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Commonsense Approaches for Improving Transit Bus Speeds (2014)

Chapter: Chapter Three - Survey Results

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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - Survey Results ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Commonsense Approaches for Improving Transit Bus Speeds. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22421.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - Survey Results ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Commonsense Approaches for Improving Transit Bus Speeds. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22421.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - Survey Results ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Commonsense Approaches for Improving Transit Bus Speeds. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22421.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - Survey Results ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Commonsense Approaches for Improving Transit Bus Speeds. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22421.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - Survey Results ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Commonsense Approaches for Improving Transit Bus Speeds. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22421.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - Survey Results ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Commonsense Approaches for Improving Transit Bus Speeds. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22421.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - Survey Results ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Commonsense Approaches for Improving Transit Bus Speeds. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22421.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - Survey Results ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Commonsense Approaches for Improving Transit Bus Speeds. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22421.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - Survey Results ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Commonsense Approaches for Improving Transit Bus Speeds. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22421.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - Survey Results ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Commonsense Approaches for Improving Transit Bus Speeds. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22421.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - Survey Results ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Commonsense Approaches for Improving Transit Bus Speeds. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22421.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - Survey Results ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Commonsense Approaches for Improving Transit Bus Speeds. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22421.
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Suggested Citation:"Chapter Three - Survey Results ." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2014. Commonsense Approaches for Improving Transit Bus Speeds. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/22421.
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15 to quantify overall bus speed increases because there is no problem if bus speeds increased. “Other” responses included slower local service but increased speed on BRT routes and mixed results by route or by area served. As noted in chapter one, respondents were contacted after completing the survey and asked to provide data on actual bus speeds. Table 11 shows trends in bus speeds based on data from nine cities. The overall annual rate of change was -0.45%. One interesting difference of opinion was related to the impact of the economic downturn. One respondent observed that the economic downturn combined with increases in gas prices had reduced traffic congestion and resulted in increased speeds and improved on-time performance. Another partici- pant theorized that the economic downturn limited funds available for agencies to implement actions to improve bus speeds. ACTIONS TAKEN TO IMPROVE BUS SPEEDS Respondents reported actions taken to increase or mitigate decreases in bus speeds. Table 12 lists seven broad categories of actions taken. Each category is discussed in greater detail in the following sections. At least two-thirds of all responding agencies took actions in the areas of schedule and route adjustments. Bus stop location, design, and placement, policy changes, and vehicle- related actions were also fairly common. Only one agency did not take any action intended to improve bus speeds. Schedule Adjustments Table 13 shows schedule-related actions. Such actions offer the potential to increase bus speed by reducing the need to hold for time at stops if the bus is ahead of schedule or by bal- ancing service time and recovery time more appropriately. By far the most common action reported was to adjust run- ning times. Changes in recovery time policy and changing to headway-based schedules (a strategy for frequent service in which buses are spaced a set number of minutes apart rather than arriving at stops at specific times) were implemented less often. Eleven agencies reported “other” actions, which are described here. INTRODUCTION This is the first of two chapters presenting the results of a sur- vey of transit agencies regarding approaches for improving transit bus speeds. The survey was designed to elicit informa- tion on trends in average bus speeds over the past 5 years, actions implemented and their effects, actions considered but not implemented, barriers to success, metrics used in estimat- ing and evaluating effects, assessment of the most successful actions, and lessons learned. Thirty-one completed surveys were received from 36 agencies approved by the panel for inclusion in the sample, a response rate of 86%. In addition, 28 agencies responded to an invitation to all APTA members to participate in the survey, for a total of 59 transit agencies in the final sample. The transit agencies range in size from 10 to more than 3,000 fixed-route transit vehicles. This chapter presents survey results regarding trends in local bus speeds, types of actions taken to improve bus speeds, and the effects of these actions. Chapter four discusses sur- vey results related to the responding agencies’ assessment of actions taken. Throughout the rest of this chapter, increases and decreases of less than 5% in bus speeds are characterized as minor changes. Changes of 5% to 10% are characterized as moder- ate changes. Increases and decreases of more than 10% are characterized as major changes. TRENDS IN LOCAL BUS SPEEDS Table 9 summarizes survey responses regarding existing trends in local bus speeds. More than 75% of respondents reported that bus speeds have decreased across the board or results are mixed. Most (64%) agencies indicated that the trend has been identified quantitatively, tracked by means of performance measures. The others indicated anecdotal infor- mation as the source of speed trends. Agencies that indicated a change in bus speeds were asked more specifically about the trend. Table 10 summarizes responses from these agencies. Nearly half of all respondents noted a minor decrease in bus speeds, whereas 15% reported that bus speeds increased. The survey did not ask agencies chapter three SURVEY RESULTS

