Saturday, February 26, 2011

A Good First Step, But A Second Step Is Needed

Okay, waiting on my two cents worth on Hampton Roads Transit's (HRT) efficiencies report? I was there in the board room for the Presentation on Thursday afternoon. What HRT is looking at doing is essentially reducing or eliminating service on the bottom 25% of routes in order to move those funds to the top 25% of routes, with the intent of producing a high service core that would attract more passengers to the system.

What I found most troubling about Thursday's PowerPoint is that it presented the proposal to the TDCHR as nirvana. We can do this, then put off any fare increases for at least three years. That's hardly the case. What the proposal never starts to do is boost the bus routes in the 26th to 50th or 60th percentiles.

In order for mass transit to become a viable option for many here in Hampton Roads, our bus routes need to be corridors where people can live, work, and shop after work. To meet that definition, all routes feasible would have to run daily, a minimum 16 hours a day. As a former professional numbers cruncher, from the beginning I never believed that you could squeeze enough in efficiencies out of the system to avoid a fare increase. As such, I was proven right on Thursday.

Not everywhere a bus rider wants to go is along the top 25% of bus routes. TDCHR policy is to review fares once every two years. The next scheduled review would be in 2012. Therefore, I suggest the following plan:

1. Enact an efficiencies plan

HRT needs to better utilize what resources it has to muster public support for greater mass transit in the region.

2. Implement the plan

That's now scheduled for late 2011.

3. Do the 2012 fare review

With steps 1 and 2 behind you, it should be understood that the 2012 fare review would look at boosting service and ending inequities in the faremedia system that don't promote frequent ridership.

4. Draft a service booster plan based on revenue projections from the fare review

Where would the additional dollars be used? That's the 26th to 50th or 60th percentile routes.

5. Implement the plan

Let additional corridors meet my definition in the 3rd paragraph.

The TDCHR is looking to hold a Retreat later this year. I hope they take this up at the Retreat.


Max Shapiro said...

Doing work for various candidates, I've used GIS technology heavily to plot out concentrations of voters to help with phone banks, walk lists, mail lists, and to map out results of robo-calls, automated polling, etc..

Do you know if HRT uses any such technology to determine bus routes?

Using just open source intelligence, I could plot out the locations on a map of the biggest employers, highlight the highest traffic roads by color, and plot the largest concentration of residents/workers. If HRT could get some of the bigger businesses to share information on their employees, even if its just their address and nothing else, they could add even more data to the map.

Using simple algorithms you could re-plot bus routes and make service adjustments in the most efficient way possible.

Does HRT already do something like this? If they don't, they need to get on it.

Max Shapiro said...

They also need to be tracking which stops on given bus routes add the most passengers, because that would be useful data as well, especially for the more meandering bus routes.

They might do this already, but I doubt it, because unless they have constant GPS tracking on every bus, there is no way to know where the bus is when the fares get inserted.

Avenging Archangel said...


Much of HRT's Planning Department data comes from the TPO/HRPDC.

Yes, they do track boardings. That's being done when the Operator hits the button after you pay your fare.

Max Shapiro said...

Wow, I've always wondered what they were doing when they pressed that button. Now I know. You learn something new everyday!

It would be great to see that data publicly released.