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51 4.1 Introduction This synthesis report includes case examples from five agencies whose responses to the survey suggested that there was a lot to be learned and that they represented a diversity of agencies by redesign status, geographic location, agency type, and agency size (Figure 19). The five agencies for which case studies were conducted are shown in Table 15. Annual revenue hours noted in the table as well as other data on service provided and service area size are all sourced from the NTD 2016 Transit Agency Profiles. These detailed case examples provide deeper insight into each agencyâs vision and goals for the redesign, the system design parameters, public and stakeholder engagement, implementation, and next steps. In addition to selecting case examples with a mix of agency characteristics, the agencies were selected to provide depth in the following areas: service planning detail (Connect Transit); long range focus (King County Metro); implementation aspects (COTA); budget constrained and visionary planning (DART); and operator in-reach and capital investments (MDOT MTA). 4.2 Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System (Connect Transit) Comprehensive Operational Analysis Interviewees: Isaac Thorne, General Manager, and Martin Glaze, Transit Operations Manager The Bloomington-Normal Public Transit System, known as Connect Transit, provides bus transportation and demand response paratransit services within the City of Bloomington and Town of Normal, Illinois, home to the 20,000+ student Illinois State University. The bus system service area is 46 square miles with a service area population of 129,000. Connect Transit provides an average of 8,600 trips per weekday (see Figures 20 and 21 for further information). In 2015, prior to the launch of their redesigned system, Connect Transit received the American Public Trans- portation Association (APTA) award for Outstanding Public Transportation System (for agencies in North America providing fewer than 4 million passenger trips annually) for improvements in rider ship thanks to investments in branding, improved technology, and customer service (Metro- politan Transit Authority 2015). (http://www.metro-magazine.com/management-operations/ news/295042/connect-transit-named-best-public-transit-system-in-north-america.) Vision and Goals Connect Transit initiated a comprehensive operational analysis (COA) in 2015 to assess existing service and to develop options for a new, more frequent and efficient network. Leading C H A P T E R 4 Case Examples
52 Synthesis on Comprehensive Bus Network Redesigns MDOT MTA Figure 19. Map of agencies included in case study. Agency Location Region Status Agency Type Annual Revenue Hours Connect Transit - Normal, IL Midwest Implemented Government Agency (small) King County Metro West Planned, not implemented Government Agency 2,759,035 (large) COTA OH Midwest Implemented Agency (medium) DART Dallas, TX South Planned, partially implemented Independent Agency 2,077,633 (large) MDOT MTA MD East Implemented Government Agency (large) Bloomington 90,579 Seattle, WA Columbus, Baltimore, 1,738,160 Independent 879,037 Table 15. Main features of case study agencies.
Case Examples 53 up to the COA, Connect Transit had been investing in technology, such as adding automated pas- senger counters (APC), mobile bus tracking, and trip planning software on the agency website, and was focused on improving internal and external customer service. These investments, along with observations of the day-to-day operations of the bus service, supported the understanding within the agency that the way the service was designed was causing inefficiencies, unnecessary stress on bus operators, and was not meeting the needs of the public. The goal of the COA was to improve operational efficiency while meeting the needs of transit riders in Bloomington- Normal. This included planning service that would be more attractive to riders and non-riders by increasing frequency and adding Sunday service. System Design Service planners conducted a comprehensive assessment of the bus network. From an opera- tional perspective the routes were extremely tight, meaning run times left little room for error or delay and buses and bus operators were fully committed with minimal back-up options. Routes were long and circuitous, winding through residential streets and parking lots; this made improving frequencies difficult because to achieve significant headway improvement required the addition of multiple buses along a single long route. Service was not provided on Sunday, and Saturday service was infrequent. Connect Transit wanted to be able to provide bus service 7 days a week and provide high fre- quency peak period service â 15 minutes where possible or 30 minutes when 15-minute headways were not feasible. However, the design of the existing service did not make that possible within operating budget constraints. Connect Transitâs planners did not consider partially modifying the bus network because it was understood that to achieve efficiency gains the whole network needed to be redesigned. This vision was supported by Connect Transitâs Board of Directors, who had an active role in the COA process from visioning to implementation. The redesign process included a market analysis where planners looked at population and employment density, socioeconomic characteristics, the location of major activity centers, and origin-destination (OD) data. As a part of the COA, Connect Transit conducted an OD survey to better understand travel patterns; the agency also used existing ridership information to inform their understanding of travel patterns. With this information in hand Connect Transit began to draw out a new system following five guiding network design principles: â¢ Service should operate at regular intervals â¢ Routes should operate along a direct path â¢ Routes should be symmetrical (alignment should be the same in both directions for ease of understanding and consistency of access) â¢ Routes should serve well defined markets â¢ Service should be well-coordinated Proposed route alignments were designed for a Core Network and Neighborhood Network of routes. Routes were moved off small residential streets and out of all parking lots; these new alignments on major corridors and main streets provided benefits in terms of travel time for riders, and allowed the buses to operate on streets that were better maintained, plowed in the winter, and had easier-to-maneuver turns. With these alignments, two service level scenarios were developed: one focused on maximizing weekday service frequency and span and the second pro- posed adding Sunday service by reducing the frequency and span of select neighborhood routes. Public and Stakeholder Engagement The first draft of the plan was taken to the public in October 2015 for input. Connect Transit held public meetings in Bloomington and Normal, held two events at busy transit locations, and
54 Synthesis on Comprehensive Bus Network Redesigns had a COA website where the public could review material and provide comments. Bus operator input was also collected around alignment options and run times. The public was asked to weigh in on their preference between the two scenarios and to provide any other comments regarding alignment, frequency, and span. The second draft plan was sent to the Board of Directors in April 2016. Political stakeholder input impacted the second draft of the network design; two routes were added to the network to accommodate concerns about the reduction in network coverage/longer walk to proposed service in the proposed plan. Although the proposed network would have met Title VI require- ments as originally designed, the additional routes also served low-income areas, which at the time outweighed other indicators that there would not be enough demand for the additional level of service the two routes provided. The final plan was approved in June 2016 and was imple- mented 2 months later, on August 15, 2016. Public education around the concept of the network redesign began in October 2015, how- ever public education around the final plan did not start until June 2016. Public education was Figure 20. Top stops in Connect Transit System, graphic courtesy of Connect Transit.
