National Academies Press: OpenBook

Operational Experiences with Flexible Transit Services (2004)

Chapter: CHAPTER TWO - STATUS OF FLEXIBLE TRANSIT SERVICES

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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER TWO - STATUS OF FLEXIBLE TRANSIT SERVICES." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2004. Operational Experiences with Flexible Transit Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23364.
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER TWO - STATUS OF FLEXIBLE TRANSIT SERVICES." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2004. Operational Experiences with Flexible Transit Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23364.
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER TWO - STATUS OF FLEXIBLE TRANSIT SERVICES." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2004. Operational Experiences with Flexible Transit Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23364.
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Suggested Citation:"CHAPTER TWO - STATUS OF FLEXIBLE TRANSIT SERVICES." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2004. Operational Experiences with Flexible Transit Services. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23364.
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5 CHAPTER TWO STATUS OF FLEXIBLE TRANSIT SERVICES Based on the completed surveys and later investigations, it was possible to confirm that 51 North American transit systems definitely operate flexible services. These systems are located in 20 states and 3 Canadian provinces. The 24 transit systems that responded to the survey with information about flexible services are located throughout North America and operate in large urban areas, small cit- ies, and rural areas. Table 1 shows the transit systems, any abbreviations, acronyms, or shortened names used to refer to them in this report, the principal city of each operator, and a brief description of their flexible services. Appendix C provides additional details about each of the flexible ser- vices at the surveyed transit systems. TYPES OF FLEXIBLE TRANSIT SERVICE According to the service descriptions provided by the sur- veyed transit systems, flexible services can be categorized as six service types. These six types, illustrated schemati- cally in Figure 1, are as follows: • Route deviation—Vehicles operate on a regular sched- ule along a well-defined path, with or without marked bus stops, and deviate to serve demand-responsive re- quests within a zone around the path. The width or ex- tent of the zone may be precisely established or flexible. • Point deviation—Vehicles serve demand-responsive requests within a zone and also serve a limited num- TABLE 1 S UMMARY OF SURVEYED TRANSIT SYSTEMS System Principal City Flexible Service Name Brief Description of Flexible Services Capital Area Transit (CAT) Raleigh, NC CAT Connector Demand-responsive connector service in zones replaces most fixed routes evenings, nights, early morning. One daytime zone. Central Oklahoma Transit and Parking Authority (COTPA) Oklahoma City, OK METRO Link Point deviation replaces fixed route nights and Sundays. All-day point deviation service in an outlying area. Corpus Christi Regional Transportation Authority Corpus Christi, TX Route 67 Bishop Driscoll Rural route into Corpus Christi with demand- responsive pick-up areas in two rural communities. Decatur Public Transit System Decatur, IL Decatur Public Transit System Two on-call stops. Fort Worth Transportation Authority (FWTA—The T) Fort Worth, TX Rider Request (mostly discontinued Oct. 2003) Two to three fixed stops at transfer points to the fixed- route system, plus demand-responsive service in zones. Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) Richmond, VA Chesterfield LINK (discontinued July 2003) Route deviation service for the general public also acting as paratransit in one suburban area. Hampton Roads Transit Hampton, VA HRT On Call On-demand route segments. Lane Transit District (LTD) Eugene, OR Diamond Express Rural route into Eugene–Springfield provides midday curb-to-curb service in the urban area. Madison County Transit Granite City, IL EZ Ride (added Aug. 2003) ADA subscription deviations. (Point deviation service added after completion of this research.) Mason County Transit Shelton, WA None Stops marked in schedule as requiring a request. Demand-responsive service in a corridor. Rural route deviation with flexible, informal deviation area, coordinated with areawide dial-a-ride. Metro Regional Transit Authority Akron, OH Night zones Town Center Routes Late night service from downtown to regular bus stops in three or four zones. Route deviation service mainly for reverse commutes. Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) San Diego, CA Flex Routes 961–964 Route deviation with narrow bands. Minnesota Valley Transit Authority Burnsville, MN Flex Routes 420 and 421 Local route 440 Route deviation in zones approximately 1-mi wide. Eight reservation stops near the route. Napa County Transportation Planning Agency (NCTPA) Napa, CA St. Helena and Yountville Shuttles Two route deviation services in small towns.

