Tag Archives: transit

Stat-urday: About the Bus

20 Oct

Bus line at Civic Center StationIn honor of the first World Statistics Day, a few MARTA bus numbers:

500,000 miles or 10 years: The maximum service life of a bus. After buses are retired from service, they’re sold on a public online auction site.

$2,500: The approximate price a second-hand bus usually goes for at auction. They’re generally purchased for parts or scrap metal.

1,290,000: The approximate number of paper timetables MARTA’s print shop prints each year. MARTA’s manager of communications, Cara Hodgson, said in an email that there’s been “no noticeable change” in the demand for paper schedules since they became available online.

Timetables for some routes have to be printed more than others. The three most in-demand printed schedules are for routes 5-Piedmont Road/Sandy Springs, 15-South DeKalb/Candler and 39-Buford Highway. Three of the least in-demand schedules are 47-I-85 Access Road/Briarwood Rd, 103-N. Shallowford Road/Peeler Road and 104-Winters Chapel Road.

8,978: The number of bus stops in MARTA’s service area

4,133: The number of those stops that are in the city of Atlanta

800 to 1000 feet: MARTA’s guideline distance for separation of bus stops. Factors like development density, land use, accessibility and safety sometimes require stops to be placed closer together or farther apart.

5.01 route miles: The length of MARTA’s shortest bus route, which is 67-West End. The longest is 143-Windward Park and Ride at 35.1 route miles

148: The average number of weekday boardings for route 148-Medical Center/Riveredge Parkway, a peak-time-only route, which has the lowest ridership

6,982: The average number of weekday boardings for route 39-Buford Hwy, the route with the highest ridership

$22.37: The average cost for MARTA’s sign shop to manufacture a roadside bus stop sign

92: The number of bus routes MARTA currently operates. That total is down about 30 percent from 133 routes in 2007, nearly 27 percent less than the 126 routes in 2002, and about 41 percent less than the 156 routes running in 1997

Sources: MARTA bus service and operations management staff and Cara Hodgson, director of communications

Advertisements

MARTA: Audit results in, Scott shipping out

25 Sep

Five Points Station, Forsyth Street side

 

  • The Atlanta Business Chronicle reported today that MARTA CEO Beverly Scott is headed to Boston to become MBTA’s general manager when her contract with MARTA expires in December.

Scott spent five years as MARTA CEO and will take a significant salary cut in the new position, which Boston’s WBUR said will pay $220,000 per year for three years. MARTOC’s annual report for fiscal year 2011 lists Scotts salary as $315,000 per year.

She was chosen unanimously by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s board, which was also considering MARTA COO Dwight Ferrell for the job.

“She’ll take the helm of an agency teetering from fiscal problems rooted in heavy debt and coping with expansion demands as well as a backlog of maintenance needs that have gone unaddressed due to insufficient funds,” the Boston radio station said. Sounds like she’ll feel right at home.

Scott, who is scheduled to take up the new post Dec. 15., plans to finish her transportation career at MBTA, telling WBUR that “This is the one where I’m going to end up.”

The auditing firm projects that, although MARTA has addressed a steep fall-off in revenue through layoffs, furloughs, position eliminations, increases in employee insurance premiums and copays, a five-year pay freeze and service cuts galore, the agency’s spending will continue to surpass revenue through 2021 . According to that forecast the revenue shortfall created by the end of fiscal year 2021 would be $248 million. The audit also projected that MARTA will exhaust its financial reserves by the end of fiscal year 2018 and the agency’s reserve fund will fall below its mandated 10 percent level by the end of fiscal year 2016.

“MARTA’s current economic model is unsustainable,” the auditors concluded.

Two revenue leaks that the agency has failed to plug, Creative Loafing reported, are almost $11 million spent to cover employee absenteeism, and retirement costs that exceed the national average by about $22 million annually. The audit report said that collective bargaining agreements with union-represented employees “do not assist MARTA in controlling absenteeism.”

Suggestions to help MARTA save money included contracting out some services like cleaning, payroll, records and data management and customer service. To increase its income, the auditors suggested that MARTA look into selling advertising space on its Web site, on fare cards and fare gates along with increasing the number of ad-wrapped buses and rail cars. They also recommended that MARTA implement daily or monthly parking fees, rent secure bicycle storage at stations and consider “renaming stations for corporate sponsors.”