Case Examples 55 provided through rider guides handed out by staff at public engagement sessions at busy loca- tions such as libraries and the United Way. Connect Transitâs customer service hotline provided riders with new trip plans; this was particularly important for the first few weeks since Connect Transitâs online trip planning software was temporarily unavailable due to the switch over of AVL companies. It was free to ride the bus for the first 2 weeks after service was launched. Public education efforts continued through October 2016 to ensure that the Bloomington- Normal communities knew how to use the new service. Although the original system com- prised 15 routes and the proposed new system comprised 16 routes, one point of confusion for the public was that while the bus system was very different, the names of the old routes were recycled and reapplied to the new network. For example, in the previous network the Orange route served Bloomington and Normal residents, but under the new network the Orange route only serves Bloomington residents and largely follows a different alignment from the original Orange. (The final system comprised 15 routes, because the Teal route was later eliminated.) Implementation To finalize the routes for scheduling and implementation, Connect Transit service planners developed the details on where the start and end of the routes would be and the start and end times for the peak periods. Connect Transit then scheduled all routes and ironed out the details of each run, supported by the hiring of a new scheduler. The new design also introduced new ser- vice planning applications, such as interlining routes and using scheduling software to produce schedules. The schedule information was then captured in rider guides and maps for the public as well as training materials for operators for new alignments and time points. Layover times Figure 21. Connect Transit Map For Downtown Bloomington, graphic courtesy of Connect Transit.
56 Synthesis on Comprehensive Bus Network Redesigns were added to each route, which had not been in practice before. Additionally, Connect Transit was switching AVL companies and decided to time the switch to coincide with the system launch to make a clean data break between the old and new system and the AVL data. Finally, where needed, new bus stops were placed and old bus stops were removed; the process was not overly complicated since bus stop flags along old alignments that were being used for a newly named route could stay, since Connect Transitâs bus stops do not include route information. Connect Transit planners tried to get as much input as possible from a diverse array of agency staff on the details of the service plan and other support materials. Multiple reviews by staff across the agency helped ensure that the detailed work required to operationalize the plan was well vetted. To be able to deliver additional service hours 18 new bus operators were hired and trained. Existing operators were trained on the new routes and although these operators were quick studies, it did take them a little while to grasp the full system to the point where they knew how to help riders navigate. Operational preparations were conducted within a tight timeframeâfrom April through August 2016âand included modifications that were made up until June 2016. The agencyâs external communications department had to produce, print, and deliver the final materials in an even tighter timeframe since operational preparations informed final material production; communications was under-resourced given the short timeframe. Post-Implementation and Next Steps The new network increased operating costs overall but provides significantly more frequent service as well as Sunday service. All gains from operational efficiency were delivered back to ridersâefficiency savings on one route were reinvested for increased service on another. The new systemâs on-time performance improved, however layover times for bus operators were reduced on longer routes where the total layover time was greater than 5 minutes, which proved not to be necessary. For the first 8 months after launch ridership decreased, but it began to increase after the initial adjustment period. Ridership has continued to increase on routes that have 30 minutes or better headways, but it has begun to decline on less frequent routes. Since the launch, operating cost savings resulting from elimination of the Teal route and two tempo- rary trips were rolled back into the network to improve frequencies on other routes. Although there is not stable funding for Connect Transit to expand right now, the agency continues to look at possible ways to increase frequencies on core network routes in the future. Like many transit agencies, Connect Transitâs capital needs are continuing to grow and pose additional funding challenges. There may be opportunities to revisit continued operation of the two routes that were added to the final plan without sufficient demand projections; one of those routes is Connect Transitâs least productive route. However, agency service planners note that it is extremely difficult to cut service once it has been provided. 4.3 Central Ohio Transit Authority (COTA) Transit System Redesign Interviewee: Josh Sikich, Former Transit System Redesign Project Manager The Central Ohio Transit Authority is the regional public transit provider for greater Colum- bus and central Ohio. With a service area of 323 square miles and over one million residents, COTA provides an average of 62,000 rides per weekday. Columbus is home to Ohio State University, with more than 65,000 registered students. The Columbus region has experienced population and employment growth over the past decades and the regionâs growth trend is
Case Examples 57 projected to continue. For a period leading up to 2006, COTA struggled with troubled finances, service cuts, and aging equipment in the face of regional growth. In 2006 residents in the region approved an additional sales tax to provide financial support for the agency, allowing COTA to invest in additional service and maintenance. Vision and Goals In the lead up to COTAâs system redesign, the agency had been growing, adding ridership and service hours to meet growing demand for transit in greater Columbus. The CEO at the time saw the need for continued growth, but growth guided by a plan. Although COTA began operations in 1974, the bus network in 2013 largely followed the same structure, but with piece- meal additions. To grow effectively and efficiently, COTA set out to review and evaluate its entire bus network. The Transit System Review process began in 2013 and led to the creation of four key priorities that guided the plan: â¢ Expand the frequent service network â¢ Better reach suburban job centers â¢ Make the network more efficient and useful to a larger portion of the population â¢ Increase ridership The review process also allowed COTA to set agreed upon parameters for service design work from the outset: to allocate 70% of the bus operating budget to service that would increase rider- ship in dense corridors and 30% to coverage of geographic areas with less density. With these parameters and priorities in mind COTA set out to design a new network, unencumbered by the old design, that would provide better and more bus service in Central Ohio. System Design The previous bus network radiated out of downtown Columbus in a hub-and-spoke design (Figure 22). This design forced many riders who wanted to travel across town to travel downtown first and then back out. Greater Columbus had experienced job growth in suburban centers, which were inefficiently served by this kind of network. Additionally, the previous network provided its highest levels of service during standard weekday business hours, with lower fre- quencies on Saturday and even lower frequencies on Sunday. However, local job hours had not remained static at typical 9:00 to 5:00 hours. The new network was designed to be more evenly distributed across downtown Columbus, with more high frequencyâ15 minutes or betterâservice (Figure 23). This design supported easier transfers to allow riders to get crosstown either directly on a new route or by transferring from one frequent route to another. This was also supported by investing in improvements to existing transit center infrastructure. The new network more than doubled the number of high frequency routes, increased Saturday service by 50%, and increased Sunday service even more. By making Saturday and Sunday service levels more consistent with weekday service sched- ules it became easier for riders to understand how to use weekend service. COTAâs service area shrunk slightly with the system redesign and also shifted geographically, impacting the agencyâs paratransit service area as well. To mitigate the impact of the change to the system on exist- ing paratransit riders, COTA identified the few individuals who might be negatively impacted and grandfathered them into the new system; in other words, existing paratransit users can still receive paratransit service to their homes even if those areas are no longer areas officially served by paratransit. On the other hand, the shift in frequency of service actually increased paratransit options for many riders, particularly during off-peak times and on weekends.
