Sunday, November 06, 2011

Renumbering for Customer Friendliness

Two 1991-built, 30-foot Gillig buses of TriMet...Image via Wikipedia
Since I know live in Portland, Oregon I will probably use TriMet here as an example of many of my postings just like I did with Utah Transit Authority when I lived there. I will also use other transit agencies I am familiar with such as Metro in Los Angeles and Spokane Transit Authority in Spokane. However, I will not try to step on the toes of Portland Transport, an excellent transit related blog that does a great job of covering news in the area.

TriMet like many agencies still have a antiquated number system part of which is descended from its predecessor agencies. The number system is a hog pog of numbers that don't tell the person much information about the service.

However, many agencies have created new number systems to make their route numbers make it easier for customers to understand the system. The late Southern California Rapid Transit District in Los Angeles was one of the first agencies to do this. From the late 70's through 1983 the RTD renumber all its routes so a person only had to look at the number to know if the bus traveled to downtown Los Angeles or if not if traveled primarily north-south, east-west or if it was express bus or something else.

Meanwhile Jarrett over at Human Transit talked about creating a number system that told you the frequency of the routes.

Lets use these concepts to see how you can renumber a transit system to make it more customer friendly and easier to use. Of course there is always the people who don't like it when routes change, but in the long run what is most important that it would make the transit system more customer friendly for all the riders.

Here is a sample numbering system for TriMet:

100 Series Routes-Frequent Service Routes that service downtown Portland
200 Series Routes-Frequent Service Routes that do not serve downtown Portland west of the Willamette
300 Series Routes-Frequent Service Routes that do not serve downtown Portland east of the Willamette
400 Series Routes-30/60 Minute Service Routes that serve downtown Portland
500 Series Routes-30/60 Minute Service Routes west of the Willamette not serving downtown
600 Series Routes-30/60 Minute Service Routes east of the Willamette not serving downtown
700 Series Routes-Limited Service Routes
800 Series Routes-Express Service Routes
900 Series Routes-Special Service such as routes that run peak hours only

Those familiar with TriMet will know that there is only one route in the 200 series and only a few more in the 300 series but the point is to make the system easy to understand. You could combine both of those into the 200 series and adopt from their.

In addition there is one odd ball route which is the current 154. It starts at the Oregon Transit Center then travels across the Willamette. You could put this route in the 500 series since most of its route is west of the Willamette or in the 600 series since its connection with the rest of the network is at Oregon City.

Also, TriMet currently has no limited service routes but this is an example and in the future TriMet should look at instituting limited stop service on busy corridors which is something I will be posting about in the future.

While you could argue semantics, this is a general renumber system that would make a system more customer friendly and easier to use. It could be adapted by any agency to not only designate where a bus goes but also the frequency of route.

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2 comments:

busplanner said...

Do you know of any studies that show a numbering scheme as the one you propose actually increases ridership?

My experience as a bus service planner indicates that bus users focus on the route numbers they need (for which they always want a higher freqency and increased span of service), not on a geographic or frequency based numbering scheme.

When I travel, I value a frequent service map or a route frequency table on a system's transit map. Once I decide where I want to travel, I focus on the specific route number(s) I need. I don't spend time trying to learn a system's numbering scheme.

(A system's numbering scheme may have internal value (for example, to compare route performance); but that is a different reason for numbering routes entirely.

Trucking Savannah said...

hmm.... Nice post !!!
keep it up..