Idea of the Day: Bus Bunching

12 Jul
bus_bunching

Flickr photo by skew-t

If you’d come out of Buckhead Station’s north exit around 6:00 p.m. Tuesday you would have noticed two things: first, that there were far more people waiting for the route 110 bus than normal; second, that traffic was sitting absolutely still on Peachtree as far as you could see in both directions.
At 6:15, with the traffic creeping forward a few feet every few minutes and the bus scheduled to arrive at 6:13 nowhere in sight, you would have probably calculated that walking to the gym about a mile south of the station would be the quicker way to get there. But after walking south for about 10 minutes, around the time you were crossing Maple Drive, you would have noticed a route 110 bus heading north, toward the station you just left. You would have then noticed another one – directly behind the first. The first bus was very, very late. The second was almost on schedule.
What you would have seen is called bus bunching.
Bus bunching occurs when traffic or another delay slows down a bus’ progress along its route so much that the amount of the delay, as it’s compounded by the time required to stop and pick up passengers, exceeds the scheduled time between that bus and the one behind it. As the first bus continues along the route, it falls farther and farther behind schedule, as it has to keep stopping to pick up passengers. The second bus rarely has to stop, as there are very few or no passengers at all to pick up. Eventually the second bus is moving along the route so quickly that it catches up to the first one.  The shorter the headway, the more risk there is for bunching.
WABE and CNN recently posted stories about scientists at Georgia Tech who have developed an anti-bunching technique that relies less on schedules and more on calculated, adjustable delays coordinated by GPS. The system will be fully rolled out for the university’s Stinger Shuttle Tech Trolley system this fall and the developers say they’ve already been contacted by transit authorities here and abroad who are interested in implementing something similar.

Regional rider surveys reveal locations, destinations, situations

1 Jul

Lindbergh Station_south end

Research from the Atlanta Regional Commission suggests that while geography is a pretty good predictor of where to find the most frequent transit users, who those users are is harder to pin down.

The ARC’s research concluded that “the percent of those using transit to go to work doubles in neighborhoods with close proximity to transit, and more than triples in areas with ‘premium’ transit access.” In short, to paraphrase William Whyte, people tend to use transit where there is transit to use.

Those “premium” transit areas, which the researchers define as neighborhoods within a half-mile of a transit station, tend to be populated by a higher percentage of college graduates and renters than the 20-county Atlanta metropolitan region as a whole. But those areas also have more residents living in poverty and who have less than a high-school diploma compared to the rest of the region.

Despite their easy access to transit, only about 13 percent of the people who live in those transit-rich neighborhoods said that they usually take transit to work. But that relatively small number is still close to four times more than the region as a whole, at less than 4 percent.

People between the ages of 18 and 34 make up more than 52 percent of transit riders, while they make up only 24 percent of the region’s total population. Most of the trips riders took – almost 62 percent – were between home and work or school.

Although 71 percent of the surveyed riders said they had a driver’s license, 41 percent said they didn’t have a vehicle available. At the other end of the spectrum, 27 percent of riders lived in households with at least two available vehicles.

The survey also found that about 51 percent of transit riders had household incomes of less than $30,000. That’s more than twice the percentage of households in the region as a whole falling into that income range.

See a full summary of the data in the ARC’s May “Regional Snapshot.”

You live in Atlanta but you don’t have a car, so…

24 May

  1. You have only a very faint idea what the “top-end perimeter” is.
  2. You don’t know what or where Spaghetti Junction is.
  3. When people stagger into work groaning about how “Highway xxxx was backed up all the way from xxxx Boulevard to Exit xxxx and it took me 30 minutes just to get to xxxx Road!” you say “Wow!” or “Really?” even though you don’t know what they’re talking about.
  4.  It never occurs to the other party in the above conversation that you might not know what they’re talking about.
  5. You’ve heard, but never actually listened to, a traffic report.
  6. You buy a lot of your stuff at grievously unfashionable places because the low-profile boutiques and out-of-the-way markets are too much work to get to.
  7. Cute shoes are something to be picked up, looked at wistfully, and put back down.
  8. When you go somewhere with a visitor who drove in from out of town and they ask “Where do I park?” you don’t know.
  9. Your driving directions are sometimes not to be trusted because you navigate at least as much by landmarks as by street names.
  10. About once a week you reflexively pull out your Breeze card instead of your debit card to pay for something.
  11. You see the same people on the street downtown so much that they long ago stopped asking you for money.
  12. You can take your jacket off, move your bag from one shoulder to the other, talk on the phone and walk, all at the same time, without slowing down.
  13. You don’t know what the big deal is about the parking at Atlantic Station.
  14. When you get a Zipcar you’ll probably either forget to turn on the lights or which direction to push the turn signal lever.
  15. People think you don’t have a driver’s license.
  16. You carry a bag, not a purse.
  17. You don’t leave home in the summer without baby wipes, a few paper towels and maybe an extra shirt.
  18. You can walk up the escalators at Peachtree Center faster than people half your age or 30 pounds lighter than you.
  19. You carry something with long sleeves in the summer if you know you’ll be riding a bus.
  20. Although you’d never say it to anyone, you don’t know or care how much gas is.

