Frequency & On-Time Departures: Must-Haves for RTD

In last night’s Operations & Customer Service Committee meeting, the board reviewed RTD performance measures from the 2nd quarter. The data highlights critical points for the agency and City of Denver.

Read below to see some of the data and my reactions.

  • This table compares current ridership on RTD transit to last year’s ridership. The network totals emphasize how much transit is suffering and partially explain the fiscal challenges RTD now faces.

  • There is a significant difference in how often riders are using local buses compared to other RTD services throughout the week. This contrast illustrates the continued importance of service to transit-dependent people and high-density neighborhoods (that local buses most often serve). Now and in the future, RTD must prioritize FREQUENCY on bus routes that people rely on for mobility and can easily access.

  • Of note in the totals is the gap between weekday ridership and weekend ridership. Weekend ridership has held stronger possibly on account of dependence; these riders may often not have other means to get around. On the other hand, many weekday riders are not commuting in the same numbers as before. Will they return? The question about permanence is one agencies like RTD must plan for. Data from the SARS outbreak in 2003 showed that riders stayed away temporarily but eventually returned. Other catastrophes (Ebola, 9/11) indicate that changes to movement/travel are not permanent.

  • This table provides data about the on-time performance of local buses in the RTD network. The agency defines on-time if a departure from a location is no more than 1 minute early or 5 minutes after the scheduled departure time.

  • These numbers remain too low. Extended wait times are at best an inconvenience and annoyance for riders but could affect their safety and employment. It is no wonder that so many people have chosen more reliable mobility options.

  • Drivers are the public face in this situation, but they are not the cause. Traffic and boarding procedures are the main culprits. RTD and subcontractors should implement changes to ticketing and boarding procedures that shave time from stops. Bus stop consolidation, digital ticketing, and all-door boarding allow for fewer and faster boardings. Likewise, cities like Denver must lead the way in implementing infrastructure that makes transit fast and reliable. It starts with more transit-only lanes.

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