16 TABLE 9 TRENDS IN LOCAL BUS SPEEDS OVER PAST 5 YEARS Trend No. Agencies Responding % Agencies Responding Results are mixed 23 39.0 Bus speeds have decreased 23 39.0 No change in bus speeds 7 11.9 Bus speeds have increased 6 10.2 Total responding agencies 59 100 Source: Survey results. Note: Percentages do not add to 100% because of rounding. TABLE 11 TRENDS IN BUS SPEEDS REPORTED BY NINE CITIES City Overall % Change No. Years over Which Change Occurred Compound Annual Rate of Change A -11.0 14 -0.75% B -8.6 13 -0.64% C -1.5 10 -0.15% D -0.9 10 -0.09% E system -2.6 4 -0.64% E frequent routes -4.2 4 -1.03% F system -3.0 7 -0.42% F local routes -4.0 7 -0.56% G -2.0 5 -0.40% H -0.7 2 -0.35% I +0.2 4 +0.05% Average -0.45% Source: Follow-up survey request. TABLE 12 TYPES OF ACTIONS TAKEN TO IMPROVE BUS SPEEDS Action Category No. Agencies Responding % Agencies Responding 1, Schedule adjustments 51 86.4 2, Route adjustments 44 74.6 3, Stop-related 38 64.4 4, Vehicle-related 37 62.7 5, External policies (typically traffic- related) 32 54.2 6, Internal policies 29 49.2 7, Other 11 18.6 No actions 1 1.7 Total responding agencies 59 100 Source: Survey results. Note: Multiple responses allowed; percentages do not add to 100%. TABLE 13 SCHEDULE-RELATED ACTIONS Action No. Agencies Responding % Agencies Responding Adjust running time 49 98.0 Change recovery time policy 8 16.0 Headway-based instead of time point-based schedules 4 8.0 Other 11 22.0 Total responding agencies 50 100 Source: Survey results. Note: Multiple responses allowed; percentages do not add to 100%. TABLE 10 CHANGES IN BUS SPEEDS OVER PAST 5 YEARS Change No. Agencies Responding % Agencies Responding Decreased by 0% to 5% 23 42.3 Decreased by 5% to 10% 9 17.6 Decreased by more than 10% 0 0.0 Increased 7 15.4 Other 12 23.1 Total responding agencies 51 100 Source: Survey results. Note: Percentages do not add to 100% because of rounding. Running time adjustments are rarely made for the purpose of improving bus speeds. These actions are routine at many agencies and are intended to improve the accuracy of the schedules and thus on-time performance. On average, respon- dents reported running time adjustments on approximately 44% of their routes, with a median percentage of 30%. Eleven agencies measured the specific impact of run- ning time adjustments on bus speeds. Eight (73%) reported a decrease in speeds, two (18%) reported a minor increase in speeds, and one (9%) reported no impact. The running time adjustments decreased scheduled speeds but may not have had an effect on actual bus speeds, which presumably were lower than the original scheduled speed. The eight agencies that changed recovery time policies took a variety of approaches. Two agencies added recovery time on specific routes (one on routes with high variability in running times during peak hours). One agency reduced recovery time by 25% to improve efficiency. Others reported specific formal

17 rare. Several agencies noted that restructuring occurred episod- ically, most often in conjunction with major system studies or with implementation of new rail lines. Only six agencies mea- sured the specific impact of route streamlining on bus speeds. Three (50%) reported a minor increase in speeds; one (17%) reported a moderate increase in speeds; one (17%) reported a decrease in speeds; and one (17%) noted that the streamlining was too complex to report an overall trend because route seg- ments were transferred among routes. Approximately 42% of agencies reporting route-related changes introduced limited-stop service. Half of these responses involved only one new limited-stop route, with a few agencies reporting four new or restructured limited-stop routes within the last 5 years. Four agencies measured the specific impact of limited-stop service on bus speeds. Two (50%) reported a minor increase in speeds, and two (50%) reported a moderate increase in speeds. Ten agencies (23% of those reporting route-related changes) introduced or added BRT service. BRT elements common to at least half of the responding agencies include signal priority, all-door boarding, branding (in some cases special buses), bus lanes or other dedicated right-of-way, real- time passenger information, and upgraded bus stops and shel- ters. A few agencies mentioned queue jump lanes and level boarding. Six agencies measured the specific impact of BRT service on bus speeds. Five (83%) reported a major increase in speeds, and one (17%) reported a minor increase in speeds. Other route-related actions included streamlining routes on arterials; removing unnecessary route deviations; creating a multiroute trunk line to improve speed and provide needed capacity; eliminating duplicative routes; restructuring routes and route segments to serve light rail or allow time to extend another route; and shortening or consolidating routes. Other actions for nonlocal routes included using shoulder lanes on highways and building new direct-access ramps for HOVs. The two agencies that reported the impact of “other” changes on bus speeds saw no effect. Limited-stop and BRT services clearly improve bus speeds. Streamlining bus routes can also improve bus speeds to a lesser extent. or informal policies. Only two agencies quantified the effect on bus speeds. One agency set recovery time at 5 min for all trips and reported a slight increase in speed. The other agency allowed 10 to 15 min of recovery time based on delays identi- fied and reported a decrease in bus speed. Four agencies reported changing to headway-based schedules. Unlike conventional time point–based schedules, headway-based schedules do not list specific times points. Instead, customers are told that buses arrive at set intervals (every X minutes). Headway-based schedules are more com- mon on BRT routes, and two agencies indicated that they are used only on BRT routes. Two other agencies reported that selected local routes use headway-based schedules. No agency measured the effect of this action alone on bus speeds. Other schedule-related actions included lessening hold time (i.e., the time that buses sit or “hold for time” after arriving early at a time point) by adjusting segment-level running times or by increasing the use of estimated time points that do not require an early bus to hold for time; moving operator reliefs to the end of the line; moving time points; changing running times by time of day; using automated vehicle location (AVL) sys- tems to track schedule adherence in real time or to use average actual running time to set schedules; considering variability in running times when setting layover time; and reconsidering the mix of local, limited-stop, and express routes. One agency that adjusted segment-level running times specifically to reduce hold times reported a minor increase in bus speeds. Improving bus speeds can be a collateral benefit of certain schedule-related actions, but the primary purpose of these actions is to improve schedule adherence and reliability. Moving operator reliefs to the end of a route keeps custom- ers from experiencing the delays incurred by midroute reliefs (which normally take 3 to 5 min). Running time adjustments affect scheduled bus speeds and can affect actual bus speeds through their effects on hold times at time points. An advantage of headway-based schedules is that hold time is not required at time points (because there are no time points), but supervisors may hold buses to ensure even headways. Route Adjustments Three-quarters of responding agencies reported route-related actions to improve bus speeds. Route adjustments offer the potential to increase bus speed by keeping the bus on a major corridor, thereby reducing the number of deviations and turns, or by reducing the number of stops. Table 14 summarizes actions taken. The most common action was to streamline routes (i.e., keep buses on major corridors and reduce the number of turns). On average, respondents reported streamlining approximately 19% of their routes, with a median percentage of 15%. One respondent stated that obvious streamlining opportunities are TABLE 14 ROUTE-RELATED ACTIONS Action No. Agencies Responding % Agencies Responding Streamline routes 39 90.7 Introduce limited-stop service 18 41.9 Introduce BRT service 10 23.3 Other 10 23.3 Total responding agencies 43 100 Source: Survey results. Note: Multiple responses allowed; percentages do not add to 100%.

