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What had been pushed to the community as a major service expansion appears to me to be a significant service cut.

The current system:

The proposed system:

What the consultants were working off of (the BFT Board Visioning Retreat)

From my perspective, the main issues with the Ben Franklin Transit Comprehensive Service Plan proposal as a service restructure are thus:

1. It appears to have been developed by individuals who did not actually ride the system in service. The plan is in effect unimplementable.

2. The system shifts from a neighborhood focus to a regional focus, something that may seem workable to someone who isn’t transit-dependent, but in how the Tri-Cities is laid out will not work as proposed. It is applied in a manner which will in my educated opinion result in a ridership death spiral. It will result in dramatically increased service costs as recovery time will be far too elastic to schedule to a pulse. There is needless duplication. Nobody will trade a one-seat ride for inaccessibility to regional cultural attractions such as Columbia Park and The Reach. There is no night service to Columbia Center or Queensgate.

3. 15 minute corridors have multiple route numbers assigned to them. This makes it less apparent that there’s frequent service in that corridor. Take the SR240 causeway between I-82 and Columbia Park Trail as an example. Rather than using a single route number for this route, the consultants propose extending a local route in Richland (the 26) to augment the 120. This won’t end well as rush hour traffic would hopelessly ensnare the 26 and significantly deteriorate service. This also confuses the existing ridership and does not give the perception of frequent service to a visitor. Further, in Kennewick on Clearwater Avenue, there is another 15 minute corridor except in this case it is only 15 minutes Monday through Friday. Saturday Service will be split between two routes each running on 60 minute intervals. In other words the 150 will run every 30 minutes Monday through Friday, though only every 60 minutes on Saturdays. The 160 would be operated the same way. The existing ridership would understand this to be a significant service cut.

4. This may just be an innocent oversight, however the plan mentions 7 day service on the summary page, though only discusses Monday-Saturday service on the route proposals.

5. Nothing beyond a cryptic answer of “Taxi Feeder” is given for how service will be provided to those areas which lose service. This is a very costly solution which may not be workable or safe. The existing contractor is deficient in their provision of service, to which BFT is not responsive to substantially deal with.

8 Replies to “When Planners come up with plans like this…”

  1. Looks like they choose to reduce frequency on some routes to have service later in the day.

    I don’t know the system there very well, but I remember looking at the service maps and seeing a lot of parallel routes when a couple blocks of each other. Some of these duplicative routes should have been dropped to make the 120 a 15-minute frequency line.

    1. Lord have mercy on the person who designed Route 47. Or maybe it should be given to the drivers.

    2. Donde,

      Talk to me after you’ve sat in 115 degree weather for 45 minutes waiting for your bus. The fleet is geared towards neighborhood service. We have 3 Gillig “Trolley” (wood kit applied to bus) buses being delivered this fall. There will be nowhere to place them, as all of the routes will be too long for them.

      As a side, there was no need to cut service to provide it somewhere. The transit district has a roughly 18 month operating reserve. They consistently bring in 20-25% more revenue than they spend each month.

      There is currently shared-ride service provided after 630pm Monday-Saturday until 2am, and on Sundays during the daytime.

  2. So… not knowing the area or the system myself I tried to go through the document and make sense of what was changing and couldn’t figure it out. What’s the major thrust of the changes, and where have they gone wrong?

    1. When the recession hit the Tri-Cities in 2009, the district had to make sudden, significant service cuts.

      Since then, their revenue has rebounded (and then some) and the system is now eligible for formula funds.

      People have been screaming for better night-time service and it finally hit the consultants. They threw in a bit of social engineering into the mix to make it sound more environmentally conscious. (?) make up some silly idea of a 6 block walkshed without realizing how poor the transit infrastructure is.

  3. About 5 years ago, I spent an afternoon riding on the Tri Cities transit system. It seemed that the buses basically rolled from transit center to transit center. Most of the time seemed to be spent waiting at the TCs. Ridership seemed to be adequate but none of the buses were packed. I eventually took a bus to near the airport for my flight back to Seattle (which was cancelled due to mechanical reasons and replaced with a 3 hour bus ride–yuck).

    The new plan doesn’t seem to offer many 15 minute service routes. Even Bellingham has quite a few 15 minute routes. Wandering bus routes usually point to land use patterns that don’t focus on building concentrated, walkable neighborhoods. Without supportive land use patterns the transit system has to go “fishing” for passengers with wandering, infrequent and unproductive bus routes. How much coordination exists between the transit planners and the land use planners? I imagine having to deal with 3 different cities and 2 different counties makes transit planning difficult.

    1. There was no coordination or even planning beyond generic zoning. The answer to everything is build build build. I don’t know what their end run is.

      Then of course all of the new LDS families are buying homes in these tinderbox subdivisions, because Salt Lake is full. A lot of returning military were drawn here because conservative bible thumpers, and cheap housing (200k here buys you a McMansion).

      I would have moved back to Seattle but for a lack of one bedroom accessible apartments.

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