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Excerpts from

Feeder Bus for Downtown People Mover

by Fazil Najafi and Emil Nassar

Report No. UTC. UF. 268.6

Prepared for the United States Department of Transportation , June 1990

3-2-1 Baltimore Feeder Bus Study:

The region had a smaller population, lower population density, higher family income, and less pre-existing bus service than the Section A study area.

The study planning process for the new feeder network was conducted in eight steps. They are:

  1. Develop work program (objectives, evaluation criteria)
  2. Develop market profile (survey, census, not UTPS)
  3. Demand and const models (scoring system, not Cleveland)
  4. Develop alternative plans (service area, frequency)
  5. Investigate special issues (smaller bus, contracting)
  6. Public involvement (five community meetings)
  7. Evaluate alternatives (compliance with objectives)
  8. Develop an implementation plan (using RUCUS)

The MTA study was a success. The planned feeder bus system had a cost recovery ratio greater than 50 percent. Two conclusions of the feeder bus study were particularly significant. First, MTA found that a work program can not substitute for sound professional judgement. And second, it was decided not to rely on sophisticated computer modeling programs such as UTPS or the Cleveland Demand Model, but to use instead a simpler demand model, a spread sheet program, and a scoring technique. [They also found the community involvement process proved successful.]

3-2-2 Archer Avenue in New York:

The Archer Avenue Rapid Transit line in New York was opened in December 1988. Daniel Boyle, employed by NYCTA, presented in 1990 a TRB paper at the 69th annual meeting dealing with restructuring the bus routes near rail stations. A survey was conducted to determine the transfer rates and other parameters. Survey results emphasized the importance of a quick and direct access to the subway. This confirmed the conclusion of previous studies which indicated that the vast majority of riders transfer from bus to rapid transit at the first available opportunity. The final bus restructuring plan contained the following elements:

Reorganizing the bus network increased the ridership on most of the routes connected to the rail stations. A major marketing effort and the cooperation of various departments helped in the success of the project.

3-2-4 Morgantown West Virginia:

A final report entitled "Integration of AGT Systems with Other Transportation Modes" was prepared in 1981 at the Transportation Center in West Virginia University by W. Iskander and N. Hage. The research investigated the integration of the Morgantown Personal Rapid Transit with the bus and auto modes.

A computer model was developed in FORTRAN. The model simulates the operation of the PRT, the bus system, an individual cars. it uses an algorithm (total weighted travel time) for modes assignment. The model was validated and then used to evaluate a number of bus service alternatives. According to the simulation results, the proposed system that performed best recommended changing the existing three bus routes into five shorter routes, operating at higher frequency, and covering larger areas instead of duplicating the PRT alignment.

3-2-6 AMTRAK Feeders in California:

A paper entitled "California's feeder Bus System for AMTRAK Trains" was presented at the TRB annual meeting in 1988 by Donald Dean. AMTRAK operates six feeder bus routes between San Joaquin Valley and Sacramento. All buses have been painted in a uniform manner, making them easily recognizable as part of an integrated system. They are scheduled to meet AMTRAK train arrivals 15 to 20 minutes ahead of time. Feeder buses have contributed significantly to the growth of AMTRAK ridership. By 1987, nearly half of the San Joakin train passengers (146,000) were using the feeder buses to access the rail stations. The paper also describes an arrangement between AMTRAK and the local bus company (CALTRANS). The agreement allowed AMTRAK feeder buses to provide an additional local service for residents who would like to board them for strictly local trips. The coordination was a success. It helped in reducing the needless duplications of service, and provided a better allocation of the bus transportation resource.

3-3-2 Lille, France:

The city of Lille started revenue service on its 6 miles of Downtown People Mover in 1983. The following year it completed the 8 miles of track of the first line. Five years later it opened for service a second line, 12 miles long. Metropolitan Lille has more than a million inhabitants. the reorganization of the bus network was implemented the same day the first line started operation. The main characteristics of the bus service restructuring plan are:

  1. To benefit from the higher speed of the DPM system, all suburban bus lines duplicating the people mover alignment were rerouted to the nearest station. Serious considerations were given to cut bus lines that cross the town into two segments, with both sections connecting DPM stations. Local bus routes were intercepted if the combined new travel time (including perceived waiting time) is lower than the original trip time.

  2. All public transportation systems were consolidated and coordinated by one agency. Every vehicle was refurbished, painted and marked with the agency new logo.

