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Expand Bus Fleet

Triple or Quadruple the city's bus fleet

Photo of Carol Landry
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In reading many of the studies produced related to Austin’s traffic woes, it seems a solution is many, many years away. In the meantime, we should triple or quadruple the number of buses so that taking a bus is a viable solution. Buses should run every 5-10 minutes in the city area, with real-time arrival times provided on web apps. If people know they can reliably catch a bus in just a few minutes, they will use it. Also, more routes, so people can better connect. If the city can later build more light rail, then the buses can be reduced. Places like Hong Kong supplement the large buses with ‘light’ buses, especially for the ‘last mile’. https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2014/07/seven-ways-cities-around-world-tackling-traffic/Public Light Buses (PLBs), known as mini-buses, complement the standard Hong Kong bus lines, serving areas that are hard to reach efficiently. With the carrying capacity of 16 seats, PLBs are typically faster and more efficient with higher frequency and offer non-stop service. Mini-buses can respond quickly to market demands and provide a more direct, comfortable route for the “last mile”. It is a solution to overcome the “last mile” issue, and a solution to regulating illegal transport in megacities. Also, New York “sped up buses by dedicating lanes and streamlining ticketing and loading on thoroughfares like 34th Street.”

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Photo of Ahmad Shreidi

Hey Carol! I'm an online facilitator here with the City:One Challenge. Thank you for this contribution!

This idea addresses a huge concern for those considering online transportation. Can you tell me more about your commute? Do you take advantage of the bus system currently? What are some of the strengths and weaknesses in your opinion?

Photo of Carol Landry

I currently commute from Georgetown to a location off I-35 south of the river (38 miles). I am not able to take a bus for this commute. When I lived in Cedar Park and worked right downtown, I used the bus to commute. It was a heavily used bus route; in fact because of its heavy usage I believe the Metro line was initially mirrored to follow that route. Other (political?) complications led to the route being altered. I like to take public transportation, and do when I travel. I think the strength of my argument would be that additional buses could be rapidly deployed. (Small buses could be used for less traveled routes.) The weakness of my argument may be related to human factors -- I don't know if enough people are truly willing to take a bus versus the flexibility of their own transport. Probably correlates to how long they are stuck in traffic each day for their commute!

Photo of Ahmad Shreidi

https://challenges.cityoftomorrow.com/challenge/austin/explore/remove-extraneous-bus-stops
^ In this post M W speaks about decreasing the amount of stops to reduce trip time, do you feel the implementation of an expanded bus fleet would be undone by the frequency of stops?

Photo of Carol Landry

I would think so. Too many stops seems necessary and counter-productive. More Park & Rides for outer areas would be useful... fewer stops in urban areas. Walking a bit is good exercise!

Photo of Hailey Harkness

I like this idea. With so few people riding the bus now (in my neighborhood, I rarely see more than 3 or 4 passengers) I could see it being a hard sell however.

Photo of M W

I've ridden the bus extensively, and regardless of how many of them there are, it takes 1 hour to go 10 miles... Example Route: 183 @ Springdale to 51st to Frederich Lane takes 1 hour.
Adding more buses without first exceeding existing capacity on the existing line is not only wasteful, but it also adds to congestion.
Let's make a law that buses can't "stand" and take a "rest break" on a major thoroughfare, and change the way that buses pace to prevent "racing to the next break stop", which if you notice the bus drivers speed to accomplish exactly this, since this in incentivized by the way Metro runs their waypoint schedules.
Let's prevent "bus convoys" where buses are stacked up end to end, blocking up the lanes.
Most of the people advocating buses seem to have never ridden them before, otherwise they'd be asking for improvements in the existing system, rather than more of the same. What about over-acceleration prevention on the buses, or bus speed limiters?
Also, I've found that it's actually cheaper to own a car than to pay for bus fare, especially if you count the time wasted waiting for a bus, and going 10 MPH on average. If it takes me 2 hours on a bus, compared to 40 minutes in a car, then the choice is obvious. So that wasted time also has a cost, which is not cheaper. If the bus was free for all to ride (already paid for with taxes), then maybe you'd be on to something from a cost perspective.