6 TABLE 1 (Continued) System Principal City Flexible Service Name Brief Description of Flexible Services Ottumwa Transit Authority (OTA) Ottumwa, IA Ottumwa Transit Authority Entire transit system is fixed route with some deviations. Pierce Transit Tacoma, WA Key Loop (modified Sept. 2003), Orting Loop Rural demand-responsive connector operated by paratransit vehicles. Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) Woodbridge, VA OmniLink Entire local service is route deviation areawide service with bands around routes. Ride Solution (ARC Transit) Palatka, FL Ride Solution Fixed-route general public service built on demand- responsive consolidated human services transportation. River Valley Metro Mass Transit District Kankakee, IL Bourbonnais Flex Three fixed stops in a demand responsive area in one of three communities served. Sarasota County Area Transit (SCAT) Venice, FL SCAT About Demand-responsive connector service supplements a fixed route on Venice Island. St. Joseph Transit St. Joseph, MO St. Joseph Transit Citywide routes with deviations through the city, also serving as paratransit. Tillamook County Transportation District Tillamook, OR Deviated Fixed Route Rural routes with flag stops and an informal deviation area. Tri-Met Portland, OR Cedar Mill Shuttle Peak-period demand-responsive connector to a transit center. Winnipeg Transit System Winnipeg, Manitoba DART Suburban demand-responsive connectors in four areas with marked drop-off locations. number of stops within the zone without any regular path between the stops. • Demand-responsive connector—Vehicles operate in demand-responsive mode within a zone, with one or more scheduled transfer points that connect with a fixed-route network. A high percentage of ridership consists of trips to or from the transfer points. • Request stops—Vehicles operate in conventional fixed-route, fixed-schedule mode and also serve a limited number of defined stops near the route in re- sponse to passenger requests. (Request stops differ from flag stops in not being directly on the route.) • Flexible-route segments—Vehicles operate in con- ventional fixed-route, fixed-schedule mode, but switch to demand-responsive operation for a limited portion of the route. • Zone route—Vehicles operate in demand-responsive mode along a corridor with established departure and arrival times at one or more end points. Other terms have been applied in the past to some of these services. For example, demand-responsive connector service has been called “demand-responsive feeder ser- vice” (Multisystems Inc. and Crain & Associates 1997). Individual transit systems call these services by many dif- ferent names and do not follow any standard naming prac- tice. These categories are useful in describing the flexible services operated by the transit systems that responded to the survey. However, other designs are possible, as are many variations on the basic categories described in this report. Table 2 shows the number of transit systems in the sur- vey that reported each type of flexible service. Several of the 24 surveyed transit systems operate more than one type of flexible service and are counted in multiple categories; therefore, the total of service types reported is 28. In this tabulation, if a transit system operates multiple routes of the same type, it is considered one “service.” Some of the services share characteristics of multiple categories, but they have been classified according to the feature that is most defining of that service. By far the most common method of flexible operation is route deviation service, which is used at 12 of the 24 tran- sit systems in the sample. A number of subtypes can be dis- tinguished within this category: • Deviations are incidental to a primarily fixed-route mode of operation, intended mainly for people with disabilities and older passengers who might other- wise need paratransit service. Ottumwa Transit Au- thority (OTA) in Ottumwa, Iowa, exemplifies this type of operation. The availability of deviations is communicated verbally, by drivers and by staff in community presentations. Deviations are usually lim- ited to one or two blocks off the regular route. Ap- proximately 2% of total passenger trips involve a de- viation. • Deviations are an essential and prominent feature of the operation, so that separate paratransit service for people with disabilities is not required, or it is pro- vided by means of the deviations. St. Joseph Transit

