Headway based scheduling

Bunched Buses
Bus bunching is a serious problem on AC Transit routes. Instead of one bus arriving every 15 minutes, two buses arrive together every 30 minutes.

In addition to greatly reducing the quality of bus service for riders, this is also extremely inefficient from an environmental and financial point of view. Two buses are being used to do a job that could be done just as well by one bus.

There is a well known approach to solving this problem, which AC Transit has known about since at least 2012 (when I discussed it with Stephen Newhouse, one of their transportation planners. )

It is called headway based scheduling (http://www.citylab.com/commute/2012/03/how-keep-buses-bunching/1457/ ) and it has been proven to keep buses evenly spaced on 15 minute intervals. But AC Transit refuses to even try it, and as a result, riders are needlessly living with bunched up buses.

The photo above shows bunched up 51Bs on College Avenue. The rationale AC Transit gave for breaking the 51 bus line in half, into the 51A and 51B, was that the change would eliminate bus bunching. But the problem has not been solved. Now AC Transit has discontinued the 1R and broken the 1 in half, using the same faulty reasoning.

Free bus service

Free ride
AC Transit should investigate making all service free.

Only 14 percent of the operating budget comes from fares, for every $2.10 fare, taxpayers chip in around 13 dollars. So making service free might not require a big increase in subsidies, if any. Some advantages would be:

  • reduced costs of dealing with the money
  • no need to prosecute people who don't pay
  • riders could board on front and back doors
  • buses would spend less time loading riders.

  • Free service would change the whole feel of riding the bus. From a paid service to a government function that is available free of charge to everyone. And that might increase ridership, and put more money into the local economy because of more disposable income for the people who ride the bus.

    (see http://www.actransit.org/about-us/facts-and-figures/budget/ )

    AC Transit Budget

    Virtual bus lane

    Virtual bus lane
    A virtual bus lane can provide many of the benefits of a dedicated bus-only lane, without causing the loss of traffic lanes, parking spaces, or bicycle safety. And the cost is nearly zero.

    For the virual bus lane, buses stay in the traffic lane when they stop to pick up and drop off riders, rather than pulling over out of traffic. Sidewalk bulb- outs make it easy for riders to reach the bus.

    During the time the bus is stopped, a "traffic vacuum" will form in front of it as the cars continue along through traffic. When the bus is done at the stop, it simply catches up to the position in traffic where it was before it stopped. And so can any cars that were stopped behind the bus.

    This makes riding the bus as fast as drving, without slowing down traffic, for all bus lines.

    Telegraph monorail

    The fastest way to get from Point A to Point B at rush hour is to stay out of the traffic. And grade separation is a good way to do that.

    Grade separation is the term for a transit system that has its own private track that is above or below grade, meaning ground level. Unlike a bus lane, a grade separated system can avoid all delays caused by private vehicle traffic. It is also safe to operate a grade separated system at higher speeds, because there is no possibilty of collisions with cars, trucks, bicycles or pedestrians.

    A monorail is an elevated train that runs on one big rail. If a monorail was built along Telegraph Avenue, it could travel from Downtown Oakland to Downtown Berkeley in 5 minutes, plus any time spent picking up and dropping off riders.

    A monorail has the potential to pay for itself due to the reduced time buses spend stuck in traffic. It might even be possible to build a monorail instead of the Bus Rapid Transit system that is currently starting construction on International Blvd. It would be much faster, have fewer impacts on neighborhoods, and might not cost much more.

    (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mark_VI_monorail )

    Neighbor friendly

    Environment friendly

    Environment friendly means no greenwashing but actually looking for green solutions.

    Pet friendly

    Pet friendly means well behaved pets can ride with their owners in a designated section of the bus.

    Rider friendly

    Rider friendly means any or all of the ideas above. Combining these approaches could make things even better.

    For example, headway based scheduling might increase efficiency enough to make all the buses free with no increased subsidies.

    An ideal combination would be free, headway scheduled buses operating in virtual bus lanes, with express buses where possible. In this way, riding the bus can be as fast as driving, and free.

    If we can someday build monorails, riding public transit will be faster than driving.

    If you agree with this approach and you'd like to help the campaign, here is a sign you can print out and display. It is formatted for 11x17 paper but can be printed in any size.