Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

More service key to transit use, poll finds

with 2 comments

Toronto Star

Well, what an amazing finding, who’d a thunk it, eh?

Sorry but it just amazes me that transit agencies pay polling firms to find out what it is blindingly obvious. The reason people continue to drive despite the cost, and fear of road rage and collisions, and the inability to do anything much more than just sit there and listen to talk radio, is that taking transit is even worse. Waiting for the bus is bad enough: you do don’t know for sure it is coming – it could be late – or worse have run early and its already gone. Will you be able to get on or is this another day of pass ups? The chance of getting a seat depends on how near the end of the line you live. And then there’s the transfers – will you make the connections?

“Faster travel times, frequent service and less crowding, those were the things that would motivate (drivers) to get out of their cars onto transit,” said Jacquie Menezes.

When I worked for transit operators, I would get very impatient with talk about marketing. Forget that – think about the product you are selling. It is a service, but it is not a good service. What can we do to make the service better? Service quality was always my first choice for getting more riders. Frankly I do not give a rats about the name of the service or the colour of the bus. Are the seats dry, clean and comfortable? Is the bus warm and bright inside? Does the user feel safe and confident that the bus will deliver them to their destination?

One of my happier memories is being on one of the first new buses delivered that was going to be on the new 98 B Line. It was on show at the PNE. And the one thing that everyone noticed was the fabric covered seats. Uncut moquette from a firm in Bradford who have been upholstering trains and buses for years, and know their stuff.  Clean, bright and hardwearing – but comfortable. Something hitherto unknown on Vancouver Transit. Everyone asked me if it would be vandal resistant and possible to keep clean. They were so used to split plastic held together with duct tape.

The other lesson I learned from deregulation in Britain was that the new operators all went for new minibuses. They were cheap, but it meant that they could put on unheard of service frequencies from day one.  If you go to a bus stop, you tend to look down the road. If you see a bus coming there’s a good chance you will get on it. If there is no prospect of a bus any time soon, you will find another way to get where you are going.  For reasons that I do not understand, bus service planners in Vancouver think a bus every fifteen minutes is “frequent”! Well the guys who started operating competitive commercial bus services didn’t think that – and for very good reason.

We are seeing more people use transit here – but that is because there are more people! The share of the transport market has hardly changed. Transit has not kept up – and it was not very good in the first place. (Did you follow those links in one of the comments to the old cartoons about transit of the fifties and sixties?) Translink now admits that in order for us to achieve the premier’s new greenhouse gas reductions the size of the bus fleet must double. What I do not see in Bill 43 is anything like a commitment to the sort of resources that will require.

Written by Stephen Rees

November 22, 2007 at 11:14 pm

Posted in transit

2 Responses

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  1. Thanks for that. Our local bus service is similar in that the service frequency isn’t brilliant, about every 15-20 minutes depending on the time of day, using big 39 seat busses (and you’re right, we don’t care what colour it is, who is advertising on it or who owns it as long as it is clean and there when it should be) The big issue for us is that it runs on a totally different frequency to the stadtbahn, so as it pulls into the Stadtbahn station it isn’t unusual to see a service to the city pull out. When we come home this often happens in reverse leaving a fifteen minute wait for the bus… I’d long thought that a minibus service at higher frequency would help, but figured there were other factory I didn’t know about. Thanks for confirming that…

    Andy in Germany

    November 23, 2007 at 12:02 am

  2. Sorry, not other ‘factory’, but other ‘factors’… time for a coffee…

    Andy in Germany

    November 23, 2007 at 12:03 am


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