06 April 2010
Are Pierce Transit's Routes Too Short?
One thing that I am starting to notice is how short some of Pierce Transit's routes are. I went ahead and did some investigation into how long in time each Pierce Transit route takes. I tallied up the journey time for each route for the first trip after 8am or whenever possible for express routes. I pasted what I found into this Google Spreadsheet.
The big thing I found was that out of all Pierce Transit routes, the average time including the times of interlined routes is about 40 minutes. Only seven routes take longer than an hour to run and only eighteen (including those hour-or-more routes) take longer than 40 minutes. A full twenty-two routes take less than 30 minutes to complete their journey.
What does this mean? Well on the one hand, longer routes are able to cover a larger area and connect areas with a one-seat ride. However these long routes may be unreliable since there are more opportunities for a bus to be late along the route. Short routes while more reliable on a stand-alone basis are less advantageous when there are numerous short routes system-wide. Since all the short routes only serve a few areas, transfers are a requirement to travel greater distances across this type of transit system.
There are three corridors that make for interesting case studies: From Sumner to Buckley, Sumner to Lakewood and from TCC to Parkland.
Sumner to Buckley
Here are a total of four bus routes, the 406, 407, 408 and the 496. The 496 runs during commute times to connect with the Sounder in Sumner from Bonney Lake P&R. At all other times of the day, the 406 and 407 presumably operate with one bus alternating from one route to the other sharing the Bonney Lake P&R as a common starting point. Similarly the 408 presumably operates with one bus from Sumner to Bonney Lake P&R. This setup ALWAYS forces a transfer at Bonney Lake P&R to points further east.
Sumner to Lakewood
Here we examine how the 202 and the 409 interact. The 202 travels from Lakewood up to 74th and then makes a straight shot to the 72nd transit center where it ends. The 409 while a less frequent route, travels from Sumner through Puyallup and also ends at the 72nd transit center. Again this setup ALWAYS forces a transfer between Sumner/Puyallup and Lakewood.
TCC to Parkland
Now this is an interesting trip since there are many alternatives possible. Sure it's possible to take the 1 all the way there, however in this case it's slightly faster to take the 52 to the 55. For example, say one leaves TCC at 8:15am on a weekday. They can catch the 1 which leaves at 8:16 and arrives at Parkland Transit Center (PTC) at 9:12. Or, they can take the 52 at 8:15 to Tacoma Mall and then transfer to the 55 which ends up arriving at PTC at 9:10. However, since this time difference isn't much would more people choose the 1 because of the one-seat ride?
What would happen if these routes were combined to make for longer routes? Would it be more pleasant for Buckley riders to always have a one-seat ride to Sumner? Could riders from Sumner/Puyallup to Lakewood benefit from combining the 202 and the 409? And would more riders opt for a combined 52/55 between TCC and Parkland if they didn't have the extra 5 minute transfer wait time at Tacoma Mall? Taking that combined 52/55 a step further what if it was also combined with the 10? Would you find some PLU students taking a trip up Point Defiance on the bus more often?