So What is a Comprehensive Operational Analysis?
The Better Bus Blueprint is a full review of the DTA fixed-route bus operations. The study aims to develop recommendations to change the way Twin Ports residents use transit in the region to better meet the community’s needs.
The Better Bus Blueprint will be conducted in five phases, shown in the graphic below. This website will be updated with content during each phase to keep you informed. Draft recommendations are planned to be published in late Spring 2021, with a final recommended network planned for approval in Summer 2021. The service changes may take effect Spring of 2022 after the schedules and implementation steps are taken.
Why is DTA conducting this study?
In 2017, the DTA completed a Transit Development Plan. In that plan, the DTA heard loud and clear that the community wanted to see service improvements by running buses more frequently and making the system less complicated. Phase 2 of that plan suggested the DTA focus on efficiency and add in more frequent service. Due to the complexity of a bus network, it required significant work to re-align it to fit the needs of the community.
Generally, the DTA network goes to the same places as it did five, ten, or 100 years ago. And most of those places are just as important now as they were then. People change their behavior over time, including where they live, work, and relax. The region has also seen new developments, housing, and employment centers. The Better Bus Blueprint will incorporate proven system planning principles, demographic and economic data, historical ridership trends, review travel patterns, and community input to make a recommendation for a revised DTA network and schedule.
The Basics of Route Planning
The Cost of Operating a Route
The cost of a bus route typically includes three things:
- The cost of the driver to operate the bus.
- The maintenance cost (including mechanics, janitors, and materials and supplies) to make sure the vehicle is in good working order.
- The administrative cost (including the managers, accountants, lawyers, and marketing) to manage DTA.
By far the largest share of the three items is the cost of the driver. Each route requires a certain number of drivers, based on the length of the route and how frequent it is (in other words, how often the bus comes). A route to Proctor operating every 10 minutes will require more drivers than a short downtown circulator that comes once an hour.
What Goes Into Route Planning?
The challenge with route planning is that the DTA’s budget is limited. If we had the funds, we would operate many routes as frequently as possible so that riding the bus would be easy and simple. Instead, we must make choices to meet our budget while maximizing the service benefit. This means we must pick where the routes go, how frequent they come, and when they operate.
We typically consider the following five factors when we plan a route:
How often will the bus come? Frequent buses reduce waiting time, makes connections easier, and helps make the bus a more reliable transportation option. A frequent bus (coming every 10 minutes) is easier to use because you do not have to check a schedule and wait times are short. A less frequent bus (every 30-60 minutes) increases the wait time or requires you to check a schedule before making your trip. Missing a bus when it is infrequent can be very unpleasant and sometimes consequential.
Where does the bus go? A bus operating on a main corridor is direct and easy to understand, thereby reducing the travel time for most. Buses wandering through neighborhoods and shopping centers gives some riders a shorter walk to their destination, but also adds travel time. Having more routes going to more places can mean that all areas have a minimum amount of service but that also means service would be spread thin – reducing frequency and increasing travel times across the system.
Is the bus reliable? Studies show that the time waiting for the bus feels worse than the time spent on board the bus riding to your destination. DTA wants to correct operational issues so that every bus shows up on time, allowing you to reliably make it to your destination.
What days and how late does the bus operate? Is it seven days a week or weekdays only? Does the route change on the weekends? Does the route operate past 6 PM? Consistency is helpful so that riders can use the same routes for all of their trips.
How far do I have to walk to access the bus? Similar to routing, stop spacing impacts the travel time for riders in a number of ways. Fewer stops could add a minute or two more to your walk but means passengers already on the bus enjoy a faster trip to their destination.
The Better Bus Blueprint will be about identifying tradeoffs to come up with the best bus network for the Twin Ports. We need to decide which routes should get the most funding while also considering how to appeal to as many people as possible. In addition, a focus will be on providing service to disadvantaged populations and social justice. It is not an easy process and sometimes it means compromising to make sure we are serving all Twin Ports residents fairly and equitably.
The graphic shows how tradeoffs work. The Better Bus Blueprint will look for a way to balance the population served and access to opportunity, the travel times to destinations, and the budget required.
An example of potential route outcomes is shown on the map below. The green route is fast and direct but serves the fewest people. The blue route serves the most people but requires more travel time to go through neighborhoods. The gold route is a blend of the two. These are the kinds of choices DTA planners are making throughout the region as we go complete the Better Bus Blueprint.
Click the Link below to learn about the existing conditions within our bus system and to better understand where we are today. This will be helpful going into the survey, and may help you go into some of the questions with your “transit thinking cap” at the ready: