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1 As long as there has been public transit service, there have been discussions about reliability. Reliability has always been a key component of public transportation, but with the current unprecedented evolution in transportation services, including new competition from mobility service providers such as Uber and Lyft, improving transit reliability has taken on an even greater level of importance. Reliability is one of the hallmark measures of transit performance, as are cost and frequency. Over the past couple of decades, technological advances have allowed real-time reliability tracking, measurement, and analysis, ushering in a new generation of discussion centered around transit service reliability. Research Objective This guidebook is intended to help inform public transit agencies, local governments and planning agencies, potential service operators and sponsors, and other stakeholders about how agencies can identify and address transit service reliability issues in a variety of operating environments. The focus of the guidebook is on fixed-route bus service, the most extensive transit mode applied in the United States and around the world. The guidebook provides an overview and taxonomy of bus service reliability measures, assessment tools, and improvement strategies that exist in the United States, as well as a multistep reliability improvement program that agencies can implement to address bus service reliability issues in a more structured manner. Addressing Bus Transit Reliability This guidebook gathers agency definitions of reliability from a variety of literature sources and responses from a transit agency survey, with most definitions revolving around consis- tency of service and variability in performance. The guidebook defines the three hallmarks of bus transit reliability as: â¢ Short and consistent wait times, â¢ Consistent on-time arrivals at the destination, and â¢ Consistent travel times. This guidebook explores three major perspectives on bus service reliability to outline a framework used later in the guidebook to measure, address, and improve reliability: â¢ Customer Perspective â Reliability issues experienced from a customer perspective, particularly for transit, lead to negative rider experiences. To evaluate reliability from S U M M A R Y Minutes Matter: A Bus Transit Service Reliability Guidebook
2 Minutes Matter: A Bus Transit Service Reliability Guidebook a customer perspective, agencies can use measures such as wait time consistency, travel time variability, and rider perceptions of wait time. â¢ Agency Perspective â Reliability issues experienced from an agency perspective lead to increased route cycle time, decreased ridership, and ultimately, increased operating cost. To evaluate reliability from an agency perspective, agencies can use a variety of measures such as travel time reliability, costs, and delays. â¢ Operator Perspective â Reliability issues can adversely affect operators, leading to personal stress and potential safety issues. Although the need for consistency in travel time exists for any mode of transportation, transit reliability is critical to the operation and attractiveness of public transportation services. Although most of the treatments discussed in this document are designed to improve actual transit reliability, several are also targeted toward the perceptions of reli- ability. The authors conducted a review of several transit agency annual or biannual surveys that asked about the importance of various components of transit service. The review showed that on-time performance, a key measure of reliability, was frequently listed as the most important measure by customers. Developing a Bus Service Reliability Improvement Program This guidebook develops and details eight steps that a transit agency can take to develop and maintain a reliability improvement program. These steps are briefly summa- rized here: â¢ Step 1 â Define Goals and Objectives â First, the transit agency should identify goals for the reliability improvement program, define internal and external stakeholders, identify resources and constraints, and obtain feedback from direct and indirect stakeholders. The specific agency goals, resources, and feedback will strongly guide the measures, standards, and shape of the reliability program the agency will use. â¢ Step 2 â Select Reliability Measures â The transit agency should evaluate and select the reliability measures most applicable to its specific needs, ensuring buy-in from intra-agency stakeholders. Chapter 7 of this guidebook contains reliability measure information sheets for agency consideration. â¢ Step 3 â Select Reliability Standards â The transit agency should develop standards for its selected reliability measures. Standards can be aspirational or minimums, and although all standards need to be set high to encourage improvement, agencies will need to assess the reasonableness of their standards. â¢ Step 4 â Implement the Program and Monitor Performance â The transit agency should begin by implementing its reliability improvement program, either on a small level using a pilot program or as part of a larger initiative tied to a major new service or service change. The agency will need to budget time to develop a system with its new data collection, reporting, and analysis procedures, and it will need to check all results for reasonableness. â¢ Step 5 â Perform Diagnostic Assessment â To address the root causes of unreliability, the transit agency should choose diagnostic tools to further evaluate the set of factors (both internal and external) that could be affecting reliability.
