National Academies Press: OpenBook

Minutes Matter: A Bus Transit Service Reliability Guidebook (2020)

Chapter: Chapter 1 - Introduction

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Minutes Matter: A Bus Transit Service Reliability Guidebook. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25727.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Minutes Matter: A Bus Transit Service Reliability Guidebook. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25727.
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Page 7
Page 8
Suggested Citation:"Chapter 1 - Introduction." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2020. Minutes Matter: A Bus Transit Service Reliability Guidebook. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25727.
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6 TCRP Research Report 215: Minutes Matter: A Bus Transit Service Reliability Guidebook summarizes the results of TCRP Project A-42, “Minutes Matter: A Guide to Bus Transit Service Reliability.” The guidebook is for use by transit agencies and practitioners. Its focus is on fixed- route bus service reliability since this is by far the most extensive form of public transit provided in North America and elsewhere in the world. 1.1 Guidebook Purpose Bus service reliability is a key quality-of-service issue for passengers, an important driver of bus operation costs for transit agencies, and a health and safety issue for bus operators. A guidebook was needed to measure and value (1) reliability from the passenger, operator, and agency points of view; (2) the effects of potential operational, physical, technological, and policy measures to improve reliability in particular situations; and (3) the potential benefits and costs of those measures. Accurately estimating the benefits of reliability improvement measures is neces- sary for transit agencies, both to gain the acceptance of roadway-owning agencies to implement certain treatments (e.g., bus stop relocation or removal, transit signal priority, queue jumps, street maintenance) and to compete for scarce transportation funds to implement improvements on a large scale (e.g., along an entire route or throughout a city). A guide on improving bus transit reliability can help identify cost-effective techniques for improving bus reliability, thereby helping to improve ridership and provide more cost-efficient bus service. The objective of this guidebook is to provide information and guidance on fixed-route bus transit service reliability to transit agency staff and others involved in planning and designing for such service. The guidebook includes a toolbox of resources that may be used to diagnose and manage fixed-route bus transit service reliability and describes benefits, costs, and outcomes of potential policies, strategies, and actions. The guidebook addresses a variety of functions (e.g., planning, scheduling, operations, super- vision, and management); describes the causes of unreliability at the stop, route, and system levels; suggests methods for measuring, diagnosing, and treating bus unreliability; describes the outcomes of reliability improvement actions; and describes procedures for successfully imple- menting projects to improve bus reliability. 1.2 How to Use This Guidebook 1.2.1 Guidebook Organization This guidebook is divided into seven chapters. It begins with a discussion of the definition of reliability as related to fixed-route bus service and perceptions of reliability from the customer, C H A P T E R 1 Introduction

