been some talk around the country (esp. Houston) about what I might call "refactoring" of bus routes, and I think that it's a positive thing. However, Boston might have a uniquely difficult system to refactor. Our bus routes are replacements of streetcar lines that acted as feeders for a set of hubs connected by rapid transit. The development patterns that grew up around these streetcar lines continue to exist and mostly function the way they used to do, albeit crippled by impositions of automobile traffic, auto-centric zoning, and free/underpriced street parking.

Witness the outcome of the refactoring of the 86 and 66 buses, back in the 80s and 90s. The 86 used to run from Union Square, Allston to Union Square, Somerville (later extended to Sullivan). The 66 bus ran from Dudley Square to Allston. The Transit History document says that they replaced the 63 bus with a newly rerouted 86 bus (today's route), and then extended the 66 to Harvard Square as compensation. In the past, it made sense for the 66 to turn left onto Brighton Ave to reach Union Square, but now it is a strange detour in a busy, congested place. However, from conversations with folks around here, I've gathered that there was significant community opposition to rerouting the 66 the straight way along Harvard Ave, because people who settled near Union Square, Allston, did so because of the convenience of access to Harvard Square. And so the 66 bus makes that weird jog in its route, and probably will do so for the foreseeable future.

The other major difficulty is that Boston's street network, for all of its charm, is somewhat poorly connected in many unfortunate ways; most especially in the areas developed as streetcar suburbs. Those streets were laid out by developers primarily interested in providing convenient foot access to their streetcar lines running along major boulevards that skirted some challenging geography in some places. Those streetcar lines tended to be radial, as well. So we've ended up with a lot of larger radial streets that concentrate travel, and few, if any, alternatives. The major boulevards meet at weirdly shaped intersections forming Boston's "squares" (that are not really square), and most of them were not really ever meant to handle large volumes of motorized traffic.

So all this doesn't leave you with too many options for refactoring bus routes outside of reducing service on one line and adding it to another. It's difficult to do a Houston-style refactoring where you ask some riders to walk a little further in order to get better service in the end, because there just isn't another way to run the buses. For the 66, going via Tremont to Harvard Street/Ave is basically the only option for serving the places it does. For the 22, 23, and 28, there really aren't any alternatives to the streets used, Seaver, Warren, Washington and Blue Hill Ave.

The same challenges await anyone who tries to piece together a quiet side-street route for biking, as I'm sure you're aware.
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Old 03-09-2015, 08:26 PM   #4
winstonoboogie
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

Per the FTA's National Transit Database, The MBTA direct-operated bus network has one of the highest numbers for passenger trips per vehicle revenue mile in a modal comparison to all other bus systems in urban areas (you can do calculations for the other modes as well).

You can go to NTD Table 19 for 2013 for the data:
http://www.ntdprogram.gov/ntdprogram...DataTables.htm

For motor bus operations of 100 buses per more, the top 10 for passenger trips per mile of service were:
New York City: 8.76
S.F. Muni: 8.07
Chicago CTA: 5.62
MBTA: 5.00
LA-MTA: 4.95
LA-DOT: 4.86 (MTA is the primary operator in L.A., but the city also contracts out for other routes)
MTA Bus NYC: 4.69 (runs the former private carrier routes in NYC)
SEPTA (Philly): 4.65
Long Beach CA: 4.31
Westchester County NY: 4.19

As a comparison, the Houston bus network in 2013 carried 1.88 passengers per vehicle mile of bus service.
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Old 03-09-2015, 08:50 PM   #5
JohnAKeith
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

Well I'd love to at least see a full-throttled conversation about refactoring, especially if it's been 20-years since some routes have been analyzed.

I have often wondered, does the MBTA adjust schedules and # of buses based on changes to neighborhoods? (Serious question.) For example, the #9 is always packed between 7-9 and 4-7 (roughly). Has ridership gone up? Does anyone measure that? Did anyone think adding thousands of units of housing during the past decade would require more buses?

Again, I'm being serious, not just whining.
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Old 03-09-2015, 09:12 PM   #6
winstonoboogie
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnAKeith View Post
Well I'd love to at least see a full-throttled conversation about refactoring, especially if it's been 20-years since some routes have been analyzed.

I have often wondered, does the MBTA adjust schedules and # of buses based on changes to neighborhoods? (Serious question.) For example, the #9 is always packed between 7-9 and 4-7 (roughly). Has ridership gone up? Does anyone measure that? Did anyone think adding thousands of units of housing during the past decade would require more buses?

Again, I'm being serious, not just whining.
The MBTA has had a bi-annual service plan process for making changes to the bus network:
http://www.mbta.com/about_the_mbta/t_projects/?id=12769

The process got postponed by the fare increase and service reductions that were implemented in 2012 and continues to be delayed.