18 to 700 ft or 152 to 213 m; fully developed residential area (10 to 20 persons per acre), 700 to 850 ft or 213 to 259 m; low-density residential (three to 10 persons per acre), 850 to 1,200 ft or 259 to 366 m; rural or express bus service (0 to three persons per acre), 1,200+ ft or 366+ m. • A change from stops every 600 ft (183 m) to every 800 to 1,500 ft (244 to 457 m) with a targeted average of 1,200 ft (366 m). This agency has implemented the new policy on 80% of its routes, resulting in 24% fewer bus stops systemwide. Only two agencies measured the specific impact of changes in stop spacing on bus speeds. One reported an increase from 5.5 to 6.1 mph (8.8 to 9.8 kph) on a mile-long corridor seg- ment. Another indicated that a reduction in downtown stops on express routes reduced travel time circulating through downtown by about 5 min. Forty-seven percent of agencies reporting stop-related changes changed the location of bus stops. The most common change was moving to a far-side location, especially at sig- nalized intersections. Several agencies reported a preference for near-side locations at stop signs. A few agencies noted that safety, convenience, accessibility of stops, and property issues are the major factors, not improving speed, in changing stop locations. Only one agency measured the specific impact of changing stop locations. This agency reported a minor increase in speeds with the location of stops at far-side loca- tions wherever feasible. Slightly more than one-third of all agencies reporting bus stop changes changed bus stop design or length. A variety of changes were reported, including updated design standards, a new stop classification system that specifies thresholds (based on ridership and land use) for additional amenities and larger paved waiting areas, increased number of bus bulbs, extended curb lengths to improve stop capacity and accommodate lon- ger vehicles, lengthened approach to the stop, and use of any bay at major downtown stops for buses that are only drop- ping off passengers. No agency measured the specific impact of changing bus stop design or length. Relatively few agencies (21%) introduced level boarding at transit centers or other major stops. One-quarter of these respondents indicated that they had increased the number of low-floor buses in the fleet, as opposed to actually building level boarding platforms or pads. No agency measured the specific impact of level boarding. Other stop-related actions included elimination of flag stops, elimination of parking adjacent to stops, elimination of bike rack usage at key downtown stops, and construction of bus bulbs for BRT stops. Only one agency measured the specific impact of “other” stop-related actions. This agency reported a moderate increase in speeds with the elimination of flag stops. Stop-Related Actions Almost two-thirds (64%) of responding agencies reported stop-related actions to improve bus speeds. Stop-related actions offer the potential to increase bus speed by reducing the number of stops, making it easier to get into and out of bus stops, or reducing dwell time at stops. Table 15 summarizes actions taken. The most common action was to change bus stop spac- ing, with 79% of responding agencies taking this action (all increased stop spacing). Many agencies increased stop spacing on a limited number of routes or frequent corridors, on a case- by-case basis, or in specific areas, such as downtown. Some focused on underused stops or eliminated flag stops entirely. One agency reported implementing consistent stop spacing on new and adjusted routes. Another initiated a pilot project that first increased spacing on two routes; the agency will ana- lyze the effects on bus speeds on these routes before deciding whether to implement similar changes systemwide. Several agencies reported policy-based changes regard- ing stops. One guideline called for fewer than eight stops per mile (five stops per kilometer) in urban areas, fewer than six stops per mile (3.7 per kilometer) in suburban areas, and fewer than four stops per mile (2.5 per kilometer) in rural areas. One agency changed its policy from nine stops per mile (5.6 per kilometer) to six or seven (3.7 to 4.3 per kilometer). Another reported a gradual conversion of urban stop spacing from every two to three blocks (500 to 700 ft or 152 to 213 m) to every three to four blocks (800 to 1,000 ft or 244 to 305 m) where possible. In a specific downtown example, stops were changed from every block to every other block. Seventy-two percent of agencies reporting changes to stop spacing noted that their service standards address stop spac- ing. Three agencies reported a determined effort to apply the (unchanged) existing stop spacing policy. Two policies were very detailed: • A density-based bus stop spacing standard: high-density, CBD, or shopping (greater than 20 persons per acre), 500 TABLE 15 STOP-RELATED ACTIONS Action No. Agencies Responding % Agencies Responding Change stop spacing 30 78.9 Change bus stop location 18 47.4 Change bus stop design or length 13 34.2 Level boarding at transit centers 8 21.1 Other 5 13.2 Total responding agencies 38 100 Source: Survey results. Note: Multiple responses allowed; percentages do not add to 100%.