  3. A common fare structure was adopted, using automatic machine whenever possible. Schedules were also coordinated.

  4. Multimodal facilities were constructed. Special parking spots for buses were provided near DPM stations. Radio communications systems were installed in buses and DPM vehicles to help coordinate transfer activities.

  5. All bus lines were renumbered with the decimal number referring to the specific DPM station they serve.

3-3-3 Nantes, France:

Nantes is a city of about 300,000 inhabitants. in April 1985, the bus network in Nantes was restructured around the stations of a new LRT (tramway) system. The new LRT service was very successful. It increased the city's public transit ridership by 25 percent. More than a third for the new trips were previously made by cars. In 1986, the revenue from the LRT system exceeded by 20 percent its operating cost. Although the bus lines were strictly intercepted, they did not suffer loss of ridership because they increased their service area and improved their level of service. The main guidelines applied in restructuring the bus network are:

  1. Restructuring at constant mileage: One of the constraints was that the total mileage of the public transit network should remain the same. However, higher average speed allowed higher frequency of operation and offered a seat- mileage capacity seven percent larger.

  2. Prevent at all cost duplications of service.

  3. Intercept suburban, radial and cross routes whenever possible.

  4. Extension of local routes to the nearest LRT station. After restructuring, 35 of the 48 routes had at least one connection with the LRT network.

  5. Undertake an aggressive marketing campaign, which included games, competitions, guided visits, public meeting, schedule mailing, and promotional activities.

3-3-4 Grenoble, France:

Grenoble is a city for 400,000 inhabitants. In the past, planners had conducted policies favoring mass transportation systems. Between 1975 and 1985, the modal choice rate in favor of transit was doubled. In 1987, the city decided to restructure its bus system to fully integrate the tramway, the trolley-bus and the bus systems. Effectiveness was the major consideration of the project. All duplications of service were eliminated. most bus lines were rerouted, extended, or split. Bus transit circulation in the downtown area was severely curtailed.

In the restructured network, tramways served the main axes, trolley-bus operated on the arterials, and the bus system served as local feeders for tramways and trolleys. With the same resources, the integrated system provided 13 percent more seat miles capacity than the old network.

3-3-5 Besancon, France:

Besancon is a relatively small city of less than 200,000 inhabitants. However, it is a town with a rich history and a proud artistic culture. Most streets in downtown Besancon are narrow, generations old, and offering no possibility of additional lanes. Faced with growing population, the city had to resolve major mobility problems in its CBD. The city operated a bus service that added to the congestion difficulties.

The creative way Besancon decided to solve its mobility problems can shed a light on future trends in transportation policies. After a public referendum, Besancon decided to divide the CBD into regions, and to prohibit passenger cars from crossing from one region to another. This decision banned passenger cars from transiting through the downtown area, and eliminated the possibility of using private cars for internal circulation purposes. Only buses could provide mobility through the CBD. The city had to invest in upgrading its bus fleet. However, it also reserved numerous historical streets for exclusive pedestrian and bicycle use. Few residents complained about the inconvenience. The majority enjoyed the improved quality of life and the new birth of their town. The daily scenes of gridlocked traffic jams and frustrated commuters were suddenly replaced with pretty scenery of attractive streets vibrant with human vitality. Besancon has rediscovered its 'joie de vivre', and preserved its precious historic heritage.

Besancon is not alone, the cities of Breme in Germany and Goteborg in Sweden have chosen a similar path.

In addition to national policies, cities all over Europe are implementing a combination of traffic restraint and transit promotion measures. Section 3-3-5 described the through traffic restriction schemes introduced in the cities of Besancon, Breme and Goteborg. Since then, Milan has restricted the access to the central area to automobiles with a pass. Stockholm too, has restricted access to the downtown area to holders of passes that also serve as transit passes. in Bergen and Oslo cars entering the center have to pay a fee. Hanover and several Dutch cities have implemented a traffic light priority for transit. Grenoble and Paris have dedicated lanes and streets exclusively to trams, bus and pedestrians; have eliminated parking spaces on toad sides; and have established bus priority access at specific intersections. Furthermore, downtown parking fees in most European cities are kept artificially high as an effective disincentive measure.

In addition, the new commuter rail service between Palm Beach and Miami runs with dismal ridership, while the competing highway systems are subject to severe daily gridlock during peak hours. A study estimated theat the interstate in the rapidly expanding South Florida should be 24-lanes wide for an all-highway solution.

