We’ve talked before about the importance of speeding up buses. Just briefly speeding up buses:
- Makes buses more time competitive with other modes and with the right infrastructure can make them faster than other modes. That means they’re more attractive to potential users and therefore generate more patronage.
- Makes buses more efficient as they can complete their routes faster. That in turn can mean they potentially run more services for the same operational cost or alternatively run the same level of service but less cost. Either way we get a better result for the money we invest in PT.
When it comes to the actual task of speeding up buses there are a couple of key ways we can do that. The one we talk the most about is the introduction of bus infrastructure either bus lanes or dedicated busways but that isn’t the only way. Buses can also be sped up by reducing how long they spend at bus stops. Dwell times for individual stops might seem small but when combined can end up being a very significant portion of any bus journey and so improving them can have a lot of positive outcomes.
Thankfully we’ve already made some improvements to dwell times which has primarily come through the introduction of HOP – although more work is needed to get the percentage of people using it up. With HOP I’ve easily seen 5 or more board a bus in the same amount of time it takes for a a single person to buy a paper ticket and an entire bus can be fully loaded 1-2 minutes if no one is paying with cash. However dwell times could still be sped up further and there are a couple of key ways we could do that. They are
Ensuring buses have larger doors on both the front and the back – In a bid presumably to squeeze more seats in buses we’ve also seen bus doors shrink. On many buses such as the stupidly small ADL buses NZ Bus use an entire line of people paying by HOP can be held up by a single person paying by cash because depending on where they stand it can be difficult to get past them. The same issue can occur at the back door where only one person at a time can tag off and disembark. Both of these issues are noticeably reduced on buses with double doors and multiple HOP card readers such as on many of the Northern Express buses.
Another way to improve boarding times would be to allow people to do so from the rear doors, potentially halving dwell times. Currently this only occurs on some Northern Express services – such as those leaving town in the afternoon – and only because Ritchies pay for someone to stand at the back door watching people tag on.
All door boarding is something that Muni in San Francisco allowed in 2012 and as CityLab reports, it’s been a huge success.
Well, the “final” results of San Francisco’s all-door program are in, and they’re spectacular. All-door boarding reduced the average dwell time from nearly 4 seconds to 2.5 seconds among all Muni buses—a dip of 38 percent. More than half of all passengers used the rear door to enter, and time-consuming fare payments at the front door declined 4 percent. As a result, overall bus speeds improved.
Here’s the crux of the dwell finding, in one chart:
Of course fare evasion is always likely to be a concern with such a scheme however interestingly on Muni as a percentage it actually improved from all door boarding.
Most impressive, though, was that fare evasion didn’t increase. Muni added a rear-door smartcard reader and hired 13 new fare inspectors to spot-check rider proof-of-purchase. Pre-implementation studies had found fare evasion as high as 9.5 percent; after all-door boarding was implement, evasion was at 8 percent. As mobile fare technology improves, especially through contactless smartphone payments, boarding through any door should become even easier.
I don’t think fare evasion would be as high on our buses however this certainly shows all door boarding isn’t necessarily going to make things worse.
Overall it seems like something Auckland Transport should definitely be considering.
You can see the full Muni Report here.