58 Synthesis on Comprehensive Bus Network Redesigns Public and Stakeholder Engagement COTAâs public engagement around its system redesign was extensive and prolonged. Initial public outreach began in 2014. Public input informed the key priorities, parameters, and overall vision and direction of the plan. The public provided input on draft versions of the bus network through public meetings, focus groups, and online surveys. Bus operators were engaged in the bus operating day rooms, with staff on hand to talk about and collect feedback on the plan. By Figure 22. COTA Pre-TSR network, graphic courtesy of COTA. Figure 23. COTA before and after high frequency service, graphic courtesy of COTA.
Case Examples 59 the end of 2014 the COTA Board of Trustees adopted the new system framework along with the addition of more service in downtown. In 2015, the service plan went out for public hearings and approval. Meanwhile, new routes identified in the service plan and approved by the COTA Board were implemented, with public education to support the start of these new routes. After various board meetings and public meetings, the plan was finalized at the end of 2015 with the plan to launch on May 1, 2017. Implementation COTA developed a secondary organizational structure within the existing structure to sup- port the work that needed to go into the system redesign, while the day to day work of running the transit agency continued. Following the completion of the transit system review, COTA hired a transit system redesign (TSR) project manager who reported to the Vice President of Planning. The TSR project manager established six working groups made up of roughly 45 staff from across the agency that were responsible for leading specific tasks. These groups were: â¢ Bus Stops, Passenger Shelters, and License Agreements â¢ TSR Plan Alignments, Schedules, and Maps â¢ Marketing, Communication Plan, and Public Involvement â¢ Operations, Human Resources, Training, and Coordination â¢ Budget â¢ Government and Community Relations Each working group was made up of subject matter experts from across the agency. For example, the bus stop working group included staff from facilities, operations, and the legal department and the operations working group included bus operations supervisors and IT staff. Support from the TSR project manager and leadership from COTAâs CEO made it possible for working group staff to collaborate, coordinate, and delegate around the redesign, even though these additional duties were challenging and needed to be executed while staff were still provid- ing their normal day-to-day functions within the agency. From January 2016 to May 2017, COTA implemented public education around the new sys- tem. Public education efforts intensified from January to May 2017 and even more in the 2 weeks prior to launch. Public education focused first and foremost on riders. COTA staff discussed the merits of educating potential riders who would benefit from the new system; however, it was decided that public education leading up to the launch would be directed at existing riders and, after the launch, new riders could be taught how to ride the new system and encouraged to do so. The system was free to ride the first week of implementation. COTA public education took a three-pronged approach to reach riders: individualized engagement, stakeholder engagement and public meetings, and mass marketing. The individu- alized engagement strategy included street teams at bus stops and the website dual trip planner that showed the riders the old trip and the new trip. This strategy was characterized by one- on-one interactions focused on providing individuals with the specific information that they would need to use the system. The stakeholder engagement and public meeting strategy included meetings with municipal mayors, public works staff, neighborhood leaders, and other groups that represented larger networks of people, as well as meetings open to the general public. This strategy ensured community leaders and decisionmakers understood the overall plan and how to get access to individualized information for their own benefit and so that they could support educating their constituents and friends. The mass marketing strategy included using billboards, radio ads, and posters on buses to provide critical information to as many people as possible. In addition to these strategies, which were carried out at different levels of intensity over the year
60 Synthesis on Comprehensive Bus Network Redesigns and a half before the launch, COTA also had agency staff out on the streets with the street teams the two days preceding and the day of launch not only to provide extra on-the-ground support, but also as a demonstration of the agencyâs investment in the redesign and its impact on riders. In addition to the TSR project manager position, COTA added an additional communica- tions position. Temporary positions were planned for around the launch to add capacity, includ- ing street teams, a travel trainer (for providing training to riders on how to use the new system and bus service in general), and additional call center staff. For temporary street team positions, COTA set out to have reliable people representing the agency out on the street. COTAâs approach to finding high quality street team staff was to over hire with the understanding that there would be attrition due to the challenges of the job; in the end COTA received positive feedback from bus operators and riders on the quality of street team staff. Contractors and consultants were used on a temporary basis as well. Two key contractors were the bus stop changeover and wayfinding contractors, who were responsible for designing, print- ing and installing the new bus stop signs. The changing of all bus stops in the system and overall reduction of bus stops was a huge push, one identified early on as a critical component of imple- menting the plan. COTA understood that it would be easy to fail at transitioning bus stops, because this requires intensive attention to detail as well as manual heavy labor. Information needed to be clearly communicated, correctly printed, and placed on temporary hoods over the bus stop signs. The installation and removal of temporary hoods and signs needed to be well-coordinated and executed. Bus display headers were updated and new stop announcements were recorded for every stop, using a single style and voice for improved consistency over the old system. An additional critical component of successful implementation was ensuring that the agency had enough bus operators to deliver the additional service hours in the plan. Management knew that without enough bus operators it would not be possible to deliver the service promised. COTA identified the key constraints to meeting the target of hiring 100 additional operators â the capac- ity of the human resources department and marketing department. The Operations, Human Resources, Training, and Coordination Working Group set out to overcome those limitations well in advance. The addition of a communications position was partly to support this work. COTA started doubling the operator training class size and was able to hire the target number of operators to provide the additional service hours and replace operators that were retiring. In concert with hiring new operators, another key challenge to successful implementation was the internal education of all COTA employees. This was a multifaceted effort that include producing YouTube videos, weekly email blasts, and in-depth training for bus operators. This effort was supported by COTAâs IT staff, who created, for the first time, email addresses for every COTA employee, including bus operators and maintenance staff. The Operations, Human Resources, Training, and Coordination Working Group developed and delivered a training schedule and materials. In December of 2016, after a few minor adjustments to the plan were made from Title VI analysis, training began. Every operator took an 8-hour class to learn the new routes and system elements, and also received customer service training. COTAâs redesign involved renaming routes with different numbers; as such one aspect of training focused on the names and the numbering of the routes, which helped to demystify the service changes. The training process helped make skeptical staff supportive of the system redesign. Infrastructure COTA invested in improving passenger facilities, such as their bus stops, shelters, and expan- sion of the capacity of one of their transit centers. The expansion of the Easton Transit Center was their largest capital project conducted as part of the redesign. These capital projects in gen- eral, but particularly the transit center, had long lead times. Additional capital projects included