Modal integration increases the service area and improves the quality of service. In theory this should lower transit cost per passenger because the most cost-effective mode will be employed in each segment of the network. In practice however, the cost per seat-mile is reduced but the cost per passenger-mile is often increased because the incremental rate of passengers is lower than the incremental rate for additional seats offered. In other words, to achieve a successful modal integration the ridership should increase by a percentage higher than the expansion of the system's nominal capacity. The dilemma is that while choice-riders want an improved transit service before considering transit commuting, an improved system can only be cost-effective if it attracts new riders. Otherwise, the service will have to be cut and the situation is back to square one. That is why support policies combining traffic restraint and transit promotion measures have to be instituted simultaneously with modal integration schemes and restructuring plans.


Conclusions and Recommendations

The provision of feeder buses to DPM can be viewed as the process for restructuring the existing bus network with the purpose of achieving a more efficient and a better integrated multimodal transit system.

Restructuring the bus system to serve a rail line is unusually based on savings in travel time and on effective utilization of rail's high capacity. Rail systems are typically employed for line haul services. Saving in travel time is possible as a result of rail systems' high speed over a long distance. However, most DPMs are systems of short track lengths, often configured in a loop shape. For such systems, restructuring the bus network around DPM stations can not be based on savings in travel time because the average trip on DPM systems is too short to offset transfer delays. Therefore, the reorganization of the bus system and the provision of new feeder buses depend on distinct criteria. The three main determinant factors of the bus restructuring process to serve a DPM are the following:

  1. Downtown mobility
  2. Modal integration policy
  3. Modal-splits objective

DPMs main function is to improve the mobility within the CBD through the provision of an efficient trip circulator and distributor system. Mobility within the CBD can be enhanced by reducing traffic volumes at peak hours. buses add disproportionately to traffic problems. They can be eliminated from the CBD by rerouting them to the nearest DPM station. Automobile traffic in the downtown area can be reduced by restricting access to the CBD, limiting parking spaces, or by implementing other traffic restrictions schemes. Whatever the CBD mobility needs are, the downtown traffic condition is the primary determinant factor affecting the planning of feeder routes, the restructuring process, and the degree of forced-interception of bus lines entering the CBD.

The second important criteria of the restructuring process is the level of modal integration favored by the community. In a highly integrated multimodal system, duplications of service are reduced to a minimum. This implies that most bus routes should be intercepted, split into two segments, or extended to the nearest DPM station. Furthermore, in order to improve the efficiency of the system, the most cost-effective mode should be employed in each segment of the network.

The service area outside the CBD can be roughly divided into three zones represented by three concentric circles around the CBD. The CBD is most efficiently served by the DPM system. The outer zone is best served by express-type bus services such as park and ride. Express services use the main arteries to quickly access DPM stations.

Regular or local type bus services are most suited to serve the middle zone, which is the largest zone. Most local routes serving the middle zone should be intercepted by the DPM stations, where their terminals should be located.

The inner zone surrounding the CBD can best be served by a new type of service -- a special feeder bus network. The inner one has relatively high population density. Most of its residents generally commute to work in the CBD. Traffic conditions at rush hours are usually near capacity. Maneuvering is restrained. In similar areas, a special feeder bus system can most efficiently meet the region's mobility needs, and can effectively link this zone to the CBD.

Special feeder services can be perceived as small to medium size buses operating at low headways on short routes, preferably configured in a loop shape. Feeder buses offer a high-quality service intended t be attractive to riders from all social backgrounds. The exterior look and colors of the buses, the logo and the quality of service (eg, operational, courtesy of drivers, cleanness) should be modeled along DPMs high-quality service so that riders will associate the feeder service with the DPM instead of with the local buses, and regard them as an integral extension to the DPM alignment (extension legs). Thereby, feeder buses will minimize the negative connotation usually associated with bus systems, and will improve their attractiveness to potential riders who previously relied on their cars.

This type of service is most effective in serving dense residential areas located near the CBD, as well as corridors identified as a natural extension to the DPM alignment. The feeder service is also appropriate to provide a fast and direct connection to the CBD to major centers located outside the downtown area (eg, university, airport, shopping center, hospital, and so on).

