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Visualising Bus Route Performance

In any transport system there are routes which perform much better than others. In Auckland for example we know that the Northern Express, and Dominion Rd buses are incredibly successful while I’m sure there are other routes out there in the spaghetti like network we have today that carry almost no passengers and probably a very bad use of resources. As the public we normally don’t get a chance to see that level of detail though.

In Vancouver they have come up with a great way of showing what makes good routes as part of their annual bus service review. The info-graphics below shows just the really high and low performing routes along with the characteristics that affect their performance.

Vancouver Bus Performance - High

Vancouver Bus Performance - Low

It would be great if Auckland Transport could start producing stuff like this once they have rolled out the new bus network.

H/T: Human Transit

55 comments to Visualising Bus Route Performance

  • The Outer Link’s route geomtry falls more clearly in the the latter rather than the former

    • Ben Smith

      It doesn’t help that it’s supposed to come every 15 minutes but one of the few times I’ve taken it, I was waiting up to 45 at the bus stop out at Pt Chev. Then you see two of the things travelling together, and as if they weren’t slow enough, they’ll sit and wait to catch up to timetable. But no-one relies on timetables to catch those things, so rather than slavishly following a timetable, they’d probably be better if they used their GPS and aimed to be a certain number of minutes or km behind the bus in front – or tried to equalize the minutes between the bus and the previous one with the minutes between the bus and the next one, rather than clocking to a timetable. That way you’re almost guaranteed a bus in a certain timeframe, even if the overall journey itself takes a little longer.

  • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

    Is the success of the northern busway and dominion rd due to dedicated lanes?. Why don’t we try this again but on all the motorways and arterials? It’s so crazy it might just work.

  • Alan

    To me, this just emphasizes the potential advantage of using the new, so called “Demand Responsive Transit” systems for connector roles – leave the fixed route bus services for what they’re best at.

    • Frank E

      The problem with these is that they’re awfully expensive..

      • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

        Frank the fact is there is in most cases the road width is there already. Not as expensive as you think. Buses just on space per m are at least 8 times better than cars with 2 people in it or 16 times -1 person so why not give them 1 lane everywhere? In fact the trucks can enjoy this ride as well. What the difference to the economy and congestion…..actually quite a bit.

        • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

          Actually for the motorway ones with a bus/truck symbol stencil and a mobile closure implemented for one night. Could mark it myself.

        • Alan

          Sorry Steve, I don’t see the connection about road width – flexible services don’t need special lane markings (though they perform better with them of course), and the higher costs are typically caused by operational expenses, not infrastructure costs.

          • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

            Operational expenses in terms of bang for buck should be less. Numerous circuits per day, minimal stoppage with no congestion. Plus with reasonable fares-off-peak savings (mainstream family helping to balance out patronage demands) and within 2 months 30% patronage. 12 months 50% like in the CBD now. No extra buses they are just moving at pace for a change. Proportioning express with collector feeds and with priority in the network. We all need to see past the status quo of collector feeds with no priority as a substitute for an express service with priority with 1000 buses moving-30% direct/70% collector.

      • Alan

        I know what you mean, but you can limit their use them to settings where traditional services tend to be expensive anyway (such rural areas, or or in off-peak hours) – and, if it can increase peak hour use, it’ll pay for itself. Also, people would probably be happy to pay more for a higher level of service (and those who don’t can use alternative methods)

        Additionally, there’s great new academic research coming out regarding how to operate these services efficiently (full disclosure: I’m a grad student in this area, so may be biased)…

  • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

    Agreed leave the motorway and arterial loops -pickup points very limited and priority over car mode. Try for starters 30% rapid transit buses-300 buses-high frequency motorways and direct arterials. 70% (700 buses) circulating further out overlapping into collector rds with less frequency and more stops but to key rapid bus pickup areas. Give that a whirl with a low off-peak fares for families etc, a different result and similar to the above probably.

  • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

    People obviously living at key nodes have direct access to the rapid transit network. People further out need to wait for their collector service .

  • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

    The game changer isn’t just the CRL. The fact is the 2030 network could be implemented right now with paint lines and optimised signals.

  • James

    Very interesting that the circular routes are the worst performing.

    The 770/771 “ring” between the Eastern suburbs and Newmarket must be the least reliable bus route I’ve used on a regular basis in Auckland.

  • David T

    Why wait until after the new network is rolled out, why not do it now? It would provide a useful sanity check against what is proposed although some of the results may not be what the network planners desire.

