Every Independence Day, regional transit agencies run Sunday schedules to accommodate diminished ridership demand while still maintaining modest levels of service for people going out and about. While operating a full weekday schedule wouldn’t have made any sense on the Fourth, there were still multiple large events wrapping up Monday evening, generating peak demand that even weekday schedules would struggle to accommodate. Many revelers were left to wait lengthy periods of time for the next bus to show up.
Similarly, MTA in Los Angeles runs Sunday schedules on the Fourth, and one disgruntled rider there accurately summed things up as such:
I understand why there is less frequent service on Holidays, but what is never pointed out is that a good number of bus routes end earlier on Sundays. Holidays should have extended running hours. Some routes end at 7 on Sunday. The Sun will just be setting! Metro needs to re-look at how they handle holidays so people are encouraged to go out into the city (which will have fireworks) rather than stay home because the nearby bus ends before the sun even retires for the evening.
Because most of the ‘peak’ activity on the Fourth occurs in the late evening, the reduction in demand isn’t proportionally uniform across the span of the day, like it might be for a normal Sunday. While absolute ridership totals on the Fourth of July may rival that of a typical Sunday, the distribution of demand is strongly skewed, with much heavier loads in the late evening. What we’re usually left with is the peak demand occurring just as service levels are tailing off.
A great example of well-crafted Independence Day service plan is what Boston does. Not unlike how things are done here and in LA, MBTA operates a Sunday schedule for the most of the day. The difference, however, is in the evening when MBTA not only runs later and enhanced service on all modes when demand is greatest, but offers free rides after 10:30p. Eliminating fare payment greatly speeds up crowds getting on buses and trains.
I’m not suggesting that transit agencies here go fare-free on Independence Day, but I would like to see more in the way of a special service plan, especially for routes that serve high-trafficked areas in the evening. With high concentrations of people in certain places at once, transit holds a competitive advantage in this arena– a compelling reason to make riding more convenient on the Fourth, and not the time-wasting burden that it often is.