The Route 9 has changed over the years, 40 years ago in 1975, the bus was scheduled in the morning rush hour to run every 8 minutes with 5 buses and only went as far as Broadway & Tremont St. Today it is scheduled to run every 5 minutes with 14 buses and continues all the way to Copley Sq.

Here is a link to the MBTA's 2012 route performance indicators:
http://mbta.com/uploadedfiles/Fares_...-6%20Fixed.pdf

since that table was generated, a few of the worse performing routes were discontinued (48, 355, and 500) or greatly reduced or altered (217, 439, 451)
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Old 03-09-2015, 10:19 PM   #7
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew View Post

Witness the outcome of the refactoring of the 86 and 66 buses, back in the 80s and 90s. The 86 used to run from Union Square, Allston to Union Square, Somerville (later extended to Sullivan). The 66 bus ran from Dudley Square to Allston. The Transit History document says that they replaced the 63 bus with a newly rerouted 86 bus (today's route), and then extended the 66 to Harvard Square as compensation. In the past, it made sense for the 66 to turn left onto Brighton Ave to reach Union Square, but now it is a strange detour in a busy, congested place. However, from conversations with folks around here, I've gathered that there was significant community opposition to rerouting the 66 the straight way along Harvard Ave, because people who settled near Union Square, Allston, did so because of the convenience of access to Harvard Square. And so the 66 bus makes that weird jog in its route, and probably will do so for the foreseeable future.
That detour is nonetheless one of the most egregious of all MBTA tortures... I don't know that we should consider noisy Union Sq neighbors something that we should just accept as an insurmountable factor. Yes, a major problem exists in this region where there are long, streetcar suburb style, linear commercial nodes that mean that the very route that serves the most people also must traverse the most congested streets. But axing off a specific detour that makes everyone suffer just because a few people in Allston bitch is really not something we should accept from our MBTA. The general issues you point out notwithstanding, this is one example where the MBTA would do well with a technocratic leader who would override the squabblers in favor of implementing whatever changes needed to be made for faster service...
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Old 03-09-2015, 10:43 PM   #8
winstonoboogie
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

Quote:
Originally Posted by FK4 View Post
That detour is nonetheless one of the most egregious of all MBTA tortures... I don't know that we should consider noisy Union Sq neighbors something that we should just accept as an insurmountable factor. Yes, a major problem exists in this region where there are long, streetcar suburb style, linear commercial nodes that mean that the very route that serves the most people also must traverse the most congested streets. But axing off a specific detour that makes everyone suffer just because a few people in Allston bitch is really not something we should accept from our MBTA. The general issues you point out notwithstanding, this is one example where the MBTA would do well with a technocratic leader who would override the squabblers in favor of implementing whatever changes needed to be made for faster service...
It's more than just a few people that use the stops in that segment.
http://www.mbta.com/uploadedfiles/Ab...mendations.pdf

In the Dudley-bound direction (inbound), the stop at Brighton Ave @ Cambridge St has 536 people getting on and 141 getting off each weekday.
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Old 03-09-2015, 11:23 PM   #9
FK4
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

^ nonetheless, rounding that loop in rish hour sacrifices immense amounts of time. if people care that much they can hop on the 57, or walk. but waiting for a 66 anywhere along the route, check a phone app and youll see all th ebuses bunched up at union. the time lost doesnt justify those numbers. im sure at least half of them would walk down to harvard if things changed.
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Old 03-09-2015, 11:32 PM   #10
Matthew
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

Yeah, Union Square Allston is a major bus node. It's also the 57's busiest stop outside of Kenmore. It's rather unfortunate that there's no direct route from Harvard & Comm to Union Square (there's a hill in the way).

There's also a fairly sizable environmental justice/SJ-impacted community served by the Union Square bus stop that would be put out by a rerouting of the 66 to Harvard Ave straight-through. I wouldn't want to re-route the 66 without finding a better solution for them. Cambridge Street is an absolutely awful place to walk right now.
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Old 03-10-2015, 12:13 AM   #11
cozzyd
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

The easy solution is to get rid of street parking for a bus / lane on that segment of Cambridge St. and to get rid of one of the travel lanes on Brighton ave, but that's obviously never going to happen...
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Old 03-10-2015, 07:36 AM   #12
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

The MBTA could have an app that allowed people to enter their home address, work address and work schedule and from that you could create an optimal schedule for the upcoming week. Might take a while to run that, but it wouldn't take forever if you threw enough cloud computing resources at it. Worth a trial.
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Old 03-10-2015, 08:37 AM   #13
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