  • Jacques

    By my finger-in-the-air assessment, Dominion Rd is one of the slowest commute routes out there for cars, which probably explains in part the success of the buses there.

  • S

    What do they mean by ‘basic access role’?

    • Chris

      They mean that old ladies and car-less folk can get to the local shops and back.

      • Stranded on the North Shore

        When living in Vancouver I used the C(ommunity)-buses every now and then, but yes, it was basically to access some random “out-of-the-beaten-track” location, which could’ve been accessed reasonably easily by foot or by bike. These buses were patronised mainly by older folk and rarely by commuters.

      • S

        I see. In that case, it seems like a bit of an apples-and-oranges comparison – surely both types of service play important roles in the community.

        • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

          Agreed with S. Rapid Express, Collector Feeds, Scenic, and School. All a bit different. In Auckland we don’t have many Rapid Express but think we should make 30% of the existing 1000 buses do this and give them space on the current road widths-don’t move one block lets fire up the network as is and make it roll as best as possible for buses, trucks and cars.

  • SlowJoe

    I remember the Howick-Eastern Express Bus service of the 90s-00 – it took a more or less direct route before it got to the Panmure roundabout, at which point it became just another slow, circuitous trip through the suburbs. Some “express” service.

    • Liz

      This is why we need a transfer based system. Get a real express service through the main centres (AMETI should help here I think..?) and then local feeder buses for the suburbs. I also think that the council should look at long term plans to make some of those suburbs better for buses – e.g. work out whether the purchase of a few properties to turn into access-ways/parks/through streets could make the area more grid-like, to allow better people movement and access to shops, PT, etc. Suburbs full of winding roads and cul-de-sacs are awful as a pedestrian or PT user.

      • Evan

        That is the way most of Melbourne’s bus system works. Most services, particularly those in the outlying suburbs are feeders for the railway stations. Dove-Myer Robinson envisioned something similar for Auckland in his rapid rail plan. When your only public transport option from Howick/Pakuranga/Botany is a slow, expensive bus trip to the centre of the city through the suburbs, is it any wonder why so many have chosen to drive?

        • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

          Agree 1000% evan. Lets fire up the rapid part right now with buses and push as much into the rail as we can. Then fire up a residual down the motorway with buses and even the trucks can enjoy the ride. Liz agree too but lets see what we need after we mark one lane now as is as think don’t need what the regional model says we do as they havn’t looked at a full network rapid roadmarking remark scenario.

          • Liz

            Roadmarking to give dedicated bus lanes, do you mean? I think that this will definitely help, but we’ll still need to change many of the routes themselves. E.g. to stop buses from the North Shore bays coming all the way into town. Instead people should transfer to the NEX (with dedicated bus lanes all the way into town). The only direct routes should be those that leave the m’way/busway by the first couple of exits over the bridge (e.g. buses to Northcote, Birkinhead, Takapuna, etc). However, people will get really pissed off at their bus routes being removed if we don’t already have integrated fares sorted (to give them a viable alternative).

            Until then, we should definitely focus on increasing the number of dedicated bus lanes for existing routes (mainly the ones that we want to be the frequent/rapid routes in the future). E.g. Turning the clearways along New North Road into bus lanes would be brilliant to improve the reliability, speed , and frequency of those bus services.

          • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

            Liz bang on. You got it. A sensible network wide re-boot. Get everyone on it the bloggers, Auckland Transport. I think the network needs open heart surgery. Adding on one artery at one blood cell length isn’t going to swing it. Use all the width, buses,trains,network we have with a new agenda and new roadmarking. The fare thing is critical at exactly the sametime. Cheap off-peak for families citywide we want 50% minimum remember.

          • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

            I still think by Dec 15 still achievable citywide but days are ticking over before the powers that be also think worthy of merit. Would be good to utilise the xmas break to test everything and get 6 weeks for patronage growth/marketing etc.

          • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

            Think we can do a 60 hr makeover citywide if we had a mandate and all the roadmarking maintenance crews and signal maintenance crews at our disposal. Each plan up for live criticism as we go then say-lockdown a final – Dec 13 6pm to 6am Mon Dec 15.

          • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

            All motorways a shared bus/truck lane -left lane (200m) zone for merge/diverge.
            A post for each arterial road and strategic collector road.
            A post for each town centre node.
            A post showing collector feed loops.
            An overall big picture strategy post-tieing into the future 2030 scheme but now, cycling networks, freight networks etc. Directing focus per key road
            That would do it.

