I rode Austin’s #4 bus up and down West 5th and West 6th streets yesterday for lunch.  As a transit geek, I carefully planned my ride–which is to say I made sure I knew how early to get a bus to arrive at the right time and when I’d need to leave to avoid a long wait.

So, had I not finished my lunch in an hour or a bit less, I would’ve been waiting for a bus for perhaps 25 or more minutes, depending on whether the bus was on time.  I might also have been stuck taking a bus that dropped me a healthy distance from my destination–leaving me with the tough decision about whether I could afford to be away from the office for, say, 2.5 hrs rather than 1.5 hours (the drive would’ve been five minutes max each way).

I want my bus agency to consider a route system that makes this less of a challenge.  Here it is:

  • Run buses up and down major streets with much greater frequency.  In other words, have a #5/#6 bus that runs up and down 5th and 6th streets.  Have a #15 that handles 15th street.  Have a #22 bus that does 2222.  Create the expectation that a rider could get a bus going up and down those streets every, say, 10 minutes or less for much of the weekday–maybe 15-20 minutes on the weekend.
  • Time your routes so that someone could grab one bus to go north/south, get off at the intersection they’d otherwise turn onto in a car, and then grab a connecting bus within a few minutes.

The most recent proposed service changes propose eliminating some routes that, based on my experience, are very intricate, convoluted, and lengthy in their ride times.  The #9, for instance, takes a long and winding road from West Austin to downtown and into Travis Heights.  You could more easily fulfill the needs of folks in that area by running frequent buses up and down Exposition, a major street, and up and down 5th/6th/Lake Austin.  Walking/biking to and from bus stops might increase a bit, and transfers would definitely increase, but so would ease of travel.

It’s just difficult to convince someone that it’s worth waiting so long for a bus–or waiting so long to get where you want to go on the bus.  The route changes I’m suggesting should also include changes to stops–buses should stop less frequently, and the Capital Metro 2020 plan is thinking along those lines.

Another factor to consider is that as Austin tries to build a transit culture, it needs to make bus travel more convenient and easy, particularly as a way to connect rail to destinations before any further rail gets built.

More to say, but I have real work to do.  Thoughts/comments welcome.


2 responses to “Reroute

  1. Actually, more transfers without incredible increases in frequency would kill what little ridership exists out there – since it’s a lot of schoolkids and retail workers using the existing service, who likely have other options available (or I should hope, since Cap Metro is basically going to completely abandon everything west of Mopac in the 2020 plan).

    Also disappointed you didn’t mention the dearly departed Dillo here, either way. (it had reasonably high lunchtime frequencies but performed poorly – this probably says something one way or another).

  2. The #9 was my bus. I’m getting some better routes as a trade off, but I have to walk 1/4 mile more to get to them.

    That said, I don’t know how you move from a purely functional bus system to a grid system that is easy to use and understand. If you look at Govalle it’s a great example of a purely functional bus. You have a mass number of apartments on a route with tons of stores and government services. It doesn’t actually go anywhere per se, but it’s incredibly functional. If you hopped the bus without a map you would end up hopelessly lost.

    I’d love the grid system that encourage me to just hop a bus, but I don’t know that it would be easy to do without horribly extending trips for existing riders.

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