Introduction 7 agency, and operator points of view. This is followed by presenting the steps involved to imple- ment a reliability improvement program for fixed-route bus service. Finally, a set of reliability measures, tools to diagnose unreliability, and potential improvement treatments are presented to improve bus service reliability. More specific content in each chapter follows: Chapter 2: Addressing Bus Transit Reliability focuses on identifying why reliable bus service is critical to successful operations. The different points of view related to reliability from the passenger, agency, and operator perspective are discussed. Finally, the characteristics of an effective reliability measurement system are reviewed. Chapter 3: Developing a Bus Service Reliability Improvement Program identifies an eight-step process to address reliability issues for fixed-route bus service. Included is a discussion on identifying system performance related to reliability using different diagnostic tools, as well as application of various reliability improvement strategies. Guidelines for monitoring the success of different improvement strategies deployed are also discussed. Chapter 4: Reliability Measurement Tools focuses on identifying data requirements and data collection programs needed to be able to properly measure reliability for the most commonly applied measures from the customer, agency, and operator points of view. Chapter 5: Reliability Diagnostic Assessment focuses on identifying the causes and effects of unreliability as well as the steps that can be applied to identify the causes of unreliability. Chapter 6: Reliability Improvement Tools identifies the different types of strategies that can be applied to address reliability problems. The chapter includes an initial discussion on distin- guishing among operational, physical, technological, and policy tools along with the impact of strategy application and how to select a package of improvement strategies. Chapter 7: Bus Transit Reliability Menus provides details on reliability measures and includes simple menus to identify specific reliability treatments, including a description of each treat- ment, the causes of unreliability the treatment addresses, its expected effect, its capital and operating costs, and its ease of implementation. The references follow the chapters at the end of the guidebook. The guidebook includes a set of hyperlinks that allow the user to relate specific reliability measures to diagnostic tools and data collection required and, finally, improvement treatments. This will allow the user to focus in on a specific reliability condition and identify the most effective improvement treatment(s) to apply. Hyperlinks are also included in Chapter 7 related to added sources of information related to the different improvement treatments presented. 1.2.2 Study Process In the process of developing this guidebook, the study team undertook three major initia- tives. First, a literature review of publications and articles related to fixed-route bus service reliability was conducted. Second, a transit agency survey of North American properties was undertaken to identify how they measure and address reliability issues on their fixed-route bus systems. Finally, 10 case studies of large, medium, and small transit agencies were conducted to probe more deeply into how they define reliability, the specific diagnostic tools applied, and improvement treatments. The literature review identified and evaluated over 150 publications. The topics of greatest interest in the review were reliability definitions, alternate measures, factors affecting reliability, improvement strategies and their impacts, and the perception of reliability. For the transit agency survey, a web survey was initially sent out to all transit agencies in North America that provided fixed-route bus service (over 400), as well as selected transit agencies in other countries. Eighty- six agencies (including one international property—Transport for London) responded to the

8 Minutes Matter: A Bus Transit Service Reliability Guidebook transit agency survey. Twenty-five questions or data items were requested in the survey in the following categories: • Defining bus service reliability (specific measures applied), • Spatial measurement of reliability (at the system, route, trip, and stop level), • Range in on-time performance measurement, • Utilization of reliability data, • Reliability improvement strategies, • Success of improvement strategies applied, • Costs and benefits of improvement strategies applied, and • Agency agreements in place related to implementing reliability improvement treatments. From the transit agency survey, 10 large, medium, and small agencies were chosen for more detailed evaluation, which was documented through a number of case studies: • Large – Chicago Transit Authority – Denver Regional Transportation District – Los Angeles County Metro – New York City Transit – Transport for London (London, England) – VIA Transit (San Antonio) • Medium – Pierce Transit (Tacoma) – Southwest Ohio Regional Transit Authority (Cincinnati) • Small – Kingston Transit (Kingston, Ontario) – Manatee County Area Transit (Bradenton, FL) The case studies were used to explore five critical aspects of the transit reliability measurement and improvement process: 1. High-level measures that the agencies used to determine reliability, including both traditional and nontraditional measures, 2. The standards used in assessing and communicating transit performance, 3. How specific causes of unreliability were determined through more specific data collection and diagnostic tools, 4. How improvement actions were chosen, and 5. How the response to improvement actions was measured to evaluate the level of success. For each case study, representative staff from the planning/scheduling, operations/maintenance, information technology (IT), and street supervisor departments were interviewed. Questions focused on four key areas: 1. Reliability program organization structure; 2. Reliability measures and standards; 3. Reliability data collection, analysis, and reporting; and 4. Diagnosing and treating reliability issues. In this project’s final report, TCRP Web-Only Document 72: Developing a Guide to Bus Transit Service Reliability, are three appendices that provide further information on these initial data collection and analysis activities: (1) Appendix A: Literature Review, (2) Appendix B: Transit Agency Survey Report, and (3) Appendix C: Case Study Summary Report. This web-only document can be found by going to www.TRB.org and searching for “TCRP Research Report 215.”

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Transit reliability is critical to the operation and attractiveness of public transportation services. 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.

The TRB Transit Cooperative Research Program's TCRP Research Report 215: Minutes Matter: A Bus Transit Service Reliability Guidebook details eight steps that a transit agency can undertake to develop and maintain a Reliability Improvement Program.

There is also a Power Point presentation that provides an overview of the project accompanying the report and a supplemental report, TCRP Web-Only Document 72: Developing a Guide to Bus Transit Service Reliability.

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