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53 The special Friday night trolleys are extremely valuable Branding of the service, vehicles, and stops is imper- in associating TARC with the vibrancy of the community. ative to establish the circulator's identity, particu- The need to communicate clearly with decision makers larly if the target market is tourists and visitors and stakeholders at all stages is vital to success; stake- and/or nontransit riders. Successful downtown circu- holders need to be on board as part of the experiment, lators have their own identity through a distinctive not after the fact. Measuring success involves the graphic and paint scheme that stands out in a busy answer to the question: why are we doing this? If the downtown. The downtown circulators serve as the face vibrancy and attractiveness of downtown is the answer, of the transit system to tourists and downtown employ- then it is important to develop metrics in addition to rid- ees and residents; thus, branding can enhance the over- ership, such as how many people come downtown. all image of the transit system. Customer friendly The Central Philadelphia transportation management operators who function as downtown ambassadors are association (TMA), affiliated with the Center City Dis- an important part of the branding. trict, manages the downtown circulator known as the Simple linear routes with frequent and reliable ser- Phlash. Mayor (and subsequently Governor) Rendell vice, no fares, and clockface headways are most has been the lead champion of Phlash service. The mar- attractive to riders. Frequent service and simplicity in ket for the Phlash is clearly defined as tourists and route design and fare payment are emphasized repeat- visitors. The primary benefit of the Phlash is that it pro- edly in the survey results and case studies. Loop routes vides a low-cost, easy link, aimed primarily at visitors, may be the best option in certain cases (see for example between downtown Philadelphia's historic destinations the Hartford case study). Queue-jumpers or signal pri- and the city's cultural attractions. The primary draw- ority can speed up the circulator trips in congested back of the downtown circulator is funding; other draw- downtown traffic and increase reliability. A circulator backs include its seasonal nature, with no service from can provide the opportunity for a restructuring or stream- November through April, and difficulty meeting head- lining of other routes in downtown, although most sur- ways consistently as a result of downtown traffic. The vey respondents have not done so. Free or nominal fares TMA offers a single lesson learned: a subsidy is required are attractive. The experience in Austin, Texas, pro- to operate; the circulator does not make money. Success vides food for thought: a major component of the down- is measured by ridership and also by the number of sat- town circulator market was young people in the first or isfied riders. Rider satisfaction is the TMA's most second job out of college. Paying electronically and important goal: making visitors to Philadelphia feel being able to purchase electronic media at locations that welcome and putting them at ease on how to get around they frequented would have been second nature to this to all the major attractions in the city. tech-savvy demographic. One rule for attracting non- The District DOT (DDOT) funds and oversees the DC transit riders is: nothing can be inconvenient or they will Circulator network in Washington, D.C. The primary not ride. market for the DC Circulator was originally downtown The most common target markets for downtown employees. As the circulator system has expanded into circulators are employees and tourists and visitors. other neighborhoods, markets have changed: employees Most survey respondents indicated that, although there are the dominant market during the day, but the focus may be a single primary market, they also serve other shifts to entertainment at night. The DC Circulator routes markets. In downtown circulator systems with multiple have fewer stops than a typical transit route, giving the routes each route may serve a slightly different market. impression among riders that you can get anywhere Interestingly, downtown circulators oriented toward the within 10 min. DDOT is committed to frequent service, visitor/tourist market had the highest median ridership preferring to cut span of service or route length to pre- and productivity. serve the 10-min frequency. Success is measured by rid- Partnerships are vital in building a successful down- ership, by riders' preference for the circulator over other town circulator. Many agencies naturally think of part- modes, and by the ability to attract choice riders. DDOT nerships in financial terms, but these are the exception attributes this to direct service connecting major activity and not the rule. Partnerships are very important in pro- centers, an attractive price, the limited number of stops, viding political support for the circulator and are a and distinctive, comfortable buses. means to change the perception of transit in the business community. CONCLUSIONS AND AREAS OF FUTURE STUDY Size does matter. Median daily weekday ridership for downtown circulators at agencies with a service area Funding is critical to success. A stable, reliable fund- population under 500,000 (a proxy for size of down- ing source is necessary. Funding, especially operating town) was 450. Only 2 of these 13 agencies reported a funding, was the only factor cited as a major constraint daily ridership as high as 1,000 on their circulators; by a majority of survey respondents, and is also a dom- both are oriented toward the tourist market, and one inant factor among agencies that discontinued or never only operates during the winter in a ski resort area. implemented a downtown circulator. There are other definitions of success than ridership, but

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54 small cities can anticipate limited ridership for a down- elsewhere. How do factors such as expertise, flexibility, town circulator. politics, stakeholders, and access to funding sources (to name only a few) affect this decision? Several of the Findings from this synthesis suggest four major areas of downtown circulators operated by a city DOT or private- future study: sector agency are relatively new. As their circulators mature, it would be interesting to see if these are differ- Effective strategies for a downtown circulator in down- ent in significant ways from circulators operated by tran- towns of various sizes and composition. The case stud- sit agencies. ies present examples of downtown circulators oriented Measures of success. The case studies cited both quan- toward different markets and in different downtown titative and qualitative measures of success. Who decides environments. How does a city or transit agency make whether a downtown circulator is successful? How do a decision as to which market to serve? Do tourist and intangible measures of success fare over time, partic- visitor downtown circulators require a certain size of ularly in times of tight budgets? Are intangible mea- downtown or special attractions? Is the combination of sures more prominent if there is a dedicated funding a convention center and nearby hotels sufficient to jus- source? Does the measure of success change over tify a circulator? Is there a minimum employment den- time? The case study agencies all discussed and sity that warrants an employee-based circulator? defined success, but further research in this area would Who should operate the downtown circulator? In four of be illuminating. the seven case studies the regional transit agency was Applicability of lessons from downtown circulators to not the operator of the downtown circulator. This fre- other areas. Can experiences with downtown circulators quently reflects a regional focus on the part of the transit be applied elsewhere? Are there lessons for neighbor- agency and a willingness to have municipal partners or hood circulators or for circulators serving rail stations the private sector operate local shuttles, in downtown or outside of downtown areas? How do these lessons apply?