Case Examples 61 end of the line layovers, turnarounds, and intersection improvements. These projects were supported by strong communication with municipalities since much of this work was in public rights of way or in some cases on private property. The Bus Stops, Passenger Shelters, and License Agreements Working Group led these initiatives. Post-Launch and Next Steps Following the launch of the new system, COTA made adjustments and refinements to service during the September 2017 service change. Bus operator feedback was critical to identifying these changes since many had to do with turn restrictions and temporary construction obstacles. Regarding the performance of the system, COTA anticipated a temporary decline in rider- ship, which has occurred. However, the rate of declining ridership is slowing, in contrast to the national trend toward ridership loss. Although it is too soon to know when ridership will increase, COTA believes the agency will see that growth. The agencyâs Short Range Transit Plan 2017-2021 (https://www.cota.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/SRTP.pdf Accessed April 25, 2018) envisions continuing to increase service by 11% in the plan timeframe. The additional service hours projected would be supported by the existing 0.5% sales tax in Franklin County. (COTA funding is supported by two quarter-cent sales taxes in Franklin County. One tax is permanent and the second one is approved on a 10-year basis, which was renewed by ballot measure in 2016.) Additionally, COTA is currently investigating how to leverage transportation network companies where fixed route service is inefficient and ineffective. COTA also recently completed long-range vision plan, branded NextGen, that defines the regionâs transit future and will guide planning going forward (COTA 2017). (https://www.cota.com/initiatives/nextgen/ Accessed April 25, 2018.) 4.4 MDOT Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) BaltimoreLink Interviewees: The authors of this synthesis were the primary consultants on the BaltimoreLink bus network redesign and compiled this case study for review by Holly Arnold, MDOT MTAâs Director of Planning and Programming Maryland Department of Transportationâs Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) is a statewide agency that provides and funds transit service throughout the state. The bus net- work redesign focused on the Baltimore area, specifically the City of Baltimore and its suburbs. The agency provides several transit options across the Baltimore region, including Core Bus service in the City of Baltimore and its suburbs, Light Rail and Metro Subway, and other services that connect the Baltimore region with other state communities and beyond via commuter bus services and the Maryland Area Regional Commuter (MARC) rail system. MDOT MTAâs service area covers 1,795 square miles and serves over 2.2 million people. (âCore Busâ is used instead of âLocal Busâ to emphasize that there are gradations of service offered that are not exclusively local bus but have some express elements to them.) Vision and Goals BaltimoreLink is a complete overhaul and rebranding of the core bus system operating within the City of Baltimore and throughout the greater Baltimore region. MDOT MTAâs first attempt at adjusting and rationalizing the core bus service was conducted by the Office of Ser- vice Development through the Bus Network Improvement Project (BNIP) from 2013-2014, which included an extensive review of existing conditions, outreach to the public on their riding
62 Synthesis on Comprehensive Bus Network Redesigns preferences, and outreach to the public and bus operators on proposed solutions. Recommen- dations under BNIP were ultimately put on hold; however, an opportunity to revive it allowed the data to be processed and analyzed, and the opinions collected and assessed, to form the basis of the BaltimoreLink vision and the service planning efforts throughout the BaltimoreLink project. The pre-BaltimoreLink network, while it moved hundreds of thousands of people every weekday, was unreliable and inefficient and had not adjusted to shifting employment centers or worsening traffic conditions. To design and build a better bus network, MDOT MTA set out to design routes through inclusive service planning, improved infrastructure, and better supported operations. MDOT MTA assessed the impact and tested the merit of these plans during the planning process through technical impact analyses and by involving the public and internal stakeholders into the design process. System Design The pre-BaltimoreLink bus network was characterized by antiquated routes that did not align with todayâs job centers and were too long to manage reliably, especially those that traversed downtown Baltimore. BaltimoreLink was developed to deliver a more efficient and reliable bus network for the region by spreading out routes across the downtown core and creating a grid of high-frequency routes. To achieve this, the Maryland Department of Transportation Maryland Transit Administration (MDOT MTA) took a fresh look at all core bus routes, assessed the operational resources and infrastructure needed to support those routes, and reimagined how core transit services, including one light rail line and one Metro subway line, would be branded and communicated to the public. The BaltimoreLink network redesign was approached as a complete redesign of the system to be supported by robust analysis, but it was constrained by firm operational parameters. The resulting system keeps revenue hours the same as before, though the agency was able to add additional operators that were needed to work the revised schedules. The network redesign process produced three draft service design plans based on the following goals: â¢ Improve service quality and reliability; â¢ Maximize access to high-frequency transit; â¢ Strengthen connections between MTAâs bus and rail routes; â¢ Align the network with existing and emerging job centers; and â¢ Involve riders, employees, communities, and elected officials in the planning process. The network design focused on a high-frequency grid network in downtown Baltimore, com- posed of 12 new, high-frequency bus routes and the existing Metro subway and light rail line, which was supported by a new crosstown network and a feeder service to the grid. Other key design changes included shortening routes to improve reliability and better spacing out bus routes on more downtown streets to avoid bus congestion. The final system consisted of 12 color-coded high-frequency routes called CityLink that form a grid network in the downtown and radiate out in all directions; the other core bus service was branded as LocalLink. Public, Stakeholder, and Operator Engagement The redesign plan was shaped and tested against real world input provided by the public, bus operators, and other MDOT MTA departments involved with the planning and provision of bus services. Public outreach and education were a major component of BaltimoreLink and shaped service planning decisions from initial planning to implementation. Public outreach results had a major effect on the network design in Draft 2 of the BaltimoreLink Plan. Plan 2 was released to the public on July 5, 2016: while the first draft plan emphasized high frequency service over
