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I have seen a lot of comments lately on different blogs on whether transit lines should deviate or not deviate into a transit center.
The Seattle Transit blog has an article about the new Edmonds transit center which discusses this issue.
There is two general thoughts on this issue: One thought is that all buses should deviate into a transit center and the other train of thought is that through routed buses should not if it is not a far walk from the transit center.
The people who have the latter opinion generally feel that deviating to a transit station slows down the route too much and wastes precious time. As always you need to take more into consideration than looking a things in just black and white.
Lets use the TriMet's Barbur transit center as an example and how to evaluate if routes should be deviated to the transit center.
Currently the only full time TriMet route that services the Barbur transit center is TriMets marathon route the 12 from Sherwood to Gresham. It is also served by SMART from Wilsonville along with rush hour routes 64 and 94.
Two routes come close to the transit center but do not service it: Route 43 makes a turn in front of the transit center from Barbur Blvd to Taylors Ferry Road while route 44, a route I am now taking every day goes by one block away.
For anyone that is familiar with the area, you know that this area is not pedestrian friendly in anyway shape or form. In fact I have never walked in the area, I have only traveled through it either by car or bus.
Here is a good map of the area:
View Larger Map
Here is some things to take into consideration when deciding whether a transit route should be deviated into a transit center or not:
1. How easy will be for riders to transfer from one route to another without deviating? In this case with the pedestrian hostile environment in this area making transfers from the routes that service the transit to route that don't is not pleasant.
If the transit center is in a pedestrian friendly environment, walks from one route to another is not a major problem. However, many transit centers tend to be in suburban areas that make walking away from a transit less friendly than a transit center located in a downtown area.
2. Would ridership be increased by deviating the routes? For this purpose using Barbur is probably not the best example since the 44 parralles the 12 within a mile or two for most of its route and then joins the 12 on Barbur after it leaves Capital Highway.
However, Route 44 is one of only two bus routes that service the largest of Portland's Community College campus at Sylvania. By rerouting the 44 into the transit center it would allow more convenient transfers from the PCC campus to the 12 for those traveling along the Barbur corridor plus allow direct connections from the 44 to SMART. The connection from the 44 to the 12 will not be a big factor but the one to SMART will be.
Then there is the route 43 that travels from downtown to Washington Square Mall. This route only runs Monday through Friday and is not one of TriMet's better performers. Because of the nature of the 43 route, rerouting through the transit center will not adversely affect its schedule but it does have the possibility of increasing ridership by improving connections from the 43 to SMART and also the 12.
3. The third factor which is what many anti-deviation people focus on is the time loss for routes to deviate into the transit center.
This mainly becomes a concern for trunk routes and express routes.
In the case of the 12 little time is loss with the deviation to the transit center. The routes travels right past the transit center and looses probably less than a minute or two serving it. In addition ridership would be negatively affected if riders had to walk across Barbur Blvd to reach the transit center.
To give an example of route that should not be rerouted to service the transit center is the 96. This route travels right pass the transit center on Interstate 5. While the southbound on ramp to the interstate is just a block away from the transit center, the 96 would have to get off of the freeway at the Terwilliger exit and travel an extended period on Barbur to reach the transit center. Northbound the connections would even be worse and would adversely affect the lines performance.
As I mentioned above loosing one or two minutes would not adversely affect the 43 or the 44 for that matter since they are not major corridor routes (that's not to say they are not busy because the 44 is a very busy route).
4. Its location, location, location...
One of the most important points when it comes to this subject is the location of the transit center. Is centrally located where the largest number of bus routes can conveniently access it without adversely affecting its running time. Of course transit center locations are often chosen from a host of other reasons that do not put riders first from cost, NIMBYism, sweat heart deals, and of course politics.
When it comes to deviating routes to a transit center you need to take into consideration how easy would it be for riders to walk to routes that don't directly deviate into the transit center, the potential ridership of making convenient connections, time factors and location.
The ultimate decision needs to rest on whats best for the customer and what will encourage people to ride.