Monday, June 04, 2007

Using a Matrix Theory in Transit

In my last post I pointed out that even if there is an increase in ridership when the changes in the bus system takes place, we should question whether UTA is actually gaining any new riders to the system. The new bus system will actually reduce the marketable opportunities to gain new riders.

Basically with a Matrix plan, for each new link you create, the more opportunities you have to create ridership. Yesterday, I used the example of Southwest Airlines to show how a well run transportation outfit operates compared to how transit systems operate. I will once again use Southwest for examples of how you make things work compared to UTA.

Lets start by using one of UTA's changes and the proposal I made a few months ago to create a new UTA system. Since they are routes that I am familiar with, I am going to use the example of routes 8 and 85 which will become routes 220 and 72.

First of all lets look at my proposal. My proposal would have continued to operate both route 8 and route 85 as is. However, route 8 would run every 30 minutes from 9400 South to downtown instead of every 20-minutes. However, I would have created a new line which would essentially be a branch of route 8. This new route will have been the same as route 8 from downtown to Highland/Fort Union Blvd where it would turn and travel to the Midvale/Fort Union TRAX station. Now according to UTA this would be a bad thing because there would be service duplication. That once again is thinking of planners who do not have hard core business experience.

This new branch 8 would also provide every 30-minute service which with coordinated scheduling (another difficult concept for UTA) would provide every 15-minute service on Fort Union Blvd from the TRAX station to Highland then would increase service on Highland/1100 East/U of U/200 South all the way to the Intermodal depot to every 15-minutes so except for the small portion of Highland south of Fort Union Blvd service would have been increased (by the way there would also be increased service on Highland because of a branch of another route but that not the issue right now).

Now according to UTA thinking, all they would see is that this new route would duplicate other services and the cost of operating the bus. Guess what? There is no concept of the marketing possibilities of this type of operation. By UTA thinking this route will only take away ridership from the 85 and the 8 because they cannot see the concept of building a system based on marketing opportunities.

However, you have actually create new markets for bus service and increased your ridership potential greatly. Here are some new opportunities created by this theory:

-Riders that will not ride along Fort Union Blvd because service is not frequent enough
-Riders who will not travel along Fort Union Blvd and Highland because service is too inconvenient with transfers.
-Riders who will now ride because they will only need to transfer twice instead of three times.

In other words you have created a whole new matrix of opportunities for ridership. Now creating branches of multiple lines creates even more marketing based opportunities and expands exponentially.

Now lets take a look at Southwest and compare them.

If Southwest ran there flights the way UTA runs their bus service you would have flights between say Salt Lake City and Denver. Then you would have flights from Salt Lake City to Reno. However there would be no through service and you would not have flights going to different destinations. A recipe for failure that most transit systems, not just UTA are good at.

Instead Southwest has a variety of flights. Lets take a look again at the the Salt Lake to Denver route (since I will be on one of these flights on Thursday). Do you think that the planes just fly from Salt Lake to Denver or from Salt Lake to Denver to one other destination. Of course they don't run their system that way. Instead out of the say 8 flights from Salt Lake to Denver, one may originate in Seattle, one in Spokane, a couple of Oakland, a couple in the Los Angeles area (in other words the "branch"). Then the serve the Salt Lake to Denver route then they head somewhere else.

With each branch that Southwest creates, they create new markets for their service. In other words they do not worry about service "duplication".

It is ironic that anti-transit types try to attack light rail by saying its inflexible compared to buses which are much more flexible. However, today's transit systems are doing everything possible to make the systems less flexible and consequently are loosing marketing opportunities.

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