Case Examples 63 coverage, Plan 2 maximized coverage and avoided the need for transfers where possible, result- ing in less frequent routes. High frequency service was preserved on the CityLink routes, but not beyond those. Plan 2 was well received by the public and stakeholders. A third and final plan was produced for implementation and reflected more minor public feedback as well as some more detailed operational analysis. Bus operator in-reach was similarly robust and raised important service planning and opera- tional issues that were addressed due to the inclusion of bus operator knowledge. The purpose of the in-reach program was to inform, engage, and gather input from bus operators to ensure that the system redesign and implementation planning reflected their knowledge and experience and took into account their concerns. MDOT MTA also had a strong program for internal departmental collaboration. Weekly technical team meetings, led by the Office of Planning and attended by MDOT MTA staff and their consultants from Service Development, Marketing, Communications, Engineering, and occasionally Operations, were held to ensure that all tasks were proceeding according to plan and schedule. These meetings provided an opportunity for collaboration between departments so that all aspects of the task, beyond the primary owner, could be coordinated. Additionally, in the year leading up to launch, a bi-weekly communications meeting was held with participa- tion from Marketing, Communications, Community Relations, and others to keep the public involvement and public education components of the process coordinated and moving forward, such as public outreach, informational materials, and other areas of public communication. Finally, MDOT MTA held retreats, known as âadvances,â about four times in the year and a half of planning and implementation. These large workshops of between 80 and 100 staff afforded many more people the opportunity to be informed about all the aspects of BaltimoreLink that may impact their jobs (and may require their help), discuss key strategic decisions, and get people excited about the upcoming changes. MDOT MTA created and implemented a detailed public education plan to help riders and the public learn the new transit network throughout the spring of 2017. The public education plan included strategies for direct rider contact, marketing and communications, government affairs outreach, community based organization outreach, school outreach, and a coordinated June 2017 BaltimoreLink implementation plan. The education plan included a website, social media, print material, advertisements throughout the system, pop-up tents at transit centers, and an informa- tion bus that was deployed on different routes each day and contained a lot of information and provided free rides. The education program was implemented with major staff involvement and by using public outreach street teams equipped with thoughtfully designed informational materi- als. Another critical component of public education was ensuring that MDOT MTA bus opera- tors had informational materials and could let their riders know what was coming. Implementation On June 14, 2017, a âlaunch eventâ for elected officials, MDOT staff, and the media was held at the West Baltimore MARC Station to ceremonially mark the start of BaltimoreLink in advance of the June 18th implementation date. Prior to implementation, all bus operators participated in training, which began in January 2017 to ensure that all operators could be taken out of service for 3 days while the pre-BaltimoreLink system could continue with regular operations. Right before the June 18th launch, operators were given the opportunity to retrain on routes of their choosing. Every bus operator was provided with a binder that contained the right and left turns for every BaltimoreLink route to support operator understanding of the full network (not just the routes out of their division), and made it possible for operators from different divisions to work runs outside of their specific home division.
64 Synthesis on Comprehensive Bus Network Redesigns The days of and surrounding the launch required an all-hands-on-deck approach to be able to address any issues in real-time and provide as much information to the public as possible. For the first 2 weeks following the launch of the new system fares were free not only on the bus network but the subway and light rail as well. This grace period was provided to allow riders to learn the system without the stress of having to pay for any mistakes. It also took one responsi- bility off bus operators while they were educating the public and executing new routes. Every Core Bus service stop was replaced with a new BaltimoreLink bus stop sign. As all MDOT MTA bus stop signs could not be taken down and reinstalled overnight, the process had to occur gradually while still providing riders with the existing system stop information they needed. The solution to this challenge was to take down old stop signs, replace them with BaltimoreLink signs, and then cover those new signs with a temporary vinyl cover with existing route information on it. Infrastructure The BaltimoreLink network, with its new route alignments, frequencies, and spans, was accompanied by $65 million in critical capital infrastructure upgrades to support the service design and rebranding of core services. To support service reliability and to increase roadway capacity for buses, MDOT MTA worked with the City of Baltimore to design and implement dedicated bus lanes on downtown streets that are served by CityLink routes and carry the great- est number of bus trips per day. By the time of the system launch, about 5 miles of dedicated bus lanes had been installed along corridors in downtown Baltimore. MDOT MTA also partnered with the City of Baltimore to implement transit signal priority (TSP) on two pilot corridors in time for launch that comprised 22 intersections. Another key capital investment was the improve- ments of a number of bus transfer centersâthe largest BaltimoreLink capital project was the creation of a new bus transfer facility at the West Baltimore MARC commuter rail station. Post Implementation While ridership has not increased in the year since launch, the BaltimoreLink process has left MDOT MTA in a better position to continuously assess and improve its core bus service. Critical service planning data including a new bus stop database and the General Transit Feed Specifi- cation (GTFS) data files are up-to-date, and new real-time data on all routes will enable more accurate reporting of operating statistics. The processes for maintaining bus stop information, GTFS feeds, and runtimes has been improved. MDOT MTA is also continuing to implement more TSP and bus only lanes to support the CityLink network. 4.5 King County Metro Transit (Metro Transit) METRO CONNECTS Interviewees: Graydon Newman, Transportation Planner; Katie Chalmers, Service Planning Super visor; and Tristan Cook, Community Relations Planner. King County Metro Transit provides comprehensive bus service, vanpools, paratransit services, and community shuttles to residents and visitors of King County, Washington. Metro Transit also operates Sound Transitâs regional Express bus service, Link light rail, and the Seattle Streetcar. Additional transit options in the region, not operated by Metro Transit, are ferry, commuter rail, and monorail service. Metro Transit serves the countyâs 39 cities and towns, including Seattle, with a service area of 2,134 square miles and a population of 2.1 million. Metro Transit provides over 400,000 rides each weekday and has been increasing its ridership significantly, nearly 12% between 2014 and 2016 at a time when national trends in public transit use have seen decreasing ridership.
