by MATT LOAR
Earlier this month Metro released their 2013 Service Guidelines Report [PDF]. This report, which replaced the Route Performance Report in 2011, was released in the spring in 2011 and 2012, but Metro has decided to release it in the fall from now on to better align with the King County Budget process. STB covered the last report back in April. Notably, this is the first report since the launch of RapidRide C & D and the large restructure that went with it.
Some highlights after the jump.
While we’re currently discussing severe cutbacks to service, Metro reports an even larger number of hours would be required to address overcrowding and unreliability than last year. Plus, due to a change in the methodology used to set target service levels, the number of hours required to meet those targets has also increased. All told, it would require an increase of 510,700 hours to hit the quality and frequency targets. In contrast, the cutbacks would reduce service by more than 600,000 hours.
The change to the methodology for target service levels was twofold: first, three relative thresholds for the number of households and jobs served were replaced by five fixed thresholds, and second, college and university enrollment are now counted as jobs. As a result, the number of corridors targeted for “very frequent” service has increased by 16 to 53, while the number of Frequent, Local and Hourly corridors has declined by 17 (this reflects the elimination of corridor 113, which was old Route 23).
Mostly as part of the RapidRide C & D restructure, Metro reduced the number of peak-only routes from 92 to 83. Peak routes are measured by two criteria: whether they carry at least 90% as many riders per trip as alternative service, and whether they are at least 20% faster than alternative service. Of these 83 routes, only 30 meet both criteria. 21 meet neither.
As before, Metro uses two measures of performance: Rides/Platform Hour, a cost-effectiveness measure, and Passenger Miles/Platform Mile, a measure of average load. They are measured during three service periods: Peak, Off-Peak, and Night.
Overall average performance increased slightly, except for routes that serve the Seattle core in the Off-Peak period. Considering this represents the launch of RapidRide C & D as well as routes like the 40 with frequent off-peak service, a dip here is understandable.
RapidRide C scores in the top 25% on Passenger Miles/Platform Mile during all three periods, but never cracks the top 25% on Rides/Platform Hour. Meanwhile, I noticed something interesting about NW Seattle peak service: RapidRide D is in the top 25% in both metrics in all time periods except Passenger Miles/Platform Mile in the Peak period. Meanwhile, the 15EX, 17EX, and 18EX score in the top 25% in both metrics. There was a suggestion the other day that replacing Metro’s asinine peak-only zone system with a peak route surcharge could cost Metro money by requiring extra peak buses on RapidRide. Based on these numbers I’m not concerned – D coaches are currently more crowded off-peak than on-peak, and I believe for the right price commuters are willing to pay extra for the significantly faster trip.
Systemwide reliability increased slightly in 2013, increasing by two percentage points to a still-mediocre 78.6%.
Reading this report it is mind-boggling how far Metro has come in just a couple of years. It has gone from an agency committed to infrequent one-seat-rides to everywhere to one that is marching inexorably toward a network of frequent service corridors. It has become an organization where service planning is based less on politics and preserving the status quo and more on a logical, data-driven approach to putting buses where they will be most useful.
Seattle just recently became one of only five American cities where most people don’t drive alone to work. It’s quite sad that instead of building on this success we’re poised to take a giant step backward.