19 vehicle sizes. One agency noted that use of articulated buses has increased running time owing to longer dwell times at stops but that this trend has been partially mitigated by use of low-floor articulated buses. Another reported a switch to smaller vehicles with greater acceleration and maneuver- ability. A third agency noted that increasingly worse traffic overwhelmed any changes resulting from bus size. Slightly less than half of all agencies reporting vehicle- related changes introduced vehicles with better performance. Half of these respondents indicated that the new vehicles were hybrid buses. Several agencies commented that the engines in new buses offered much better performance, especially in terms of acceleration and hill-climbing ability. One agency replaced its cutaways (a bus body attached to a truck or van chassis) with “real transit buses.” Only one agency measured the specific impact of vehicles with better performance on bus speeds, noting a minor increase. About 20% of all agencies reporting vehicle-related changes changed the seating configuration inside the bus. Reported changes include perimeter seating throughout the vehicle or in the rear; removal of a row of seats behind the wheelchair space to provide room for strollers/walkers; a 2-1 seating configuration by the rear door to improve interior circula- tion and reduce congestion. No agency measured the specific impact of seating configuration changes. Almost 20% of all agencies reporting vehicle-related changes allowed bicycle storage inside the bus. No agency measured the specific impact of this action. Eleven percent of all agencies reporting vehicle-related changes changed the door configuration. Half of these respon- dents changed the door configuration on BRT buses only, either with doors on both sides of the bus or a third door. The other agencies reported that all articulated buses in their fleet now had three doors. No agency measured the specific impact of door configuration changes. Overall, there are not enough reported evaluations to assess the effect of all bus stop changes on bus speeds. Stop spac- ing is the most successful stop-related strategy for increasing bus speeds. Vehicle-Related Actions Almost two-thirds (65%) of responding agencies reported vehicle-related actions to improve bus speeds. Most vehicle- related actions offer the potential to increase bus speed through a reduction in dwell time at stops, although one action is intended to improve acceleration. Table 16 summarizes actions taken. The most common action was to introduce or increase the use of low-floor buses, with 89% of responding agen- cies taking this action. Low-floor buses account for an aver- age of 74% of the local bus fleet among responding agencies, with a median figure of 79%. The effect on bus speeds from low-floor buses results from reduced dwell time. Only one agency measured the specific impact of low floor buses. This agency reported a reduction in dwell time of 1 s per passen- ger boarding. More than three-quarters (78%) of agencies reporting vehicle-related changes switched from lifts to ramps for wheelchair access through the introduction or expanded use of low-floor buses. Only one agency measured the specific impact of replacing lifts with ramps. This agency reported a minor increase in bus speeds. Approximately 60% of all agencies reporting vehicle- related changes introduced or increased the use of vehicles of different size. The changes went in all directions. Three primary themes were articulated buses for the busiest routes; smaller vehicles for low-productivity routes; and 40-foot buses, instead of 35-foot buses, as the standard for local service. No agency measured the specific impact of different TABLE 16 VEHICLE-RELATED ACTIONS Action No. Agencies Responding % Agencies Responding Introduce/increase use of low-floor buses 33 89.2 Switch from lifts to ramps for wheelchair access 29 78.4 Introduce/increase use of different-size vehicles 22 59.5 Introduce vehicles with better performance 17 45.9 Change seating configuration 8 21.6 Allow bicycle storage inside the bus 7 18.9 Change door configuration 4 10.8 Other 3 8.1 Total responding agencies 37 100 Source: Survey results. Note: Multiple responses allowed; percentages do not add to 100%.

20 signal progression to favor transit on major transit corridors. Three agencies described a formal process through which they can raise a signal timing problem with the municipal- ity that owns the signal. All three agencies indicated that a change does not always occur, but in general revised timing plans are implemented where feasible. One agency reported that its major city added “intelligence” to its signal system so that the signals now detect if there is a vehicle on the side streets waiting for a green light rather than having a set signal cycle. This change is reported to have had a more positive effect on running time than has TSP. Seven agencies measured the specific impact of signal timing changes. Three (43%) reported minor increases in bus speeds; three (43%) reported moderate increases; and one (14%) reported a decrease in bus speeds. The decrease in bus speeds was a result of a city changing its signal timing cycle from 75 to 90 s within downtown. Forty-one percent of all agencies reporting external policy changes saw the introduction of bus-only lanes on arterial streets. The bus-only lane was usually a curb lane; the lane was fully separated from other traffic in only two cities (one featured a contraflow lane). The number of routes using a bus-only lane varied widely, from “just our rapid service” to “about half of routes” to “most routes are on a bus lane some- where.” Three agencies focused on freeway bus-only lanes. One indicated that existing HOV lanes on two corridors were being converted to bus-only lanes. Only one agency mea- sured the specific impact of bus-only lanes; this agency noted a moderate increase in bus speeds. Forty-one percent of all agencies reporting external policy changes indicated implementation or prior existence of yield- to-bus laws. In most cases, this is a state or provincial law. Buses have been equipped with decals, illuminated signs, or blinking signs. One agency reported that the law has resulted in faster, smoother merging back into traffic as well as increased driver awareness. No agency measured the specific impact of yield-to-bus laws on bus speeds. One agency noted that very few, if any, law enforcement agencies actually enforce the law. Twenty-eight percent of all agencies reporting external policy changes described turn restrictions for nontransit vehicles. Restrictions include both left turns and right turns; in one case, through traffic is restricted except for buses. These restrictions may apply throughout downtown or dur- ing certain hours. No agency measured the specific impact of turn restrictions for nontransit vehicles. One-quarter of all agencies reporting external policy changes described parking restrictions. These restrictions are at or near bus stops, on narrow segments of corridors, at loca- tions with tight turning radii, or along major corridors dur- ing peak periods. No agency measured the specific impact of parking restrictions. Other vehicle-related actions included taking the local climate into account when preparing bus specifications to ensure good performance. No agency measured the specific impact of “other” vehicle-related actions. Overall, there are not enough reported evaluations to assess the effect of vehicle-related changes on bus speeds. External Policy Changes More than half (53%) of responding agencies reported changes in external policies (typically municipal traffic-related poli- cies) to improve bus speeds. Most external policy changes offer the potential to increase bus speed through providing priority for transit vehicles or minimizing conflicts with auto- mobiles. Table 17 summarizes actions taken. The most common action was to implement signal priority or queue jump lanes, with two-thirds of responding agencies reporting this action (some of these are close to installation). Typically these actions are implemented on select corridors (often in conjunction with BRT) and at specific intersections. Two agencies noted extensive use of signal priority (one stated that 20% of its routes benefit from signal priority, and the other reported 300 intersections with signal priority and 10 queue jump locations). In some cases, priority is granted only if the bus is behind schedule by more than a specified period of time. Eight agencies (seven with signal priority only, one with both signal priority and queue jump lanes) measured the specific impact of these actions. Five (62.5%) reported a minor increase in bus speeds, two (25%) reported a moderate increase, and one (12.5%) reported a major increase with the caveat that the increase applied to bus speeds in the immedi- ate vicinity of the intersection. One agency commented that signal priority works most effectively in conjunction with a dedicated lane. Close to half (44%) of agencies reporting external policy changes benefitted from signal timing changes. Many cities have implemented signal synchronization on major arterials, and optimization is a continual process. One city adapted the Action No. Agencies Responding % Agencies Responding Signal priority or queue-jump lanes 22 68.8 Signal timing 14 43.8 Bus-only lanes on arterial streets 13 40.6 Yield-to-bus laws 13 40.6 Turn restrictions 9 28.1 Parking restrictions 8 25.0 Other 6 18.8 Total responding agencies 32 100 Source: Survey results. Note: Multiple responses allowed; percentages do not add to 100%. TABLE 17 EXTERNAL POLICY CHANGES