Summary 3 â¢ Step 6 â Identify Reliability Treatments â Using the results from the diagnostic assessment, the transit agency should identify and assess the use of a variety of possible reliability treatments, including a mixture of treatments that are: ï¿½ Operational â Implemented at the system, route, trip, or stop level; ï¿½ Physical â Implemented on vehicles or infrastructure; ï¿½ Technological â Implemented using technology; or ï¿½ Policy oriented â Implemented through the rules/behavior of customers or other agency policies. â Of these four treatment categories, agencies typically have the most control over operational and technological treatments, while physical and policy treatments require the most external involvement. The agency will need to consider treatment trade-offs, capital and operating costs, ease of implementation, and stakeholder consensus when making a final selection of treatments. â¢ Step 7 â Implement and Monitor Reliability Treatments â The transit agency should implement, coordinating with multiple departments or external agencies/municipalities, the selected reliability treatments, ideally one by one to allow the effectiveness of each to be monitored and understood. It is important that the transit agency have a clear plan for assessment of the treatment before implementation. â¢ Step 8 â Review and Update the Program â Once the reliability program is up and running, the transit agency should review the program and update as necessaryâat least every 5 years. One of the primary indicators that a program is not working is the dissatisfaction of customers or employees, which can be evaluated using annual rider or employee surveys. Reliability Measurement Tools This guidebook outlines different types of measures for monitoring reliability, beginning with a general overview of the most common reliability measures found in the litera ture, the case studies, and transit agency applications. The various reliability measures address three different aspects of reliability (punctuality, variability, and non-operation), consider reliability from the three different perspectives (customer, operator, agency), and use four different levels of measure application (system level, route level, trip level, and stop level). The most common reliability measure identified in the literature was âon-time perfor- manceâ (also noted as âschedule adherenceâ), which directly addresses the punctuality aspect of reliability. Many of the remaining frequently cited measures (âwait times,â âdelay,â âtravel times,â âtravel time varianceâ) address the variability aspect of reliability. These findings were echoed in the results of the transit agency survey conducted as part of this guidebookâs development, with 81 percent of the agency respondents using either âon-time performanceâ or âschedule adherenceâ to define fixed-route bus service reliability. These findings were also confirmed by the results of the 10 case studies conducted, which found that nine out of the 10 agencies interviewed used âon-time performanceâ as their primary measure of reliability. In identifying the most appropriate measure(s) for an agency to apply in assessing bus service reliability, the following characteristics should be met: 1. Measures should be easy to understand and interpret, 2. Measures should be standardized and allow consistent comparison (across geographies, modal technologies, different periods),
4 Minutes Matter: A Bus Transit Service Reliability Guidebook 3. Measures should rely on accurate/complete data, 4. Measures should relate to an agencyâs goals and objectives, and 5. Measures should allow an agency to determine the major causes of delay and the effects of improvements. Reliability Diagnostic Assessment This guidebook outlines how a transit agency can use the reliability diagnostic assess- ment process to understand why a service is experiencing reliability issues and to diagnose the underlying causes behind the lack of reliability. There are five main elements that can introduce unreliability into a fixed-route bus service schedule: non-operation, early/late start, inconsistent travel speeds, inconsistent dwell times, and inconsistent transfer times. Internal and external factors can have different, but significant, impacts on fixed-route bus service reliability. Internal factors such as operations and maintenance staff, service design and scheduling, bus type and fleet maintenance, and fare payment can affect transit reliability in a direct way. External factors such as traffic congestion, traffic signals, temporal factors, and customer activity can also affect reliability, and transit agencies need to have plans in place for operators to respond and react to external factors to maintain reliability for their customers. How a transit agency reacts to reliability problems plays a large role in the resultant strat- egies and programs that it is likely to pursue. In most transit agencies, there is continual collaboration for one-time and continuing reliability issues between the service planning, planning, operations, and information technology (IT) departments to evaluate perfor- mance and patterns as they develop. While most agencies were not found to have a formal process for diagnosing specific causes of unreliability, there was similarity in how most agencies in the case studies addressed and evaluated reliability issues. Using real-time infor- mation, most agencies addressed reliability issues with enhanced supervision and opera- tional strategies, but if the issue persisted over time, schedule changes and more formal strategies were employed. This guidebook outlines a five-step framework for transit agencies to identify causes of unreliability that, for the most part, involves collaboration and the use of real-time data that most transit agencies already collect. The framework begins by focusing on internal factors and then moves to examine external factors where the agency may need to collaborate with other agencies to develop reliability improvements: 1. Are there enough buses and operators available to provide the scheduled service? 2. Are vehicles/operators available to start each trip on time? 3. Are operators starting each trip on-time? 4. Are operators able to meet scheduled time points? 5. Are there other causes of unreliability along the route? Reliability Improvement Tools This guidebook presents an index of reliability improvement treatments for transit agen- cies. The treatments are divided into four categories: 1. Operational Treatments â Tactical changes in the service plan, at the system, route, trip, or stop level, that allow the agency to respond more effectively to customersâ expectations. 2. Physical Treatments â Treatments that improve service delivery through changes to vehicles and infrastructure; could include partnerships with jurisdictions and other agencies.
Summary 5 3. Technological Treatments â Treatments that leverage new or emerging technologies to improve reliability and its perception. 4. Policy Treatments â Treatments that improve operational efficiency by changing the behavior of transit customers. The literature review revealed that, while the two most common reliability improvement treatments were transit signal priority (technological treatment) and exclusive bus right-of- way (physical treatment), the remainder of the most-cited treatments were almost entirely operational in nature. However, many of the most widely implemented treatments were not those reported to be most successful. Agencies found scheduling-related changes (operational treatments such as eliminating time points, run-as-directed buses, and general schedule changes) to be among the most successful. Treatments focusing on operator and vehicle performance improvements were also reported to be successful, as were operational changes to route structure (such as shortening/realigning routes and consolidating stops). The industry could benefit from more extensive and more widely distributed documentation of success rates and best practices, particularly for physical, policy, and technological treatments. The guidebook offers a summary of each reliability improvement treatment in tabular and information sheet form and outlines lessons learned from the case study interviews. Bus Transit Reliability Menus This guidebook can serve as a useful reference tool for transit agencies to locate informa- tion on the specific reliability measures and treatments that may be appropriate for their unique situation. This guidebook provides 13 detailed reliability measure information sheets and 31 detailed reliability treatment information sheets for transit agency use, along with a section with hyperlinked menus to guide users to appropriate treatments.