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5 1.1 Motivation, Background, and Project Objectives The national trend toward redesigns has been influenced in large part by three motivations: â¢ First, in many places the bus network has been disregarded over time, with small changes made over the years as new rail lines have been introduced or new developments opened. Agencies have recognized that the route structure they have does not necessarily align with todayâs travel patterns and rider expectations, and agencies need to review what has been going well first and then make route-by-route changes; â¢ Second, transit agencies are looking for ways to make the most effective use of their limited resources â in fact many network redesigns were efforts to curb or control operating costs; and â¢ Third, transit ridership, especially bus, has been declining and agencies are looking at new ways to reverse the trend. Transit ridership across the United States has been declining in recent years. Bus ridership has fallen each year since 2013, a total of more than 11% between 2012 and 2017. At the same time, transit ridership overall has declined by about 4% (APTA Ridership by Mode and Quarter, Year End Totals, 2012â2017). These three motivations, along with national attention by the press and advocacy groups â and generally more awareness of the transportation conversation in general communication â have provided a confluence of events that have made redesigning transit networks a hotly discussed topic. Transit system redesigns have become popularized through many high-profile agencies developing updated system concepts and implementing sweeping, systemwide changes over- night. There are many practical reasons to make all of the changes at once. The transit system is a network, and a tweak in one place has ripple effects that can be avoided by making changes simultaneously; the agency has long suffered from poor public trust and image and wishes to reinvigorate ridership and support by the public, stakeholders, and elected officials; and/or the agency has additional or reduced funds which necessitates a reimagining of the system. Despite the prominence of full redesigns in the popular press, the data collected in this syn- thesis suggest that there are also many agencies conducting redesigns and implementing them in phases. Regardless of whether the changes are implemented overnight or phased in over time, transit system redesigns present the agency and the community with many challenges. A full redesign needs top-level support and an agency where departments and the state and local jurisdiction(s) it serves are in lock-step, because there is no department that is untouched â from planning, to operations, to communications, to engineering. Full redesigns require not only support but also significant resources in terms of agency staff time, consultant support, capital funds, and operating funds. Because bus network redesigns usually involve studying all parts of a bus network, they are quite involved and complex projects that may take years from initial discussions to actual imple- mentations of service changes. Transit agencies reading this report may find themselves in any C H A P T E R 1 Introduction: Overview and Key Issues
6 Synthesis on Comprehensive Bus Network Redesigns one of the many stages of the redesign process. This synthesis report presents an overview of the current state of the practice across the many phases and stages of bus network redesign, includ- ing insights into â¢ The decision-making process for whether to begin a redesign project. â¢ The planning policies, practices, and tools used during network planning. â¢ How network redesign scenarios are evaluated and selected. â¢ How transit agencies engage stakeholders. â¢ The steps taken during service change implementation. â¢ Challenges encountered and lessons learned. 1.2 Methodology, Approach, and Report Organization The research for this synthesis has three main components: a review of existing research, an industry survey, and in-depth case examples. The literature review is broad, relying not only on published reports and articles but on agency self-published materials; while bus network redesigns under various names have been happening at some level for a long time, the renaissance of them over the past 5 or so years means that a lot of the available literature is directly from the agency. To that end, there is some overlap in the three main research components of the study. This synthesis is organized as follows: after an overall summary of the results and this over- view section, the results of the existing research review, survey analysis, and case examples will be presented in turn. Finally, some key findings and suggestions for further research are identi- fied in the conclusions section. There are also three appendices that contain short summaries of each existing report reviewed (Appendix A), the survey instrument (Appendix B), and the raw survey results (Appendix C). 1.3 Dimensions and Elements of Bus Service Planning Traditionally, bus service planning usually progresses through a series of basic steps, shown in Figure 1. Each of these steps may be iterative and performed in different sequences; however, the basic process is largely the same across most bus route planning exercises. Bus service planning, in its most traditional sense, usually involves an in-depth look at route- or corridor-level performance and service characteristics. Current industry guidance on transit Phase 1: Gather Information â¢Conduct a market analysis. â¢Establish or revise bus route and network service standards. â¢Establish or revise budgetary, operator, and fleet resource limits. Phase 2: Analyze and Recommend â¢Collect and analyze route and network performance data. â¢Compare route and network performance against service standards. â¢Make recommendations for service changes to improve adherence to service standards and stay within resource limits. Phase 3: Engage the Public â¢Hold public engagement targeted to riders of routes impacted by service change recommendations. â¢Revise recommendations based on public input. â¢Implement final service changes. Figure 1. Bus service planning process.