21 ate increase in bus speeds, whereas the other (with numerous traffic-calming measures) reported a decline in bus speeds. One agency noted a key difficulty in cooperating with other agencies: City traffic signal engineers are not experts in bus transit, and transit analysts are not experts in traffic sig- nal timing. Regarding TSP, the transit agency controls only the emitters and not the receivers or the programming of the controllers and does not have staff to monitor and make sure the controllers are all still working. Anecdotally, bus opera- tors think that signal priority helps at some intersections and actually hurts at others. External, often traffic-related, policies can have a major effect on bus speeds. The magnitude of the effect depends on the specific policy and the location where it is applied and can be affected by other factors, such as enforcement. Internal Policy Changes Almost half (48%) of responding agencies reported changes in internal policies to improve bus speeds. Unlike external policy changes, these changes are under the control of the transit agency. These actions offer the potential to increase bus speed by reducing dwell time through faster boardings or other means or by changing hold policies at transit centers. Table 18 summarizes actions taken. The most common action was pricing to encourage the use of prepaid fare media, with 75% of responding agencies reporting this policy. The most common actions were offer- ing a large discount or increasing the discount for prepaid media. Some agencies added discounted fare media (day pass, family pass), whereas others reduced fare media in favor of a smart card. A higher price for onboard fare collection was mentioned by two agencies. One agency simplified its zone system, and one changed to exact fare. Only one agency measured the specific impact of prepaid fare media, indicat- ing that an increased discount on prepaid media resulted in a minor increase in bus speeds. Nineteen percent of all agencies reporting external policy changes cited other changes affecting bus speeds, including geometric changes to intersections, protected-permissive left turns triggered by means of a setback vehicle detector loop, a statewide “don’t block the box” law (with low enforcement priority), and tolls on major bridges. One agency noted that service reductions resulting from the economic downturn have slowed buses because of increased crowding. Another agency reported that several communities within its service area are adding or are considering sharrows, which are used to indicate travel lanes shared by bicyclists and motorists (see Figure 3). The agency’s concern is that shared lanes will result in lower bus speeds. An agency in a large city noted many locations where the city has introduced pedestrian plazas and refuges, traffic calming measures, bike share stations, and bike lanes. In some cases this has slowed bus service, but such measures some- times are helpful to service because they make accessing bus stops easier and safer for customers. Two agencies measured the specific impact of other external policy changes in isola- tion from other changes. One agency (with tolls implemented on a major bridge and a bus bypass lane) reported a moder- FIGURE 3 Sharrow lane markings. TABLE 18 INTERNAL POLICY CHANGES Action No. Agencies Responding % Agencies Responding Pricing to encourage use of prepaid fare media 22 75.9 Off-board fare collection 8 27.6 All-door boarding 7 24.1 Changes in hold policies at transit centers 7 24.1 Free fares or introduction/discontinuation of fare-free zones 6 20.7 Changes in bus door practices 3 10.3 Other 3 10.3 Total responding agencies 29 100 Source: Survey results. Note: Multiple responses allowed; percentages do not add to 100%.