Case Examples 65 Vision and Goals The King County Council adopted the METRO CONNECTS long-range vision on January 23, 2017. The 25-year long-range plan was an opportunity for Metro Transit and its partners to address the large growth that is occurring and projected to occur in the region and to define a transit future that supports the day-to-day transit needs of the community. Supported by extensive public outreach and stakeholder engagement, the plan provides a vision of âfrequent, reliable and fast serviceâall day, every day.â Key elements of the plan are a build-out of Metro Transitâs RapidRide service and restructuring bus service around Sound Transit Link light rail (operated by Metro Transit), which is anticipated to add 33 miles over four extensions by 2025. Metroâs RapidRide service is a bus rapid transit (BRT) type service with frequent service on major corridors with queue jumps, transit signal priority, and other priority roadway treatments where possible and stations at high ridership stops that allow for pre-paid and all-door boarding. To achieve the vision laid out in METRO CONNECTS, Metro Transit has created a develop- ment program, led by the office of long-range planning and staffed with a mix of long-range and service planners, that is focused on implementing the 2025 service network as it is outlined in the plan. Metro Transit is not new to restructuring their bus routes; they bring to their current effort both experience and a tested methodology of planning, public engagement, and implementa- tion. In the past 10 years the agency has restructured around two light rail stations and six RapidRide lines. What differentiates this effort from past restructuring work is the network design guidelines provided by METRO CONNECTS, the partner support and buy-in that was fostered through the METRO CONNECTS process, and the pace and breadth of the work that is planned until 2025. The METRO CONNECTS plan was a comprehensive look at the transit needs of the county, particularly focused on the high capacity and high frequency corridors needed to serve transit riders and the community at large. System Design While METRO CONNECTS is a long-range, 25-year plan, the changes to the bus network are more defined over the period leading up to 2025, during which significant additions will be made to the regionâs light rail network. The 2025 plan involves more than tripling Metro Transitâs current six RapidRide lines by adding 13 new lines by 2025; the aim is to upgrade all lines to the international BRT standard of bronze or better by 2040. Sound Transit Link light rail is expand- ing north, east, and south of downtown Seattle; projects slated to be completed by 2025 (contin- gent on federal funding) are the East, Federal Way, Redmond, and Lynnwood Link extensions, with 33 miles of new light rail and 19 new Link stations. These investments, along with others detailed in METRO CONNECTS, will be the backbone of a network of high frequency and high capacity corridors provided by RapidRide BRT and light rail that are supported by feeder routes and overlaid express routes between urban centers in the county, including downtown Seattle. The restructuring work gets into the details of the exact routing and station and stop siting of expanded RapidRide lines and how all-day service, peak-only express, and school routes, as well as Demand Area Response Transit (DART) and Community Shuttle service will feed into or complement the new high frequency corridor or light rail station (Figure 24). This service planning work has been divided into 20 projects based on the geographies and routes impacted by new high frequency investments. The first of these 20 phases is focused on the Northeast side of the county, slated to reorient service around a light rail station opened in 2016 and restructure service ahead of new RapidRide service in a future project. The planning phase will begin with public outreach, and in conjunction planners will assess how to reduce duplica- tion, increase frequency, feed riders into light rail or RapidRide where feasible, bring in other
66 Synthesis on Comprehensive Bus Network Redesigns modes (shuttles, vans, and rideshare), and provide highly usable services without necessarily increasing the overall bus service hours in that area. Detailed service planning considerations are available in the Restructuring Service section of Metro Transitâs Service Guidelines document. (https://metro.kingcounty.gov/planning/pdf/2011-21/2015/metro-service-guidelines-042816.pdf Accessed April 20, 2018.) Public and Stakeholder Engagement Metro Transit conducted extensive public outreach for the creation of the METRO CONNECTS plan. The outreach was guided by a strategic engagement plan which aimed to engage the general public, ensuring participation of traditionally underserved and transit- dependent communities, as well as jurisdictions and key stakeholders. The agency established a community advisory group to provide diverse rider viewpoints over the course of the plan and a technical advisory committee that represented King County jurisdictions and regional trans- portation partners. Outreach for the plan lasted for nearly a year and a half and included vision- ing, alternatives, and draft plan phases. Details of METRO CONNECTS community engagement can be found in the Public Engagement Report. (King County Metro 2016) Going forward, for each restructure project additional public outreach will be conducted to inform service planning work. Similar to the METRO CONNECTS public engagement process, Figure 24. King County Metro Transit, Route 8 improvement diagram, graphic courtesy of King County Metro.
Case Examples 67 restructuring outreach is made up of three phases: a needs assessment, an assessment of alterna- tives, and the review of the draft service changes. Restructuring outreach will focus heavily on reaching the riders of the service that is being restructured and less on the general public. It is also Metro Transitâs practice and policy (Planning and Community Engagement section of https:// metro.kingcounty.gov/planning/pdf/2011-21/2015/metro-service-guidelines-042816.pdf Accessed April 20, 2018) to recruit and convene a community-based sounding board composed of people who would be affected by significant service changes, which these restructurings will largely be. Metro Transitâs 18-month planning timeline is driven by their public outreach efforts. Metro Transitâs strategies to reach the public include posting information at bus stops, holding public meetings, disseminating and collecting surveys/questionnaires, convening meetings with community or stakeholder groups, sharing information through online/social media outlets, and participating in conversations with riders at bus stops and community events. The agency sees its ability to deliver on public outreach as a significant component to being able to reach the 2025 goal and is working to ensure that outreach is properly resourced. The information gleaned from the community helps service planners do their work effectively and develop usable transit solutions with community buy-in. Phased Implementation Metro Transit has identified 20 phases for planning and implementing bus network restruc- turing projects in the next 8 years. There are many variables that have impacted the decision to implement in 20 phases, but the key driver of these phases is the planned capital projects that will support RapidRide service expansion and Link light rail expansion. Many of the capital investments are planned to be made in partnership with jurisdictions, and as such the agency does not have direct control over their timing. Metro Transit staff are acutely aware that the METRO CONNECTS vision will be achieved by working closely with local jurisdictions and regional transportation partners. Metro Transit worked with the technical advisory committee (established during METRO CONNECTS public engagement) to identify a regional project schedule that provides a compre- hensive list of planned service projects and corridors for capital investment that are related to delivering transit per METRO CONNECTS plan, and highlights the partnerships that could be leveraged to align capital projects needed to support transit. Additionally, Metro Transit worked with the City of Seattleâs Department of Transportation (SDOT) to develop the RapidRide Expansion Program, which details the timing of the expansion of seven RapidRide lines serving Seattle by 2024. (Seattle Department of Transportation 2018) Although funding for capital improvements comes from multiple and at times unreliable sources, SDOTâs RapidRide Expansion Program has the benefit of funding from the âLevy to Move Seattle,â a ballot initiative passed in 2015, which provides $930 million over nine-years to âimprove safety for all travelers, maintain streets and bridges, and invest in reliable and affordable transit options for a growing city.â (Seattle Department of Transportation 2018) The regional project schedule and the SDOT RapidRide Expansion Program provide time- frame markers for the next 8 years. Additionally, the restructure projects were packaged geo- graphically so they made sense from a holistic network perspective and took into consideration groups of routes that were interconnected. Part of that holistic view included considering if the phases were being distributed equitably so that improvements within Metro Transitâs control would not leave behind traditionally underserved populations. In addition to equity consider- ations, Metro Transit also looked at the geographic spread of projects to make sure the 39 juris- dictions the agency serves were represented as their needs dictated. Lastly, but importantly, phasing was impacted by Metro Transitâs planning and public outreach timeline. Metro Transit typically plans service 18 month prior to implementation. This allows