Introduction: Overview and Key Issues 7 planning is mainly limited to transit route and corridor planning, not system-level planning. For example, the Transit Capacity and Quality of Service Manual, 3rd ed., arguably the U.S. transit industryâs most robust and comprehensive guide to analyzing transit quality, discusses transit planning at the route- or corridor-level and does not attempt to develop principles that could be applied to networkwide decision making (TCQSM 2013). And, although Chapter 10 â Bus Routing and Coverage of TCRP Report 95: Traveler Response to Transportation System Changes Handbook (3rd ed.) addresses different types of bus network structures and some examples of past network redesigns, very little guidance is given in how transit agencies should embark on a network planning exercise, how to implement a networkwide service change, or what to expect when they do (Pratt and Evans 2004). Despite the lack of published guidance, agencies and their consultants across the country have been applying similar processes to conduct bus service planning at a system level. They are plac- ing more emphasis on the demand and travel flow analysis than was typically done in the past, and are more firmly establishing objectives that the system should meet as part of the redesign â from clearer definitions of service and network standards to identifying where and what types of service should be the new focus of their system. For example, many agencies that are planning or have already planned a network redesign have centered their efforts on establishing or enhancing a high-frequency/priority bus network supported by additional crosstown service to serve the many trips that do not need to access the city or regionâs traditional âcore.â Agencies are also rethinking their role by considering tradeoffs such as coverage vs. frequency. 1.4 Distinctive Aspects of Redesigns The steps taken during a comprehensive bus network redesign are quite similar to and are grounded in traditional bus service planning processes; however, the analysis, planning, and public engagement is about evaluating the overall network of routes and how the service would work if things were done differently and is a much more integrated process among analysis, planning, and public engagement. This makes network redesigns distinct from route-level service planning in many ways: â¢ In addition to detailed corridor, route, and trip level analysis, a redesign typically incorporates a detailed market and travel flow assessment to determine demand and service gaps. â¢ Network-level planning objectives and design approaches are often defined at the outset. For example, the transit agency may go into the process knowing that it wants to move from a radial system to a grid network, or it may be focused on bigger picture objectives such as maximizing network coverage, increasing system ridership, or connecting more people to more jobs and opportunity. â¢ Public engagement is often longer and more robust with multiple, iterative phases in which the public may help define the redesignâs goals and provide feedback on service options. â¢ Internal transit agency engagement may also be significantâemployees may have multiple opportunities to help define the redesignâs goals and refine recommendations. â¢ Existing conditions data analysis is often more extensive, because the goal is not only to improve route performance but also to improve the connectivity and performance of the entire bus network. Data collection and analysis might include detailed examination of origin-destination (OD) data, passenger transfers, land-use and demographic informa- tion, and even networkwide ridership and travel demand modeling. â¢ If implemented, public education of service changes may be significantly longer and more extensive, because the changes affect a much larger portion (if not all) of the ridership and community.
8 Synthesis on Comprehensive Bus Network Redesigns â¢ Implementation is much more complex. Bus operators, bus supervisors and dispatchers, bus operations control center staff, and customer service agents need to be trained on the signifi- cant changes. Bus stop signs may be completely replaced, and completely new sets of system and route maps and route schedules may have to be created. Regardless of the language used to describe the plan â whether the agency calls the plan a comprehensive operational analysis (COA), a transit development plan (TDP), or something else entirely â a redesign is a plan that consists of a collaborative planning process that can be implemented to change the overall structure of the network.