While it is preferable to restructure the existing bus network all at once, the implementation of the special feeder bus routes is inherently more flexible because they are an add-on new service. Special feeder bus lines should be gradually implemented on a priority basis. Only the highest priority routes should be implemented first. After monitoring and performing operational adjustments, the least cost-effective routes should be eliminated from the network. The process should be repeated for lesser priority routes until special feeder buses are employed on all cost-effective segments of the inner zone.

Because special feeder services use small size vehicles, feeder buses are more maneuverable and better adapted to operate on high traffic local routes. They quickly and efficiently connect the dense residential areas near the CBD, and can quickly access DPM stations by using the main arterials in the inner zone. Thereby, the implementation of special feeder routes will allow local buses to operate at a higher speed and service frequency, to reduce the number of service stops, and to avoid circulating on high-traffic local streets of the inner zone.

The third criteria affecting the bus restructuring process is the city's policy regarding the role of mass transportation. If the city's objective is to improve transit's modal-split, specific policies need to be implemented. It is the belief of the future will expand beyond the narrow limits of transportation efficiency. Factors such as urban quality of life, environmental issues and conservation of non-renewable resources will gain prominence and will significantly impact future transportation choices. Past studies have showed that traffic restraint schemes are substantially more effective in inducing a shift in the modal-split as compared to transit promotion measures. Because restructuring bus routes to serve a DPM system depends more on policies than on technical analysis, a good portion of this report deals with policy issues. The report also includes a brief review of transit promotion and traffic restraint measures implemented in several European cities.

During the 80s, Mikhail Gorbachev introduced tow words to everyday discussions: Perestroika and Glasnost. It is believed that the "mot-du-jour" in the 90s will be auto-free zones or "devehicularization." As an example, a recent but active organization, the Auto-Free New York Committee (AFNY), chaired by George Haikalis, a distinguished transportation engineer, has proposed a comprehensive four-year transportation plan to the mayor of New York City. The plan proposes to reduce auto travel by 5 percent, improve transit services, substantially increase the gasoline tax, eliminate 'privileged' on-street parking, enacting city-wide moratorium on construction of new parking garages, improve transit security, provide bicycle lanes and safe bicycle parking, upgrade and expand feeder bus services, and introduce a network of auto-free streets by closing major business street segments to traffic in selected areas and converting them into attractive pedestrian streets.

The plan proposed by AFNY serves as a good illustration and a summary of the recommendations of this report. The report's main conclusion is that providing feeder buses to a DPM system can not by itself lead to a more efficient transit system. Modal integration increases the seat-miles offered as a result of employing the most adapted and effective mode in each segment of the network. However, to improve the cost-effectiveness of the multimodal system, ridership should increase by a factor equal or greater to the added capacity. Transit modes should be made more attractive to choice-riders. Therefore, planning a feeder bus system to serve a DPM can only be viewed as one component of a comprehensive transportation policy designed to shift the modal- split in favor of transit. AFNYs plan is a good example of a comprehensive restructuring transportation plan. The formulation and implementation of similar plans require the cooperation and coordination between various departments and agencies, and an active participation for the public; two points amply stressed int the planning methodology proposed in this report. Another points emphasized in the report is the need to attract new riders by promoting creative means, and by adapting Transportation Demand Management (TDM) techniques explained earlier.

Although the report recommends the provision for feeder buses wherever feasible and cost-effective, and the optimization of modal integration by eliminating duplications and maximizing the interception of bus routes entering the CBD, it is logical to presume that not all bus lines should be rerouted. For this end, a scoring methodology is proposed to establish priorities and quantify the benefits for rerouting each individual bus line. The methodology is designed to provide a uniform and consistent evaluation tool, without being a rigid model. The user has the flexibility of specifying the relative weight of each component for the evaluation process, and of determining the threshold score below which no rerouting is needed. A template is also provided to evaluate various rerouting alternatives for major bus routes.

The planning procedure is simple and flexible, based on practical considerations, and designed to be interactive. The methodology avoids complex analytical techniques, and discourages the use of data-intensive sophisticated planning software. Instead, it is recommended to rely on GIS-type software because they are easy to use, interactive, flexible, offer a graphical interactive editing capability, provide clear visuals results, and integrate spatial and geographic analysis with a data management capability. Most GIS software are menu driven using an on-screen cursor. Furthermore, the federal government is currently preparing TIGER digital-map files that can be read by GIS programs.

The report also proposes and innovative procedure for estimating feeder buses riderships, and for evaluating impacts of alternative routes on buses patronage and routes cost-effectiveness.


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