22 the second stop is for a passenger with disabilities. Another agency noted that bus operators open all doors routinely on BRT routes. No agency measured the specific impact of bus door policies. Other internal policy changes include offering electronic fare cards; allowing strollers and walkers to remain open on the bus; and banning the use of the radio to ask other buses to wait for transferring passengers. The agency offering electronic fare cards noted that these cards are popular with express bus riders and have reduced the dwell time at some park-and-ride lots. Electronic fare cards are used less on local routes, except among college students. Bus speeds have not increased on routes serving colleges, but electronic pass cards accommodate heavy loading without a need to add time to the schedule. One agency measured the specific impact of other internal policy changes, noting a small increase in bus speeds as a result of electronic fare card use on express buses. Internal policies can affect bus speeds. The magnitude of the effect appears to be greater with a combination of all- door boardings and off-board fare collection. There is less evidence of actual impacts for other internal policies. Other Actions Eleven agencies (19% of all responding) reported other actions to improve bus speeds. Several agencies took the opportunity to mention actions that will be implemented soon. Actions that have already been taken include the use of pedestrian bridges to separate pedestrians and buses at key locations; land use designs that limit off-street movements within developments; bus bulbs; boarding islands to remove transit from right-turn queues; redesign of roadways that allows transit to avoid traf- fic congestion wherever possible; proactive implementation of bus transit priority measures; techniques to monitor individual operators and address behavior issues affecting bus speed; and a downtown mobility study addressing transit, bicycles, and pedestrians. One agency measured the specific impact of other changes. This agency reported a minor increase in bus speeds as a result of roadway redesign. METRICS USED TO MEASURE THE OVERALL IMPACT OF CHANGES Many agencies indicated that individual changes were evalu- ated as part of a total package of improvements. Table 19 pre- sents the metrics used to measure the overall impacts. Metrics of greatest concern for this study (change in average bus speed and analysis of components of travel time) were cited by 35% and 33%, respectively, of respondents. The most common metrics reported were on-time performance and ridership. Table 19 confirms observations elsewhere in the survey that many actions were taken for reasons other than increasing bus Almost 30% of all agencies reporting internal policy changes allowed or required off-board fare collection. There was some overlap with prepaid fare media (generally purchased off board). Two agencies indicated off-board fare collection was required only on its BRT routes. One agency reported a demonstration project using a phone-based payment system that is being considered for full deployment on all routes. Only one agency measured the specific impact of off-board fare collection, noting that this action in conjunction with all-door boarding decreased running times by 9%. One-quarter of all agencies reporting internal policy changes allowed all-door boarding. Three of the seven agen- cies allow this only on BRT routes, one only on two very busy college routes, one only in downtown on pay-as-you-exit express routes, and one only on double-decker buses with a conductor on board. San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency is the only agency that allows all-door boardings on all routes (except cable cars), a policy that began in July 2012. Two agencies measured the specific impact of all-door boarding. As noted in the previous paragraph, one agency reported a decrease of 9% in running times from a combination of all-door boarding and off-board payment. The second agency, which allowed all-door boarding on its pay-as-you-exit express routes, reported a reduction in boarding time of 3 to 4 s per passenger. One-quarter of all agencies reporting internal policy changes described changes to hold policies at transit centers. Two agencies have a maximum hold time of 5 min and one other has a maximum of 10% of the headway. Hold times are allowed to exceed the maximum for the last trip of the day. One agency reported a change to a slightly longer hold time. Two others reported that supervisors can decide not to hold buses if only one bus is late or for long-distance buses in off-peak times. No agency measured the specific impact of changes to hold policies. More than one-fifth (21%) of all agencies reporting inter- nal policy changes introduced or eliminated free-fare zones or routes. Two agencies discontinued downtown free-fare zones. Two others eliminated zones or raised prices across all zones. One agency introduced a free-fare route. One agency allows free boardings within the downtown area on two routes that end in downtown. This agency indicated that ridership has increased, and as a result the routes are slower through downtown. No agency measured the specific impact of changing free-fare zones. Eleven percent of all agencies reporting internal policy changes noted a change in bus door policies. Two agencies restrict multiple door opening at stops; one has a policy that the operator cannot open stop and open the door again once the bus has pulled away from a stop even if a passenger is run- ning to the bus; the other instructs operators to avoid multiple stops at busy downtown stops where buses line up unless

23 by actions taken for other purposes, such as adding running time to improve on-time performance. An interesting “other” measure was variability in running time. Two agencies reported a decrease in variability. In one case, this decrease resulted from operation on an exclusive right-of-way for a BRT line. The other agency said that implementation of signal priority led to a decrease in travel time variability. Examples of quantitative or comparative results reported by respondents include: • Bus speeds on BRT routes are approximately 10% to 15% faster than on comparable regular service routes; • Improving traffic signals through TSP and signal tim- ing to aid the flow of transit vehicles had the greatest impact on bus speeds; speeds. “Other” metrics included person-minutes of delay (to determine the need for roadway improvements); travel times on specific route segments; change in travel time; other forms of passenger comments; discussions with bus operators; time and delay studies; and analysis of AVL data on specific routes. Forty (73%) of the 55 agencies described overall results (Table 19). It should be noted that many of the responses were qualitative in nature. Table 20 summarizes the reported results. Only six agencies (of 20 that reported impacts on bus speeds) experienced increases in bus speeds. Four others stated that the actions taken mitigated decreases in bus speeds as a result of other factors; one commented that changes enabled the agency to maintain the average speed on local bus routes through a period of major growth in ridership. This highlights the difficulty of achieving increases in bus speeds in the face of external factors that can slow speeds. A few agencies also noted that bus speeds were negatively affected TABLE 19 METRICS USED TO MEASURE OVERALL IMPACT OF ALL CHANGES IMPLEMENTED Metric No. Agencies Responding % Agencies Responding Schedule adherence 51 92.7 Ridership 29 52.7 Change in average bus speed 19 34.5 Analysis of components of travel speed (dwell time at stops, time stuck in traffic, etc.) 18 32.7 Operating cost 17 30.9 Qualitative measures from passenger surveys 14 25.5 Other 9 16.4 Total responding agencies 55 100 Source: Survey results. Note: Multiple responses allowed; percentages do not add to 100%. TABLE 20 OVERALL IMPACT OF ALL CHANGES IMPLEMENTED Element No. Agencies Responding % Agencies Responding Direction of Change No. Agencies Speed 20 50.0 Increase 6 Decrease 7 Decrease mitigated 4 No change 2 BRT increase 3 On-time performance 19 47.5 Increase 16 Decrease 1 No change 2 Ridership 7 17.5 Increase 6 No change 1 Other measures 11 27.5 Total agencies responding 40 100 Source: Survey results. Note: Multiple responses allowed; percentages do not add to 100%.

