Tuesday, December 21, 2010

How to kill a bus route

Port Authority's 9 Perry Highway bus route doesn't stand a chance of surviving into Fiscal Year 2012, if it even makes it that far. It has already been truncated into a feeder route only six miles long.

Even at its peak, when it was the 11C and 13C Express, the Perry Highway route's 35 daily trips were spread over 15 different travel patterns, with headway spacings anywhere between 5 and 75 minutes. It was almost impossible to plan a two-way trip. It was the poster child for Let's Try To Make A Bus Route Go Everywhere. In attempting that, it went nowhere predictable, and did so with a maddeningly non-intuitive timing plan.

The TDP changes essentially wrote off all the side trips, which undoubtedly irritated or stranded half the ridership. The only thing close to a population center, the hamlet of Ingomar, was left with no service. Ironically, that Ingomar exists at all was due to transit, as it was where the old Harmony Trolley intersected a significant east-west road.

What's left of the route will now be killed off by the ancient fare system, with an arbitrarily drawn zone boundary that coincidentally bisects the route right at the point between where anyone might get on and anyone might get off. This causes almost everyone on the route to pay a two-zone fare for a very short ride.

I sent this comment to Port Authority concerning the revised fare proposal:

Two comments.

Comment #1: The 9 Perry Hwy is being hit harder than most routes by the proposed hike in the Zone 2 fare. The entire route is only 6.6 miles long, but the zone boundary is, mainly by chance, just north of the only real inbound destination, West View Plaza, and the terminus at the Perrysville Park & Ride.

Under the revised plan, a ride from Downtown to McCandless will now cost $4.25 -- $2.25 (Zone 1 fare on 13X or 8 Perrysville) + $1 (transfer) + $1 (two-zone delta cost) -- more than the earlier proposal for a $4 premium fare for what is not a premium ride, and a full $1 more than a comparable trip on a 13A. Similarly, a ride from Perry at Center in West View to Perry at Good Lane in Ross Twp, less than a mile, will cost $3.25.

Recommendation: Make the entire 9 Perry Hwy a new Zone 1A area, so that riders do not get hit with the zone boundary charge. Thus, a ride from Downtown to McCandless would then be $3.25 ($2.25 Zone 1 + $1 for transfer), same as a Zone 2 ride.

Comment #2: Separately, I recommend keeping the premium fares on the suburban express routes, as initially proposed. I think more people finally understand the economics of running suburban express service.

Of course, the whole matter is probably irrelevant now, as the route is probably getting dropped in June, if not sooner.

1 comment:

  1. That note on Ingomar will make for an interesting story in my opinion.
    As for fare zones – I noticed two approaches before.
    Similar to Pittsburgh in Germany the lines delimitating zones are independent of the local topology, i.e. the second zone starts so many km. (miles) from the center point. But it is my guess that their solution was to keep local routes within one zone to avoid problems such as the one you mentioned above.
    In other areas the zones limits are also administrative boundaries, i.e. the city is one zone and whatever other villages, small cities survived as independent administrative units in the Metro area are the other zone. Unfortunately none of these models has to deal with suburbs as independent administrative units (even the American west coast model -the Metro- had to limit the administrative independence of its units). So…
    …what I am trying to say it is that this is a unique situation and I do not know, still thinking…