What “It doesn’t go anywhere” really means

10 Jan

In an outtake from his recently published book, Human Transit’s Jarrett Walker discusses a list of seven criteria that he says transit has to address to effectively compete with driving:

1.    “It takes me where I want to go.”

2.    “It takes me when I want to go.”

3.    “It’s a good use of my time.”

4.    “It’s a good use of my money.”

5.    “It respects me.”

6.    “I can trust it.”

7.    “It gives me freedom to change my plans.”

While no mode of transportation meets all seven demands perfectly, Walker says, “[t]he dominant mode in a community is the one that best addresses the seven demands, compared to the available alternatives, in the perception of the majority of people.”

That observation goes a long way toward explaining why so many people who live well within MARTA’s service area still drive most of the time if they have that choice. Walker’s list unpacks what they mean when they say MARTA “doesn’t go anywhere.” It’s not that people are looking for reasons not to use transit, but rather that they so often have more reasons to drive. In relatively low density areas, he says, “the automobile meets all seven demands handsomely.”

He also pulls apart the multiple meanings tangled up in the word “convenient” here.

Taxis and transit: Competitive or complementary?

15 Jun

Diving headlong into an unfamiliar transit system in a new city is some people’s idea of a good time. Boarding the wrong bus or getting off at the wrong station, perhaps ending up miles from the intended destination, are part of the fun of exploration for them.

But most people in the U.S. aren’t regular transit users and probably don’t share that particular sense of adventure. They prefer to get where they’re going with as little deviation and distress as possible.

Most of us have seen cars tentatively scooting down one of the city’s major arteries, hesitating at every intersection, turn signal going on, then off, back on, then off again, the occupants peering at street signs, trying to figure out whether this is the way back to the hotel and why there are no turning lanes.

Somewhere between braving strange streets in a rental car, and deciphering a bus schedule when you’ve never used one before, is the taxi. But are taxis part of public transit or part of car culture? Or both? Or neither?

Line of taxis on Baker street, downtown Atlanta

Taxis line up along Baker street in the early evening, waiting for customers from downtown hotels.

Drew Austin of Where, writing at The Urbanophile, says that taxis are not only part of public transit, they’re the only transit in places where other modes don’t reach. Their flexibility, Austin says, makes them a vital part of the transportation machine:

“It’s easy to forget, but the taxi has always been a critical form of public transportation. In cities without good transit, the taxi is often the only public transportation available. More importantly, mass transit cannot efficiently serve every type of travel that passengers demand, and the taxi is better suited to do so in many cases (think of the bus that never has more than a handful of passengers on board). Low-income city dwellers as well as the affluent rely on taxis where buses and trains don’t suffice. In the United States, where everything is seemingly built for the private car, modes of transportation that improve mobility for the carless are allies, not competitors.”

This topic came to mind yesterday when I had to use a taxi as a bridge between Five Points and Inman Park station after missing a Green Line train to Indian Creek. The next train would only go as far as King Memorial and it would be 15 minutes before service past there. The long headway plus the time to travel to Inman Park would have meant missing the route 6 bus at 12:40 that I needed to get to Emory.

Getting a cab was easy enough. But what it trip it was.

The driver first insisted that Decatur Street ends just past Grady hospital, then didn’t understand that I couldn’t go to just any MARTA station, so I couldn’t get out at King Memorial, which was the first one we passed.

He also gave the impression of not quite believing that there’s any such place as Inman Park Station. Even though I said that Inman Park is at least a mile past King Memorial, he slowed down every block, asking “Is it here?” or “Where is it?” Only after the GPS confirmed that such a place indeed exists was I able to go a full minute without saying “Please just keep going. It’s on this street, on the left. I’ve been there dozens of times.”

Although we did manage to make it to the station just before the 12:40 bus pulled into the bay, that’s one bridge I’m not looking to cross again any time soon.

%d bloggers like this: