Pocket schedules could make bus riding easier
Many bus riders take a single bus for most trips. In fact, many bus riders travel between the same two stops for many trips. A simple, printed, point to point schedule, listing the departure and arrival times for each of the two stops, could be a powerful tool for those riders.
Sample Westover pocket schedule.
One example of an area that could benefit from pocket schedules is the Arlington neighborhood of Westover. It's a mile east of the East Falls Church Metro and 1.8 miles west of Ballston. A group of neighborhood shops anchors the neighborhood, including the Lost Dog Pizza Deli, Lebanese Taverna and Ayers Variety Store, among others.
The #2 Metrobus runs directly through the center to both Metro stops. The majority of riders I've seen take the bus to Ballston and then transfer to Metrorail or stay in Ballston. Since almost all riders are going from one place to a single other place, they could benefit from a simple, easily accessible and usable pocket schedule.
Arlington Transportation Partners, which provides transportation information throughout the county, stocks schedules and maps in one of the local establishments. The #2 Metrobus schedules get snatched up immediately, while the other schedules and maps tend to languish
longer. However, almost all of the information in that schedule is extraneous to most of these users. All they really need to know is when the bus is going to Ballston and when it's returning.
If designed to be the size of a business card folded once, it would easily fit in a wallet. There's no need for a map or other destinations or really anything else. It would serve most of the people who might ride the bus to or from the Westover area. It's so easy, it might lure people who pick up one of these schedules at the ice cream shop to consider taking the bus.
There are certainly dozens of these nodes that directly connect two locations together and are highly used. Obvious ones include Shirlington-Pentagon and Shirlington-Ballston. Especially now that Arlington has built their nice, new Shirlington transit center, easy pocket schedules would be a great boon for users. There are several different routes that serve these points, so having a concise, combined schedule would simplify information and make it more accessible.
One of the big barriers to people riding the bus is they don't know when it comes and schedules can be hard to figure out sometimes. NextBus is one tool to help with that, but it doesn't tell me when I can get back. It also doesn't help me with, say, tomorrow. The WMATA web site can, but a pocket schedule like this requires no computer, no smart phone, no Internet connection and is probably way faster than any of those. It can sit in a pile on the counter of a coffee shop and be tucked in a wallet and used immediately.
I imagine there are scores, if not hundreds, of these highly used node connections. Would it make sense to print all these individual pocket schedules? Maybe not a bad idea. By being enterprising, this might be a good way to get more people on the buses while partnering with local businesses. Why not get a local business to sponsor the schedules to offset the costs? They could pay for the printing (which could be really cheap), and it would be a relatively low-cost advertising vehicle where they would get a little space on the pocket schedule for their marketing message. It's highly geographically targeted marketing, since the only people who would be interested in that particular pocket schedule are those who travel to or from that one location.
Like the invisible tunnel, this is the sort of low-cost or no-cost measure that could help the system run better. Intelligently done, these simple little pocket schedules could be provided for free (both to passengers and for Metro) to thousands of riders and make riding the bus much easier.
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