          • Liz

            I do think that when it gets done it needs to be comprehensive and implemented quickly. I also think that bus lanes are a fairly easy way to improve many routes. But trains are limited until we have the CRL and a transfer based system will only work well if fares are integrated.

          • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

            I think the shared bus/truck symbols on the motorway, arterials-superceded lines blacked out (if can’t re-use with new scheme) and new lines/symbols could be done over 3 or 4 nights easily if all the roadmarking crews on Auckland were on it and the b-phasing had black rubbish bags taped on in advance ready to go. I meant the Friday night being the start of implementation or maybe the Thursday 12th and 16th Dec Monday morning being completion target. Quicker and smarter than the odd tack on and buying land etc then still not joined all the dots for the target 50% patronage gain. Then market this with celebrities showing the speed/ease to go from a to b or z. Off-peak anywhere $6.50 per day or $90 per month. With good plans and smart strategic thinking think Network peak performance could go from a 4/10 to an 8/10 with a remark and signal optimisation as is within a short period of time especially with easy cheap fares for on-peak and off-peak.

          • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

            We need the Mayor Len Brown to give a mandate and endorsing a live team blogging approach with a new network agenda-heading for a network remark and signal optimisation ready for turn on Dec 15 with a TV campaign start (real soon) and then trialling with celebrity figures and the cheap easy fares. 1 decision, 1 campaign, 1 new Multi-modal Network, A new Dawn 15th Dec 2013.

  • PatrickOR Sunnynook

    I am in Vancouver at the moment and rode the 99 three times today. It actually roars past my hotel window every 6-8 minutes in each direction even though it is Sunday here. It is a 100 passenger “bendy” bus with limited stops – about every third block. The same route is served by the 9 trolley bus stopping at every block (caught that twice today as well). The 99 is standing room only most of the time. It does not go to Downtown, rather linking UBC across town to the Canada Line and finishing at the junction of the other two Skytrain lines. Linking with the other transit modes makes it so popular plus serving the 30000 plus university at the end of the line. Monthly pass for students is $30 allowing unlimited travel anywhere on the network. I had a day pass today for $9.75 giving unlimited travel anywhere on the network as well. I made 7 bus trips, two ferry trips and three train journeys today. Value for money compared to Auckland. Correct linking routes and value for money fares are what works here in Vancouver. Interesting if you don’t have a pass or ticket already, all buses are exact fare. You drop the coins in a slot and the ticket pops out. No money or tickets handled by the drive. The 99 has three doors and you can enter at any of them if you already have a ticket. Really sppeds things up. However the buses take a long time to cover the distances and the Skytrain network is no bigger than our train network in Auckland, although much more frequent. Our bus lanes and the Northern busway are better even though the busway covers less than 50% of the trip from Britomart to Albany. And yes I took one C bus as well – C is for community, very much local and the buses are small, 20 passengers so patronage is low. Good PT eperience here again.

    • Liz

      The other good thing about the 99 bus is that the footpaths are marked to show where the 3 sets of doors open, so you know where to stand. The only downside is that the marking is just done by different coloured paving stones – looks nice but is not as clear for newbies. But once you’ve caught it a couple of times it is easy. :)

      I have used exact fare (i.e. no change if you put too much money in) systems in Edinburgh and Nottingham as well. Certainly makes it easier for the drivers, and incentivises people have the correct change! (And also to buy multi-tickets or day/week/month passes). Personally I prefer smart cards, but there are certainly ways to dis-incentivise cash fares on a smart card system as well. Once we have HOP and integrated fares sorted we should be seriously looking at this. E.g. in London cash single fares are about twice the cost of an Oyster fare.

    • Great point about paying on the bus. We really need to get rid of the system here where the driver sells tickets, at least on high volume routes. Maybe for the more “community” routes but busy services shouldnt be held up by someone wanting change from $20.

      The main benefit from this is, as you say, all the doors can be opened and everyone just floods on to the bus. Dwell times would be really reduced and so reliability increases. The bus becomes more like the train and just leaves when it is ready.

      Tickets should be purchased from shops or from ticket machines at major stations. It happens in much less economically advanced cities than Auckland.

      • Liz

        What about machines like this? This bus route is Oyster or pre-paid ticket only – no cash fares on the bus. http://goo.gl/maps/qkVfC

        • Max

          In Germany, they now often have ticket machines IN the bus / tram / train.

