Belated congratulations to RTC member, fellow blogger, Drupaler, HSU student and advocate for green transportation Aaron Antrim on winning one of the Economic Fuel grand prizes of $25,000 for his already running business of Trillium Transit. Aaron is a great example of someone following his passions and channeling them in to practical solutions.
The technological advances that Aaron is pushing for to improve our environment are great. But I can’t help thinking a great shift in human thinking still has to happen. I live on a bus line. I watch this huge bus go by hour after hour empty or with one person on it. I passed a bus on 101 the other evening. It too was empty. The buses run, but in spite of advances like the ability to buy passes or plan bus trips online the system seems way underused. I admit I never think of using the bus. Will gas need to get to $7/gallon before I start changing how I view transportation? Probably. And it will probably reach $7 sooner than we dare imagine.
Aaron says it all very well, but there is one other area that I think we could improve, and that is “park and ride” lots.
As a student at HSU, I had available to me the JackPass which was wonderful and gets you from Eureka to HSU and back on RTS in about 20 minutes. But trying to connect between ETS service and RTS was terribly inefficient.
A “park and ride” lot that would allow for both cars and bicycles would allow me to make the short drive (or bike) from my house to an RTS stop and make the trip practical.
This guy should be placed in the DOT in Obama’s first administration.
p.s. Thanks very much for the post & congrats!
Here’s a brief response to the good questions you bring up.
First, in regard to current bus ridership: There have been significant gains in bus ridership over th.e past year â€” 30% on Redwood Transit System, up to over 40,000 rider trips on school months. I’ve been on RRTS buses that are standing room only. RTS is at the point where they are concerned about having the capacity to accommodate rider demand.
However, standing room only occurs on RTS and AMRTS peak-hour trips. I’ve also been on RTS buses late at night headed to the airport with only two people getting off at the last stop. I see AMRTS buses late at night with no one or very few onboard.
The Redwood Transit System buses (Scotia to Trinidad, Arcata to Willow Creek), generally, can get more riders because buses are more necessary for longer trips, and offer more cost savings compared to driving for fuel. In town, it’s most often more expedient to bike, walk, or drive, if one has the option, than to take the bus. Unless, of course, the bus serves an unusually high-traffic route (for example, with the masses of students headed to HSU from Sunny Brae at peak hours).
The fixed-route in-city transit service is important for transit-dependent groups, however â€” people who aren’t able to drive, or walk or bike for long distances. Their cost-effectiveness and energy-efficiency needs to be compared to providing subsidized dial-a-ride services.
So, in conclusion, it is not realistic to just put more people onboard every bus, and in every case. For low-density areas, and for shorter-hop trips, fixed route bus service may not always be the best option.
In these cases, or possible cases, other options can be studied and considered:
(1.) Improved bikeways and pedestrian facilities that provide easy access to high-service main corridor transit routes
(2.) Deviated fixed-routes, where software helps to determine how far the bus can deviate from a fixed route to respond to rider-requested stops (sometimes for an extra fee). This can make the bus more responsive to people’s needs in cases of lower ridership
(3.) Telework centers
(4.) Facilitated ridematching to increase passenger miles per gallon in private vehicles
On corridors where sufficient ridership can mustered for cost- and energy-efficient fixed route service, the goal should be to have well-loaded transit vehicles and reduce single-occupant vehicle travel. Here are some ways to do this:
(1.) Offer wi-fi onboard buses (like Google offers on their private shuttles)
(2.) Make transit trip planning easy (like Google Transit)
(3.) Reach out to employers and institutions (esp. those with parking impacts). Programs like HSU’s Jack Pass can also be created for businesses and other institutions.
(4.) Sell transit passes in convenient retail locations.
(5.) Engage community partners to market public transportation.
(6.) Make transit information available on mobile devices.
(7.) Other alternative mode options (biking, walking, rideshare) support increased transit ridership – two legs of a round-trip may be made by different modes, for example.
Okay, I need to stop. I could write chapters, but this is at least a response.