Bellingham Cruise Terminal (wikimedia)

A few factoids that didn’t get to me in time for Monday’s Whatcom Transit piece, courtesy of WTA spokesperson Maureen McCarthy:

  • 50% of WTA’s overall ridership is on these GO Lines.
  • “The cost for banners, shelters, shelter graphics and stop signs was approximately $250,000.  There was also a budget for advertising and promotion, but the major costs of implementation were increased service hours and the $250K above.”
  • A survey shows that 37% of riders on GO lines are choice riders, who say they would otherwise drive alone.

13 Replies to “Followup on Whatcom Transit”

  1. Doesn’t this suggest that you can achieve with premium bus service much of what you can achieve with light rail at a tiny fraction of the cost of light rail?

    1. No. Frequent bus service is great at lower densities where overall ridership numbers are below a certain point. At urban densities you need rail, preferably with grade separation, to handle frequent, fast, and high-volume transit service.

      In a metro region such as the Puget Sound area, there’s no need to choose one or the other. Both services are useful for different applications, particularly if they are well-integrated.

    2. Not at all. It shows that integrated route/system planning in combination with branding that shows off the service and makes it easy to understand can increase ridership on ANY mode of transit. These techniques are essentially a given with rail and a good portion of BRT projects but are not commonly applied to local routes.

      And this is off topic btw. You make everything about rail vs. bus and I find this refrain very tiresome.

      1. Both Cascadian’s and Adam’s comments are valid; there is much evidence here in the UK that strong route branding coupled with quality and frequency achieves significant passenger growth on bus networks. For 10 years I headed a transit planning team here, and in my home town (similar in size to Bellingham) we achieved >50% traffic growth in 5 years of sustained network development. Even with limited resources, it is possible to create a strong network identity for conventional bus services…. not dissimilar to BRT or LRT, but at a fraction of the capital outlay.

        It’s a pity Bellingham’s network branding was not extended to include bus branding; even with a relatively small transit fleet and frequent bus movements between routes, it should be possible to brand at least 50% of the bus fleet for use on a single route, then apply a generic network brand to those vehicles that will switch between routes. The network brand has to be strong …. we chose Rainbow Routes …. and then colour branded individual routes – with about 70% of buses colour branded.

        The arguments for rail over bus only become realistic in high density conurbations with a population approaching 1 million; much the same result can be delivered in smaller cities with BRT – providing the highway space is there.

      2. In the US, we can’t maintain the cash flow for transit agencies necessary to brand bus service, because it’s used by such a small percentage of the population. You only see it experimentally, or in very established systems during times of growth (like RapidRide).

      3. The best example I can think of off the top of my head of branded bus service is LACMTA with Metro Liner (transitway BRT), Metro Rapid (arterial BRT), Metro Express (freeway express service), and Metro Local (everything else). Though to be fair I suspect many routes in LA have more busses assigned to them at any given time than the average bus system has in its entire fleet.

      4. Oran,
        Waterfront Streetcar Lie – that’s good.

        I saw the waterfront streetcar up at Northgate the other night.

  2. Ben, expand on what you’re saying.

    A route is a route – if a certain number of buses are assigned to it why can’t they branded? Sure, sometimes one might have to be pulled for service, but what you’re saying isn’t obvious.

    1. Not Ben but I think the fleet needs to be flexible. Sure, you could brand all the 60′ buses but with what, exactly? A lot of those are used for peak-only trips. If you brand them with that, it would look odd to have them running regular routes in off-peak times. The converse would be true. Also, a lot of routes are through-routed. I think Metro misses an opportunity by not making these clearer (e.g. advertising that Green Lake to the Airport is a one bus ride) but because they don’t, having a route 26 branded as an Airport bus wouldn’t make much sense.

      1. Right, sorry. Point is the same, though.

        I guess one way around it would to brand routes that go through town as their own so people would know that the bus they are on is going to continue past Downtown.

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