Greater Greater Washington

Transit


Many buses stop too often

Taking the bus in Washington often requires quite a lot of patience. Some buses top at every corner, seeming to take an eternity to go only a few blocks. Removing some stops could improve travel times without negatively impacting ridership.


Photo by the author.

Closely spaced stops reduce the efficiency of bus lines. Keeping the number of riders constant, a bus with fewer stops would spend similar amounts of time for passengers to boarding, but less time accelerating, decelerating, and entering or leaving traffic. It would spend less time at traffic signals having just missed the green to pick up passengers. The bus would also have to spend less time using the kneeling feature or the wheelchair ramp to accommodate the elderly or infirm.

On the other hand, reducing the number of stops would increase the distance that some riders have to walk to get to the stop. Would a few hundred feet deter bus riders? Perhaps, but the time savings from faster buses would make up for it by bringing in more riders.

And time saved is money saved. Reducing the run time of buses lets Metro run fewer vehicles to maintain the same headway. Alternatively, the same number of buses could run at a higher frequency for the same cost. There are major benefits to improving bus performance, including providing a relief valve for Metrorail.

As a former daily rider of the 50s Line along 14th Street in Northwest and Southwest DC, I am intimately familiar with the stop frequency for buses. In fact, from my stop at 14th and Shepherd, the next bus stop to the south was only about 375 feet away at Randolph Street.

In fact, for the segment of the 50s Line between the downtown split of the 52 and 54 to the Colorado Avenue Terminal, where most buses turn back, the average distance between stops is 623 feet. For reference, the length of a Metro platform is 600 feet. A railcar is 75 feet long. That means that on average, between stops, the 14th Street bus line travels, on average, barely more than the length of an 8-car train. Passengers at Gallery Place walking from the Green/Yellow level to the 9th & G Entrance walk farther within the station.

The 52, 53, and 54 have the following average distance between stops:

  • Downtown segment, 52 southbound: 837 feet
  • Downtown segment, 52 northbound: 855 feet
  • Downtown segment, 54 southbound: 808 feet
  • Downtown segment, 54 northbound: 784 feet
  • Combined 52, 54, New York Ave to Colorado Ave northbound: 633 feet
  • Combined 52, 54, Colorado Ave to New York Ave southbound: 611 feet
  • Combined 52, 54, Colorado Ave to Takoma Station northbound: 648 feet
  • Combined 52, 54, Takoma Station to Colorado Ave southbound: 735 feet
Interestingly, that the segments with the longest distances between stops are located downtown. This is where Metrorail has the shortest distance between stops. In the residential segments north of the city, bus stops are very frequent.

Of course, it is vital that bus stops be accessible to the most people, but we have to draw a line. After all, people often walk some quite a good distance to get to quality transit. If buses got people to work or to the store more quickly, they would probably be willing to walk farther.

A policy of increasing the distance between stops to at least two or three blocks apart would be a good place to start. Especially in walkable neighborhoods. With stops 3 blocks apart, once you reached the street on which the bus ran, you'd never be more than one block from a stop.

So far, Metro's solution has been to implement limited-stop services like the S9 on Sixteenth Street and the 79 on Georgia Avenue. In the case of 16th Street, the S9 makes only 14 stops between Silver Spring and McPherson Square, with an average distance between stops of 2,678 feet. With fewer stops, the 16th Street Express is competitive with the rail system. According to Metro's trip planner, a trip from Silver Spring to McPherson Square takes about 27 minutes by rail and about 36 minutes with the S9.

But why should riders have to wait for a new service before trip times improve? Why not reduce the number of stops overall? Perhaps the "local" stop buses needn't have 2,600 feet between stops, but 1,000 certainly sounds like a better number.

The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices suggests that the average person walks 4 feet per second. Other studies show that the elderly make around 3 feet each second when on foot. Increasing the average stop spacing on the 50s line from 623 feet to 1000 feet would increase the average distance between stops by 377 feet, which could be covered by someone walking at 3 feet per second in a little over two minutes.

Limited stop buses are certainly a positve aspect to our transit system. And I hope that WMATA is able to implement more of them. However, reducing travel times on all routes should be a priority.

In fact, WMATA is currently working on a set of bus stop optimization criteria. One of the factors is bus stop spacing. According to a report given to the Riders Advisory Council earlier this month, Metro reports that other transit systems, like Seattle's King County Metro, have found a good balance between access and efficiency at 4-5 stops per mile, which is a little over 1000 feet apart. Right now, WMATA has 63 bus routes with stop spacing exceeding 5 stops per mile.

WMATA's proposed bus stop standards would help create uniformity and ensure safe, accessible stop design across the region. It would serve as a guide for jurisdictions in the region when considering bus stops.

Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master's in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. He痴 a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Planning Department. His views are his own and do not represent the opinion of his employer. 

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Agreed. Every 3 blocks is about right for a local service IMO.

Buses that stop every block and a half are virtually unridable. They are too slow and too uncomfortable.

by BeyondDC on Oct 29, 2009 1:12 pm • linkreport

You should visit Columbia Pike in Arlington some time. Bus stops are about every block and a half. You can easily see 2 or 3 bus stops when standing at one. Clogs traffic and bunches the buses.

by Diana on Oct 29, 2009 1:24 pm • linkreport

Everyone wants the number of bus stops reduced, right up until the one nearest their house is eliminated.

In all seriousness, I'm actually in favor of reducing the distance between stops in many cases, but taking a way a bus stop -- even if there are others within easy walking distance -- is one of those things gauranteed to cause a freakout from people who attend the meetings studying such service changes. This was a common scene when they tried to rationalize the bus system here in Baltimore a few years back, and was one of the reasons the large-scale revamp was ultimately scrapped. It's politically much easier to add new limited-stop bus service than it is to remove a bus stop on an existing line.

And the young and healthy among us really ought to keep in mind that the elderly and infirm are disproportionately represented among bus passengers, and for them walking an extra block or two really is a big deal.

by jfruh on Oct 29, 2009 1:45 pm • linkreport

Check out south-bound S buses which stop both at the corner of 16 and S Streets, and 16 and Riggs Streets, which is only about 100 paces away.

by Vadranor on Oct 29, 2009 1:47 pm • linkreport

I disagree. Many people who ride the bus, myself included, do not have cars and live in areas in which metro is a bit of a hike. It's really nice to have a bus stop outside my front door and it's really nice, especially in cold or rainy weather or at infrequently traveled times, to have it drop me off steps from my house. I realize that the next stop is not too far away, but I'd rather have the convenience and safety of being dropped off so close to my destination. I'd add on a good deal of time for this convenience -- many times it is arguably faster to take the metro, but more relaxing, safer and less stressful to take the bus.

by Erin on Oct 29, 2009 1:49 pm • linkreport

I agree that certain lines need to shed some stops - especially along major corridors like K st or Wisconsin.
But I wonder about the idea of less time spent at traffic lights. Sure there may be some green lights that the bus will catch because it didn't stop at what would have been a bus stop. But if the bus spends more time traveling along the streets (as opposed to stopped at bus-stops) then it stands to reason that its subject to the regular cycling of street-lights that much more...so that many more green lights, *and* that many more red lights too. (Its just that in the current too-many stop scenario, some portion of those red lights just so happen to coincide with times that the bus is stopped at a bus-stop anyways)

It would actually make for a really neat simulation to see what the results would be. Set up a computer model with a basic bus-route layout with lights and some type of traffic component along the way. Run it through with more stops and fewer stops and see what the results come out as.

by Bilsko on Oct 29, 2009 1:51 pm • linkreport

I want to hear more elaboration on (Diana) re: Columbia Pike.
Yes there are a lot of stops, but I thought the whole point of Pike Ride was that there are many lines, and not every bus stops at every stop.

by spookiness on Oct 29, 2009 2:05 pm • linkreport

Substantial savings of both money (WMATA has a $100+ million deficit and time (trip savings on major arteries could be 4-5 minutes) by increasing stop spacing to about one every .2 miles (every two blocks) in the District and about .25 miles in the suburbs on major arteries. I believe that "flag" stops should be permitted during the later night hours for safety reasons.

Increasing stop spacing really only works on major arteries where the bus is making nearly every stop. On lesser utilized routes or on routes in long suburban stretches, the buses aren't making every stop anyway--so eliminating them just inconveniences people without obtaining any savings.

That said, a targeted approach toward major arterials could speed buses up considerably and result in real savings.

by kreeggo on Oct 29, 2009 2:15 pm • linkreport

Bilsko: The experiment you describe is already happening on 16th st. The limited stop S-9 is much faster than the normal S2-4 bus service with very high ridership. I also think that bus stops every 1-2 blocks is much too frequent. Every 3-4 would make bus service much faster, more frequent, and more reliable. Another big time waster at bus stops, waiting for people to exit the front door before new passengers board, could be greatly curtailed by making the front door entrance only and the middle door exit only, so new passengers would could begin boarding immediately.

by Isotopor on Oct 29, 2009 2:15 pm • linkreport

Agree. Those who claim that plans to consolidate bus stops disadvantage the elderly and disabled are missing the point of Metrobus. Standard bus service is meant to provide efficient transportation as an alternative to private vehicles; it is not a paratransit service.

I'd be interested to see how many blocks most people walk to get to their closest bus stop. My bet: it's more than 1.

by Adam L. on Oct 29, 2009 2:17 pm • linkreport

Check out south-bound S buses which stop both at the corner of 16 and S Streets, and 16 and Riggs Streets, which is only about 100 paces away.

The S bus is a piece of shit on many, many levels.

by Anonymous on Oct 29, 2009 2:21 pm • linkreport

@kreeggo: "I believe that 'flag' stops should be permitted during the later night hours for safety reasons."

Aren't all bus stops flag stops? Buses don't stop anywhere if there's nobody waiting to get off or on.

@Adam L.: "Those who claim that plans to consolidate bus stops disadvantage the elderly and disabled are missing the point of Metrobus. Standard bus service is meant to provide efficient transportation as an alternative to private vehicles; it is not a paratransit service."

Dude, there's an enormous gap between "people for whom walking an extra block or two would be a hardship" and "people who qualify for paratransit." If you're going to funnel all of the former into paratransit, you'd better be willing to radically increase paratransit's budget. Like it or not, the elderly are a major part of any bus system's constituency.

by jfruh on Oct 29, 2009 2:26 pm • linkreport

Lets just give one more silly example, the S buses that originate from Federal Triangle have 2 stops BETWEEN 13th and 14th st. on I. 75 feet, maybe.

@Erin, while its nice that the bus stops right out in front of your place (i love that 90s do for mine), metrobus is not an elementary school bus and its nobody's right to have door to door service on it. It should be designed to maximize efficiency AND convenience, unfortunately, I think many lines have left that sweet intersection way behind.

by chris on Oct 29, 2009 2:34 pm • linkreport

@jfruh

"Flag" stops are unmarked stops that buses can make, at the driver's discretion. For example, a passenger can request that the bus make a stop that's closer to his/her home if it's late at night (in the interest of safety, etc.)

And the only way your argument about the elderly makes sense is if those passengers' origin and destination are within a block of a bus stop. If not, then they're walking somewhere. You can't expect a bus to be totally accommodating to take you door-to-door; it's not a cab. If the extra block is truly that much of a hardship, then they probably do qualify for paratransit service.

And the elderly do make up a major part of the bus system's constituency, but let's not make the false assumption that all elderly people are unable or unwilling to walk an extra block.

by Adam L on Oct 29, 2009 2:41 pm • linkreport

Then why do I see tons of elementary school kids using the bus to get to school? Not to mention teachers and high school kids. I'm not saying it's my right to have door to door service, and I walk a good deal, usually, when I get off the bus near my destination. I'm saying it's a nice thing about the bus that I enjoy and am sure many others appreciate and enjoy, even if they get to their destination 5-10 minutes more slowly.

by Erin on Oct 29, 2009 2:43 pm • linkreport

@Adam L

I'm not saying older bus passengers are incapable of walking an extra block or two to a bus stop; I'm saying that for them, that's going to loom much larger as an inconvenience than it does for you or me. When you say that "standard bus service is meant to provide efficient transportation as an alternative to private vehicles", you're quoting what law or agency mission statement, exactly? For many riders, the fact that they only have to walk one block instead of two or three to the stop is part of the appeal of the service, and if you asked them if they'd prefer a speedier bus ride or a shorter walk -- which is, essentially, the question you're asking when you propose removing stops from a route -- many of them would vote for the shorter walk.

Now, honestly, if you asked me, I'd vote for the speedier ride. But there are lots of riders who wouldn't, and lecturing them that they want the wrong thing out of a bus strikes me as kind of misguided, particularly when the bus has been operating in its current fashion for years -- long enough for them to build their routines around it.

by jfruh on Oct 29, 2009 2:59 pm • linkreport

If they want to start thinking about this, then I've got a suggestion for them:

If the next stop announcement system on the buses announces multiple stops with the same street, then the stops are too close.

by Justin..... on Oct 29, 2009 3:02 pm • linkreport

Everyone wants the number of bus stops reduced, right up until the one nearest their house is eliminated.