Quote:
Originally Posted by tangent View Post
The MBTA could have an app that allowed people to enter their home address, work address and work schedule and from that you could create an optimal schedule for the upcoming week. Might take a while to run that, but it wouldn't take forever if you threw enough cloud computing resources at it. Worth a trial.
You continue to come up with unworkable solutions to solvable problems.
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Old 03-10-2015, 08:55 AM   #14
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

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Originally Posted by bigeman312 View Post
You continue to come up with unworkable solutions to solvable problems.
What? You don't think it is brilliant to change the bus schedule from week to week?
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Old 03-10-2015, 11:10 AM   #15
Matthew
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

Quote:
Originally Posted by tangent View Post
The MBTA could have an app that allowed people to enter their home address, work address and work schedule and from that you could create an optimal schedule for the upcoming week. Might take a while to run that, but it wouldn't take forever if you threw enough cloud computing resources at it. Worth a trial.
Yeah, nobody ever goes anywhere but between home and work on precisely the same schedule every day that they can predict for the next week.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cozzyd View Post
The easy solution is to get rid of street parking for a bus / lane on that segment of Cambridge St. and to get rid of one of the travel lanes on Brighton ave, but that's obviously never going to happen...
We already fought off plans to get rid of the street parking for a third travel lane on Cambridge Street. That's what some of the car guys wanted, cause "Union Square is so congested!!". If the street parking goes, it's not being replaced by a bus lane, it's being replaced by a general travel lane, and all of the problems that brings. The city, thankfully, put their foot down and said that they're not ever going to consider it, as it's dangerous enough there as things stand.
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Old 03-10-2015, 04:03 PM   #16
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

Quote:
Originally Posted by tangent View Post
The MBTA could have an app that allowed people to enter their home address, work address and work schedule and from that you could create an optimal schedule for the upcoming week. Might take a while to run that, but it wouldn't take forever if you threw enough cloud computing resources at it. Worth a trial.
Tangent -- makes a whole lot more sense for the T to run wholesale while private vendors or city/town jitneys do the retail work

Especially at rush hour the T Expresses would bypass all of the street stops for much more efficient point to point runs from gathering points to rail transit hubs or local bus hubs such as Arlington Heights where local service would terminate

The local services could be much more flexible than the T offering Uber-like service as well as scheduled service such as the Lexpress
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Old 03-13-2015, 01:53 PM   #17
Arlington
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

Woo hoo! The data has begun to flow and the Final Report is available from San Francisco Muni Bus' switch to all-door boarding, and it looks great. Fare evasion unchanged (down slightly), but boarding time per rider is sped way up, and overall buses are dwelling for shorter (and more predictiable) periods of time--raising average trip speeds and (one presumes) improving schedule performance.

Any system with fairly high boardings per bus (Boston is high but not tops as we learned upthread) can see the biggest gains from uncongesting the boarding process.

This is *exactly* the kind win that the T should be looking for if it is to reinvent itself with both faster/oftener service and lower costs. It is one of those Southwest Airlines moments where customers get happier, trips get faster, unions get more productive (justifying decent wages), and capital gets used more efficiently.

At the cost of rear-door electronic readers and 13 new inspectors, time per passenger boarding has been sliced and dwell times are down too.

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Old 03-13-2015, 02:07 PM   #18
Matthew
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

Thanks for spotting this!
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Old 03-13-2015, 05:55 PM   #19
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

While tangents plan would not work for the T, it sounds an awful lot like what Bridj is trying to accomplish. The MBTA would do well to collaborate with them on data sharing.
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Old 03-14-2015, 07:51 AM   #20
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Re: MBTA Bus & BRT

Quote:
Originally Posted by BPLange7 View Post
While tangents plan would not work for the T, it sounds an awful lot like what Bridj is trying to accomplish. The MBTA would do well to collaborate with them on data sharing.
BPLange -- i think we should be thinking way outside the box --- simple fixes will not solve the problems as the MTF Report stated and as quoted by the Herald in its editorial

Quote:
The 60-page report takes a detailed look at what years of managerial dysfunction under the Patrick administration have brought the system to — a system so broken that “we don’t know just how broken,” said MTF President Eileen McAnneny. “We should resist seemingly simple fixes until we have a far clearer and more accurate assessment of what needs to be fixed, which the T itself is unable to provide at this time.”
Why not convert the cash contribution which is always painfully exacted from the cities and towns to services provided for Greater Boston Regional Transit

A Town such as Lexington with no direct connection to the Heavy or Light rails could provide the local connections via its Lexpress to a core Bus running as frequently as the 77 Bus between Depot Square in Lexington Center and Alewife via Waltham St. and Rt-2 and Arlington Heights via Mass Ave
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