24 cies that answered this question indicated that certain actions were considered but never taken. Table 21 lists actions men- tioned by at least 15% of responding agencies and notes the primary reasons for not taking each action. It is possible to glean from Table 21 the primary reasons for not implementing desired actions: 1. Rider opposition—for actions that would require a lon- ger walk to a bus stop or otherwise affect convenience. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) concerns also apply to such actions. 2. Lack of cooperation from municipalities—for traffic engineering actions such as dedicated lanes and signal priority for buses. 3. Community opposition—from businesses for dedicated lanes and from homeowners for stop relocation. 4. Costs and funding—a general concern. The case examples presented in chapter five have been chosen in part to demonstrate how some agencies overcame these concerns. • HOV direct access ramps or freeway stations had the most notable impact on bus speeds and travel time; • Specific routes have seen a ridership increase of 65% over the past 5 years, and on-time performance on some routes has increased by 25%; • Overall scheduled speed for local routes decreased by less than 2% over the past 5 years, and local ridership increased by 17%; • Schedule adherence improved by 35%; • On-time performance improved to 86% in recent years; • On-time performance is now 94%; and • On-time performance on the primary route improved from one of the worst in the system (83%) to one of the best (92%). ACTIONS CONTEMPLATED BUT NOT IMPLEMENTED Transit agencies have a wide variety of options from which to choose. The survey asked about actions that were consid- ered but not implemented. More than half (56%) of the agen- TABLE 21 ACTIONS CONTEMPLATED BUT NOT IMPLEMENTED AND PRIMARY REASONS Action No. Agencies Responding % Agencies Responding Primary Reasons BRT service 13 44.8 Cost; plans for future rail; envisioned as wholly apart from current system Signal priority for buses 13 44.8 Community/city opposition; logistics of coordinating; funding Increased stop spacing 12 41.4 Customer convenience; no alternative service; ADA accessibility Bus-only lanes on arterial streets 11 39.3 Opposition from businesses in the corridor and others; under city control; plans for future rail Off-board fare collection 9 31.0 Enforcement/other costs; no reliable technology; transit center not designed for this Changes in stop location 8 27.6 Changed agency priorities; opposition from locals and property owners; lack of political will Limited-stop service 8 27.6 Cost; ADA accessibility Queue-jump lanes 8 27.6 Opposition by traffic engineers/others; under city control; limited opportunities All-door boarding 6 20.7 Enforcement cost; capital/maintenance cost Signal timing 6 20.7 Lack of willingness by city Level boarding at major stops 5 17.2 Cost; community opposition Changes to vehicle size/performance 5 17.2 Inability to store/maintain; cost; community opposition Streamlined route design 5 17.2 Customer opposition; backlash about added transfers; ADA concerns Other 23 79.3 Variety of actions/reasons Total agencies responding 29 100 Source: Survey results. Note: Multiple responses allowed; percentages do not add to 100%.

25 CONSTRAINTS The discussion of actions contemplated but not implemented is a good lead-in to a broader examination of constraints affecting the ability to take actions to improve bus speeds. Survey respondents described various elements in terms of the extent to which they were constraining factors. Table 22 summarizes the results. The inability to identify a funding source is the only element characterized as a major constraint by a majority of respondents. Lack of cooperation from out- side agencies, competing goals, and safety concerns were identified as major constraints by at least 30% of respon- dents. “Other” issues noted as major constraints include lack of support from municipal staff and the time it takes to make changes (often affected by staffing levels). Additional issues were ADA accessibility, neighborhood opposition regarding the removal of four-way traffic stop signs, safety concerns over operators driving too fast, business or property owner opposition to parking removal, bus-only lanes, high-volume bus stops, budget limitations, lack of vehicles (a result of budget limitations), lethargy, the inability to marshal inter- nal resources, difficulty in dealing with a larger bureaucracy (such as a state department of transportation with different priorities), and politics. One respondent noted that the goal of improved bus speeds is deemed laudable but is not accorded high priority. Respondents also answered an open-ended question to describe the major constraint affecting a given program. Examples of specific responses are shown here. Table 23 summarizes the responses. Time, we are doing what we can in the time that we have to do it. We could argue that we don’t have enough staff or money, but that would be a false claim. We are doing what we can with the resources that we have available to us and we have seen significant improvement in a number of areas. The thing that we cannot control is the number of vehicles that share the road with us, nor can we control the timing cycles at intersections Constraint No. Agencies Responding % Agencies Responding Funding 19 44.2 Competing priorities 14 32.6 Lack of support from external agencies 9 20.9 Customer opposition 8 18.6 Existing traffic/factors beyond our control 6 14.0 Community opposition 3 7.0 Staff time 3 7.0 Other 5 11.6 Total responding agencies 43 100 Source: Survey results. Note: Percentages do not add to 100.0% because of rounding. TABLE 23 MAJOR CONSTRAINTS FACING IMPLEMENTATION OF ACTIONS TO IMPROVE BUS SPEEDS Potential Constraint Major Constraint Minor Constraint Not a Constraint No. Agencies Responding Inability to identify a funding source 54% 24% 22% 54 Lack of cooperation from outside agencies 33% 41% 26% 54 Competing goals viewed as more important 32% 44% 24% 54 Safety concerns from operations department 32% 37% 32% 54 Passenger complaints 26% 48% 26% 54 Lack of support from upper management 19% 25% 57% 53 General reluctance to change 13% 42% 45% 53 Operator complaints 11% 51% 38% 53 Other 25% 75% 0% 12 Source: Survey results. Note: Percentages do not necessarily add to 100% across rows because of rounding. TABLE 22 RATINGS OF POTENTIAL CONSTRAINTS