68 Synthesis on Comprehensive Bus Network Redesigns time for three phases of public outreach and the service planning that informs outreach and is informed by it. Twenty phases, each with 18-month planning timeframes, require overlap and/or concurrent execution of phases to implement in an 8-year timeframe. Metro Transit is working to ensure that it has sufficient community relations and government relations special- ists to conduct this extensive level of outreach. Next Steps Metro Transit will be assessing the timing of the 20 phases of planning on a regular basis, understanding that project timelines shift, particularly large capital projects. Metro Transit also intends to revisit the full 25-year METRO CONNECTS plan every 6 years to evaluate whether the projections that informed the vision and service design have shifted and, if necessary, to adjust the vision and service design accordingly. Metro Transit has planned for increased service rev- enue hours, miles, additional buses, new infrastructure, and bus operators to achieve the 2025 service network defined in METRO CONNECTS. The agency is able to support some of these additional operating and capital costs thanks to funding from the City of Seattle, increased sales tax revenue resulting from the stronger local economy, and other resources. (Funding from the City of Seattle comes from Proposition 1: Seattle passed a ballot measure to impose a $60-a-year car-tab fee and to increase sales by 0.1 percent. Revenue goes to Metro Transit and supports regional bus service that begins or ends in Seattle and better access to transit for low- income riders. Additionally, Seattle residents passed the Transportation Levy to Move Seattle, a 9-year funding package paid for through property taxes, which supports capital infrastructure investments in transit and transportation.) Despite all of this funding, there is still a significant projected funding gap that will need to be resourced in order to achieve the full 2025 vision for service and infrastructure identified in METRO CONNECTS. Metro Transit planners are in the process of embarking on the detailed work associated with delivering what is envisioned in the 2025 service network. An element that they are still ironing out is developing enough project details to support resource estimation and having a compre- hensive understanding of current capacity constraints (service, capital delivery, facility, work- force, etc.) in a fast-paced environment with multiple partners and many moving parts. 4.6 Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Comprehensive Operational Analysis Interviewee: Rob Smith, Assistant VP, Service Planning and Scheduling Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) provides comprehensive bus service, flexible service, and paratransit in the Dallas Metro area. DART operates the longest light rail network in North America (90 miles) as well as streetcar. DART also partners with the Fort Worth Transportation Authority to operate a commuter rail line between the two cities. DART operates most of its bus service directly, with one major route operated by a contractor and others operated by third- parties through funding partnerships. DART provides service to 13 member cities with a service area of 698 square miles, comprising a population of 2.4 million. DART provided approximately 113,000 bus rides each weekday in 2016, down from 123,000 in 2015. Vision and Goals DARTâs Comprehensive Operations Analysis (COA) was developed as part of a new 2040 System Plan and was originally motivated by a desire to look at what should be done with the bus system between 2015 and 2040 (General Planning Consultant Team 2016). While called a
Case Examples 69 COA, the plan was a comprehensive evaluation of the bus system at a route and system level with the intention of making sweeping changes to redefine the overall bus network structure for the first time in more than 20 years. Since then there had been a lot of changes in the operating environment, the city and regionâs development patterns and density, and the completion of the rail network. Additionally, over the previous decades, DART had reduced bus service over time; increased rail options had eliminated the need for some bus lines and shrinking sales tax revenues reduced the available operating funds. DART wanted to go back and look at how changes to travel patterns and development and the prospect of growing sales tax revenue should impact changes to the bus network and how the bus service should be structured in a way that was not so focused on providing feeder service to the rail network. The planning began in 2014, at which time DART had finished the originally planned rail expansion and had recently made extensive changes to the bus routes to provide access to the rail lines. When the agency began the 2040 plan, they were starting to investigate the next steps after completing the rail system, which had been a large focus of the agency for many years. Through this planning process, the agency developed a Draft System Plan that was completed in 2016. Since that time, DARTâs Board of Directors was almost entirely replaced. The new Board, which is very much focused on bus service, will oversee the finalization of the System Plan in 2018. System Design Right now, DARTâs bus system design is based on how routes can complement the rail net- work. Over time, the service transitioned from traditional radial routes to a combination of rail feeder routes and crosstown routes, but even those were designed largely to provide con- nections to the rail network, resulting in a high transfer rate and very long, indirect trips. The system design developed in the COA was focused on straightening and simplifying the routes and increasing the frequency and speed of the buses (Figure 25). A revised crosstown network was also developed to address the mismatch between where riders live and work that makes for excessively long trips, especially for lower-income communities. Initially DART thought they would take more of a blank slate approach to the system redesign and developed several scenarios for service that varied in the degree of change required. Ulti- mately, they changed course on that approach due to concern by the Board and elected officials about the disruption that would be caused by wholesale changes; the Draft System Plan that resulted preserves a greater percentage of the existing network. DART expects that a large focus of the Final System Plan will be on increased frequency as well as the continued development of a grid network that provides more crosstown service (both east-west and north-south) than before; one of the key recommendations of the Draft Service Plan is seven Rapid Ride corridors â high frequency service along with introduction of Transit Signal Priority (TSP). However, there has been some discussion with the new Board in place about doing something more drastic like the Houston redesign, including creation of a high- frequency, low-transfer time grid, which has the potential to increase operating costs by 70%. What ultimately is decided will be determined later in 2018. Public and Stakeholder Engagement The 2040 System Plan and COA marked a significant change and improvement in how DART engaged the public and stakeholders and how their input was incorporated into the recom- mendations. DART conducted significant engagement with key stakeholders (including bus operators and supervisors, customer service representatives, and business and community organizations, etc.) and the general public through focus groups, public workshops, online
70 Synthesis on Comprehensive Bus Network Redesigns engagement through mySidewalk and social media, and pop-up meetings at rail stations. At the study outset, people were asked what they would like to see in terms of changes to bus service, and later in the study they were asked to weigh in on draft recommendations to see if the plans would meet their needs. The impact of this input was critical to the recommendations developed in the COA, especially because input from all parties followed the same themes, whether they were riders, non-riders, stakeholders, and others. The general concerns expressed were that the bus system was too complex and difficult to follow and understand; it was not frequent enough; and the long headwaysâ60-minutes off-peak in many casesâmade it very inconvenient. Non-Fixed Route Services and TNCs DART has been providing on-call zone service in low density areas that are not supportive of traditional fixed route service for the past 20 years. There are currently eight on-call zones that are each served by one or two dedicated vehicles. The Draft System Plan recommends expanding to 14 on-call zones as part of the plan to focus and simplify the system. The agency is currently running pilot service in the new zones that use live-request (through an app or call-in). If the pilot is successful, DART expects to roll out the live-request system to the current eight zones that currently require advance reservations. The growth of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) did not play a role in the COA other than acknowledging that they had to play a role in areas with low demand, and the COA Figure 25. DART existing versus proposed high-frequency network, graphic courtesy of DART.
