Bruce’s excellent post boils down the importance of frequency. If there’s currently a long time between vehicles, cutting this time in half can shorten travel times even more than speeding up trips. However, it’s important to consider how a city or county can go about increasing frequency.
Option 1: Provide more transit. In theory this is easy. Double the number of vehicles and drivers, and you cut wait times in half. Of course in the real world we often live with fixed budgets, and adding buses and drivers simply isn’t an option.
Option 2: Condense service into corridors. Instead of adding service, we can remove some routes and move buses to others. This results with a set of frequent buses, but a further walk for some riders.
Option 3: Speed up service. Although Bruce’s post contrasted speed with frequency, one can actually benefit the other. If a single vehicle and driver can run a route twice in the time it used to take them to run it once, then you’ve doubled not only speed, but also frequency and vehicle capacity as a bonus.
As Seattle builds up a streetcar network, let’s not forget Option 3. Giving streetcars their own right-of-way, giving them signal priority, and designing the street for quick boardings can speed them up tremendously. And with this speed comes higher frequency at the same operating cost.