26 (although our work with the State and the Counties related to our TSP program is bearing some fruit on those routes—we are seeing signal optimizations that are improving our speeds in a limited way). We still have not been able to overcome the on- street parking in some communities. Some stops were placed back due to passenger complaints. Operator complaints of running too fast and not enough layover. Operations holding buses too long at transit centers for transfers and not managing late buses coming in. Transfers taking priority over releasing buses. City not wanting to invest in signal priori- tization due to costs. No funding if fares eliminated. Wanting to reduce costs on demand response by offering free fixed route rides causing more ramp usage and slowing speeds. In issues previously described, speed was perceived as less important than customer convenience. Streamlining routes thru the CBD would have forced more transfers. In addition, efforts to give bus priority at traffic signals have continually been sty- mied in this community by the City Fire Department, which con- trols the signal system. Significant political pressure will have to be brought to bear to change that. Increasing traffic and ridership make it difficult to improve bus speed. Just holding speed constant is a major challenge. Coor- dinated transfer route design limits the ability to add a small amount of time to a route to improve on-time performance. There is a lack of understanding among some members of our staff as to the extent to which internal policies such as fare pricing and collection, stop spacing, and inefficient routes with unneces- sary turning movements impact bus travel speeds. Implementing other elements such as signal priority and dedicated lanes has proved difficult to get support for and coordinate with multiple local agencies. It has historically also been very difficult from a public relations standpoint to remove bus stops. SUMMARY A total of 59 agencies reported on approaches for improving transit bus speeds. The need for such actions is reflected in current trends. More than 75% of respondents reported that bus speeds have either across the board or in certain areas or for certain types of service. At least two-thirds of all responding agencies took actions in the areas of schedule and route adjustments. Bus stop location, design, and placement, internal and external policy changes, and vehicle-related actions were also fairly com- mon. Only one agency did not take any action intended to improve bus speeds. The survey results reinforce that there are many valid ways to tinker with speeds and get some improvement. The great- est benefit typically can come from working with city traffic engineers to find ways to expedite the flow of transit vehicles. The most common external policy action was to implement signal priority or queue jump lanes, followed by changes to sig- nal timing, bus-only lanes on arterial streets, and yield-to-bus laws. External policies can have a major effect on bus speeds. The magnitude of the effect depends on the specific policy and the location where it is applied; it also can be affected by other factors, such as enforcement. Schedule-related actions offer the potential to increase bus speed by reducing the need for the bus to hold at stops if it is ahead of schedule or by balancing service time and recovery time more appropriately. Improving bus speeds can be a collateral benefit of certain schedule-related actions, but the primary purpose of these actions is to improve schedule adherence and reliability. By far the most common action reported was to adjust running times, an action that usually decreases scheduled bus speed. Route adjustments offer the potential to increase bus speed by keeping the bus on a major corridor, thereby reducing the number of deviations and turns, or by introducing new ser- vices that stop less often. The most common action was to streamline routes. On average, respondents reported stream- lining approximately 19% of their routes, with a median per- centage of 15%. Limited-stop and BRT services were also common actions, and these services clearly improve bus speeds. Streamlining bus routes can also improve bus speeds to a lesser extent. Stop-related actions offer the potential to increase bus speed by reducing the number of stops, making it easier to get into and out of bus stops, or by reducing dwell time at stops. The most common action was to increase bus stop spacing, followed by changing the location of stops. There are not enough reported evaluations to assess the effect of all bus stop changes on bus speeds. Stop spacing is the most successful stop-related strategy to increase bus speeds. Vehicle-related actions offer the potential to increase bus speed, reducing dwell time at stops or improving acceleration. The most common action was to introduce or increase the use of low-floor buses with ramps instead of lifts, followed by use of different-size vehicles, and introduction of vehicles with better performance. There are not enough reported eval- uations to assess the effect of vehicle-related changes on bus speeds. Internal policy changes are under the control of the tran- sit agency. These actions offer the potential to increase bus speed by reducing dwell time through faster boardings or other means or by changing hold policies at transit centers. The most common action was pricing to encourage use of prepaid fare media. Some agencies also reported experience with all-door boarding and off-board fare collection. The magnitude of the effect of these policies appears to be great- est with a combination of all-door boarding and off-board fare collection. There is less evidence of actual effects for other internal policies. Many agencies indicated that individual changes were evaluated as part of a total package of improvements. Among metrics reported to measure the overall effects, those of great- est concern for this study (change in average bus speed and analysis of components of travel time) were cited by 35%

27 and 33%, respectively, of respondents. The most common metrics reported were on-time performance and ridership. Many actions were taken for reasons other than increasing bus speeds. Only six agencies (of the 20 that reported changes in bus speeds) experienced increases in bus speeds. Four others stated that the actions taken mitigated decreases in bus speeds owing to other factors; one commented that changes enabled the agency to maintain the average speed on local bus routes through a period of major growth in ridership. This high- lights the difficulty of achieving increases in bus speeds in the face of external factors that can slow speeds. A few agen- cies also noted that bus speeds were negatively affected by actions taken for other purposes, such as adding running time to improve on-time performance. The survey asked about actions that were considered but not implemented. More than half of respondents indicated that certain actions were considered but never taken. The primary reasons for not taking actions included costs and funding, customer or community opposition, and lack of cooperation from external agencies. Broader survey findings suggest that many successful actions rely on building relationships with external agencies, particularly city traffic engineers. Respondents also described various constraining factors and the extent to which they affected the ability to take action. Inability to identify a funding source is the only element char- acterized as a major constraint by a majority of respondents. Lack of cooperation from outside agencies, competing prior- ities, and safety concerns were identified as major constraints by at least 30% of respondents.

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 Commonsense Approaches for Improving Transit Bus Speeds
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TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Synthesis 110: Commonsense Approaches for Improving Transit Bus Speeds explores approaches transit agencies have taken to realize gains in average bus speeds.

The report also identifies metrics pertaining to measures such as changes in travel speed and its components, operating cost, and ridership. It shows the results of each or a combination of approaches implemented.

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