          • Liz

            To actually buy the ticket, or just to validate it? I’ve seen the validation ones in several countries in Europe.

          • BBC

            To buy tickets, they’ve had them in Trams in Germany for some time now.

          • George D

            Melbourne too.

            I consider it absolutely ridiculous that there are (to the best of my knowledge) no machines for buying HOP cards, nor machines for topping them up. You should be able to tap your card, insert some cash, and add that amount to your account. For new users, being able to throw in a ten or a twenty dollar note and get out a loaded card is indispensable. Put them in busy stops and stations around the region, and see PT use flourish.

            Someone needs to look into this, ASAP.

          • George D

            And then, when you have such a thing, you can do what they do in Sydney, and specify that certain routes are prepay only (in our case, HOP only). I’ve ridden such buses, and they’re a wonder – so much faster!

    • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

      That $10 figure for an unlimited day pass sounds right for Auckland too-peak and off-peak. $140 month. Off-peak say $90, Students $70 per month.(divide by 3 week pass or 14 for the $10 pass peak/off peak rate). I havn’t used HOP it but topping up should be like a vodaphone pre-paid and as available.

      • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

        Why doesn’t the HOP card get into bed so to speak with Telecom, 2degrees and Vodaphone all prepaid phone cards? Then roll out an AT app that shows people where the plant is or routes to follow to get to destination.

  • Torbayite

    Be good to have this BEFORE the network changes as well. It would definitely highlight areas of discussion. Such as are ALL Dominion raod buses successful or are some better than others ( and then why?)

  • Peter in Sydney

    “Agree 1000% evan. Lets fire up the rapid part right now with buses and push as much into the rail as we can.”
    The only spare rail capacity at the moment is off peak. Be careful not to shoot one in ones foot. Busses feeding into trains will only work after the electrics are fully up and running. BTW I hope that a name for the new electrics will be pronounced at the forthcoming unveiling.

    • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

      OK Peter understand the rail limitations but all overflow down the motorways. At least we are making them sweat and off-peak too. From my point of view all plant and existing road width needs to be utilised as smart as possible. Hit with cheap easy off-peak fares $90 per month or say $6.50 per day anywhere. ($90/14) .

  • PatrickOR Sunnynook

    George D, you are not correct about the trams in Melbourne. As at the end of December 2012 the Metcard was withdrawn. All travel by tram and bus is with Myki card. No tickets sold on trams and buses. The ticket machines on the trams are covered up pending removal.Myki is used accross the entire network. Even Melburnians have learnt to move away from buying individual tickets. It should happen in Auckland too once the kinks have been ironed out of AT HOP. As I said in a previous reply to this post I am in Vancouver. The change to Compass Card is imminent here. All buses have card readers ready to go. Stations and Seabus terminals have gates. In the next month or so it will be stored value (or passes) on Compass like Myki in Melbourne. Auckland must move with the times as well.

  • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

    We need freedom and speed in the network. That is for sure. The myki above or what Vancouver is doing sounds like the fix but should be dove- tailed in with mobile phone recharge vouchers so widely available. Pay in advance-verifications only is what is needed. Either your card is valid or not?

  • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

    Len please give us a mandate to make some network wide changes at will (via roadmarking and signal tweaks) and simplify the fare system via blog feedback /team approach with Auckland Transport. Or we are pushing it uphill all the way to 2030.

  • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

    Tell you what. A hop card for the first month Dec 15 to Jan 15 is free !!!!!!!!!!! on the new network during the trial to all.

  • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

    We need to get rechargeable cards out there straight away (needs to be easy to top up prior to Jan 15) . Get it in everyone’s wallet and get the ball rolling with the different re-prioritised network.This is how a permanent mode shift is going aggressively vertical Auckland Transport Chairman.

  • Steve F (GEN X Civil)

    If we did the above more than confident no adverse affect to cars by Jan 20 2014, a maximised existing network and it will only improve with unit subtraction of smaller vehicles rather than addition. But it needs a bold mandate from the Mayor to start things off. Then you watch momentum grow as people understand what we are doing. I think the rest is easily do-able as a team effort and just using existing road roadmarking and signal maintenance budgets. The current approach of tip-toeing around the car network actually makes them worse for them and more expensive for all concerned and we are yet to turn the corner by miles of network. This way turns the corner sharply on one day and stops congestion dead in it’s tracks.

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