7 Route Deviation Point Deviation Demand-Responsive Connector No demand-responsive stop locations Demand-responsive stop locations Request Stops Flexible-Route Segments Zone Route T T 8:00 8:15 8:30 8:45 T Route terminus Scheduled bus stop Bus stop---served by request onlyTransfer point FIGURE 1 Flexible service types. TABLE 2 TRANSIT SYSTEMS USING EACH TYPE OF FLEXIBLE SERVICE Type of Flexible Service No. of Transit Systems Route deviation 12 Point deviation 3 Demand-responsive connector 6 Request stops 4 Flexible route segments 2 Zone route 1 Total transit systems reporting 24 Total service types reported 28 in St. Joseph, Missouri, illustrates this method of operation. The buses will deviate on request for any rider to provide curb-to-curb service to any address in the city, except for some cul-de-sacs, parking lots, and very steep or narrow streets. Passengers can reg- ister for ADA paratransit. However, in practice, ADA paratransit is the same as deviation service, except that ADA-certified riders pay a lower fare than the general public. Schedules allow ample time for devia- tions, and 24% of passenger trips involve a deviation.

8 • Definitions are provided in clearly defined zones or bands around specific routes. For example, the Met- ropolitan Transit System (MTS) in San Diego, Cali- fornia, operates four routes that provide deviations within one-quarter-mile bands on either side of the routes. The zones are shown on the route maps pro- vided to the public. In this type of situation, devia- tions are provided mainly to increase coverage rather than to serve passengers with disabilities. Approxi- mately 3% of passenger trips involve a deviation. Seven transit systems reported operating demand- responsive connector service, making it the second most frequently reported method of flexible service. Some variations on this theme include the following: • Service is provided between a transfer point and any safe address within a defined zone where fixed-route service is considered inappropriate or infeasible ow- ing to street patterns. Portland Tri-Met operates a service of this type that provides peak-hour-only connections between the Cedar Mills area and the closest transit center. • Service is provided between a transfer point and defined drop-off points. The Winnipeg Transit Sys- tem in Winnipeg, Manitoba, provides a service of this type, operating mainly in low-demand time periods. Although drop-off points are defined, drivers do have the discretion to drop off passen- gers at home, and pick-ups are always made at passengers’ homes. Akron, Ohio, provides a late night flexible service that uses three or four buses to take passengers from downtown transfer points to any bus stop normally served by the 30 routes that depart from downtown. LENGTH OF EXPERIENCE OPERATING FLEXIBLE SERVICE As shown in Figure 2, 5 of the 24 surveyed transit systems have been operating flexible service for more than 10 years, whereas the median length of operation is between 5 and 6 years. The OTA has operated flexible service since 1982, and Ride Solution in Palatka, Florida, has operated flexible service since 1988. Although the survey results might be taken to indicate IGURE 2 Years of flexible service operation (as of June 2003). F that interest in flexible service peaked a few years ago, other findings suggest that it continues to be strong. Sev- eral of the surveyed transit systems have implemented ad- ditional flexible services since the year they first began such services. Half of the surveyed transit systems indi- cated that they see further opportunities to implement or ex- pand flexible services. In addition, there are several known, recently begun flexible services operated by transit systems that did not respond to the survey. A recent decline in im- plementation, however, may reflect a general drop in new transit services under tightened budgetary circumstances resulting from the economic downturn that began in 2000. 0 1 2 3 4 <1 1 2 3 4 5 7 8 10 11 12 15 21 Years of Operation N o. o f T ra ns it S ys te m s

Next: CHAPTER THREE - SERVICE DESIGN »
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TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Synthesis 53: Operational Experiences with Flexible Transit Services examines transit agency experiences with “flexible transit services,” including all types of hybrid services that are not pure demand-responsive (including dial-a-ride and Americans with Disabilities Act paratransit) or fixed-route services, but that fall somewhere in between those traditional service models.

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