Case Examples 71 envisions moving to TNCs instead of the on-call zones for zones that currently have extremely low ridership, on the order of about 10 riders per day. The System Plan also took into consideration a hypothesis that TNCs are hurting ridership on certain routesâlargely those that run through areas with higher density, a younger demographic, and where there are lots of apartments. The acknowledgment of this competition played a role in defining how fixed route services need to be improvedâin frequency and speedâto remain viable. Capital Improvements In the ongoing work to finalize the 2040 System Plan, DART is looking at more aggressive treatments on new BRT corridors (some but not all of which overlap with Rapid Ride). The Draft Plan also recommends two new bus transfer facilities in areas where there are none, as well as upgrades to bus facilities at rail stations. Finally, implementing recommendations will also require growth in the bus fleet. Costs and Funding As part of the planning process for the COA, the agency looked at several scenarios of vary- ing levels of changes and investment. While the Draft System Plan includes many recommen- dations that together would increase operating costs by as much as 60%, based on DARTâs 25-year financial plan (updated annually), the agency determined that a 5% to 10% increase (about $12.5 million) in annual operating costs was the greatest investment feasible for the redesigned bus network at the time, absent new revenue sources. To pay for the increased operating costs, DART is expecting to receive additional farebox revenue beginning in late 2018, with the first fare increase in about 6 years. However, the bulk of the funding that allows for this growth in operating costs is through sales tax revenues. The economy in the Dallas-Fort Worth area has been doing extremely well and sales tax revenues, some of which are dedicated to DART, have been growing for some time. It was determined that the agency could take some of that revenue and invest in bus service; this is a big change for the agency, which previously cut service during a decade of lagging sales tax revenue. DART will also be using increased sales tax revenue to fund the fleet expansion buses and TSP on three pilot corridors, most likely on the Rapid Ride network. The funding for the new transfer centers that are part of the Draft System Plan has not yet been identified. Phased Implementation DART has begun to implement the recommendations of the COA and is still prioritizing what changes should go through with the remaining funds. In March 2018 the agency implemented service changes focused on off-peak frequency (recommendations that could be implemented without additional vehicles, which are not due to arrive until the middle of 2019); these changes accounted for about one-third of the operating budget increase available for implementation. In parallel with the finalization of the System Plan, DART is developing the plans for the second phase, a very large change that will include more frequency increases and route changes. This is anticipated to be implemented in August 2019 in conjunction with the arrival of fleet expansion buses. The final phase is expected to follow that and will focus on operating changes, such as addressing scheduling issues and recovery time. Operating and Implementation Challenges One challenge that DART has been trying to address is the speed with which it can hire addi- tional operators. This is not a new challenge, but one that gets in the way of fully implementing
72 Synthesis on Comprehensive Bus Network Redesigns the recommended service; while this has not held back the implementation of service changes, it is costing the agency additional overtime pay and occasional missed runs. The agency is not sure if the cause of the challenges is a function of the labor market or one of the labor agreements; in Texas no collective bargaining agreements are allowed, so the contract with the operators is not a union contract. Next Steps In parallel with finalizing the Draft System Plan in 2018, DART is currently updating its service standards; these will be incorporated into the Final System Plan. Whatever is final- ized in the System Plan, DART plans to revisit it in 5 years as the region continues to grow and change. In the intervening years, staff plans to conduct more detailed service reviews on a geographic basis. 4.7 Summary The case examples covered five agencies across the country at various stages of bus network redesign, from a small agency that provides 91,000 revenue hours of service a year to one that provides 2.8 million. Some of the key similarities and differences discovered in the case studies are: â¢ Agencies had common visions and goals for improving the system comprehensively, from operational efficiency, to providing service that would meet the needs of the riders. â¢ All case example agencies structured their system redesigns on a network of high-frequency bus routes. â¢ All case example agencies emphasized the importance of obtaining rider and stakeholder feed- back and how the input and feedback received was a critical element to the network design. â¢ The focus of the system design varied across the case studies, such as DARTâs which was centered on revising the network away from one that was solely designed to feed the rail net- work, and COTA, and BaltimoreLink. â¢ Three of the case studies, COTA, BaltimoreLink, and Connect Transit all implemented their redesigns at once, while DART is phasing its implementation and King County is planning a phased implementation. The agencies with longer implementation timeframes have redesigns centered around longer-term capital investments (King County) and phased availability of increased operating funds (DART). â¢ Implementation of service changes all at once requires extensive efforts around public educa- tion, including all kinds of marketing materials, traditional and social media, and street teams in the field to ensure that the word is spread and that riders know how to get around when the service changes. â¢ Having a strong collaboration between planning and bus operations is key to being able to operationalize the plans. This includes obtaining personnel numbers and hiring new opera- tors to support the new service, field testing new routes for run times and safety consider- ations, and making sure that the operators and supervisors are on-board and supportive of the changes.