I have a bus stop right outside my apartment building, and I would not be at all annoyed if it were eliminated. After all, there's another stop just one block over (more like half a block), and the terminus for the line (the Pentagon) is within easy walking distance -- probably 15 minutes away, maybe 20 including navigating the parking lot. On the other hand, in built-up commercial areas, I think it makes sense for the bus to stop somewhat more frequently. Maybe not every block, but every two blocks seems reasonable.

by Taeyoung on Oct 29, 2009 3:03 pm • linkreport

I wish they would make the 43 a truly express route with a limited number of stops - sure keep the pokey 42 that stops on every corner for those who need it, but for those who are able-bodied and willing to walk a little for a swift ride home to/from Adams Morgan/Mt P to Dupont/downtown, I bet it would be immensely popular. I think these types of express routes only work on lines with high ridership and frequent stops that can be easily bypassed - Columbia Pike has one too.

by DC_Chica on Oct 29, 2009 3:36 pm • linkreport

I admit I'm a driver, not a bus rider, on Columbia Pike. But I've never seen a bus skip a stop. I've looked into riding the bus and there's nothing on their website about each line not going to every stop on the Pike. I drive the length of the Pike through Arlington every day. Between the many different lines, having so many buses and so many stops just creates a traffic log jam for both cars and buses. Having 3 buses at one stop is not helpful to anyone.

by Diana on Oct 29, 2009 3:43 pm • linkreport

I agree with this; however some buses don't stop often enough there aren't many but there are some.

Such as many buses outside of the developed areas where buses stops are almost a 1/2 mile apart and people end up jay walk and all other things to get to the stops because there in illogical spots

"Of course, it is vital that bus stops be accessible to the most people, but we have to draw a line. After all, people often walk some quite a good distance to get to quality transit. If buses got people to work or to the store more quickly, they would probably be willing to walk farther."

Any info to prove; this how far does the average person of each age group walk; not all would walk further and the terrain has something to do with it also.

You have all types of people who take the bus young, old, people with disabilities that are visible and not visible and people with children (someone carrying a baby, pushing a stroller )

It will provide hardship for some and not others thats a given but the ones that the hardship is done to will they be able to get to/from with other method that is not a giant price hike or availble with the same frequency as before if so than yes if not than no.

Anyone got a solution that does not place people such as the eldery, people with visible and non visible disablities, bad health problems with extra added hardship.

We metro needs in a fully functional express and local bus service perhaps having 2 lines or each route that is busy one local and one express; the other thing is the time of day when these problems arise.

if there only during rush hour than add express buses if its always than maybe adding a new route nearby might change the situation which would take people off the other route such as where one bus or many all travel along the same route maybe changing the route of one or adding a separate new route nearby

by kk on Oct 29, 2009 4:37 pm • linkreport

Agree. The 3A, 3B, 3E, and 3Y on Lee Hwy is ridiculous. My apartment building which is one block long has THREE stops. One on each end and another in the middle. From the middle stop you can see 4 stops at once.

by db on Oct 29, 2009 4:45 pm • linkreport

Agree with those who are pointing out the distinction between residential and commercial areas (as well as less dense and more dense areas). In a less dense single-family residential area (like my hood along 23rd Street), it makes sense to me to have the bus stops every couple of blocks. People rarely get on the bus at each and every stop -- even during the rush -- yet it makes the bus line overall more convenient to those of us who are already walking a few blocks from our houses out to 23rd Street.

Now, with something like Columbia Pike (with which I am quite familiar, since I used to live there), I think spacing out the stops should be studied, since there is a greater majority of people that actually live along the line itself, and wouldn't be as inconvenienced by an extra block or two of a walk. That said, the study should also take into account the impact on bus on- and off-loading, as well as the feasibility of having even more people simply congregating at fewer stops.

Of course, an argument could be made that once you have a bus line corridor that is utilized enough to create problems like bus bunching and a need for stops every block in order to account for the sheer volume of people, that it's time to look into a mass transit system that can more efficiently serve those people.

Seems like the idea

by Dave on Oct 29, 2009 4:46 pm • linkreport

It would spend less time at traffic signals having just missed the green to pick up passengers.
That is so frustrating and it happens all the time. If they'd just move the stop to the other side of the intersection, problem fixed! Or better yet, signal priority. The ability to extend the signal by 30 seconds (non-cumulatively) would move a lot of buses faster without very large impacts on other traffic patterns.

by Gavin Baker on Oct 29, 2009 4:50 pm • linkreport

I've mentioned it in the comments here before, but the 38B at some points in Arlington exemplifies this. Along Clarendon Blvd. between Wayne St. and Rhodes St., there are 5 stops in less than half a mile -- i.e. more than double Seattle's standard.

The nature of the area and the bus do have to be accounted for -- for instance, the 38B parallels the Orange Line almost exactly, so more-frequent stops make sense. If you were most interested in speed, you'd ride Metro; since you're on the bus instead, it's probably for the convenience of getting on or off somewhere between stations. But there has to be some kind of balance struck. The current balance is often too far in the opposite direction.

by Gavin Baker on Oct 29, 2009 5:01 pm • linkreport

Everyone wants the number of bus stops reduced, right up until the one nearest their house is eliminated.
False. As a true Enlightenment man, I'm perfectly willing to give up my nearest stops if stop removal decisions are based on principles of equality and rationality--- specifically, based on
  • a minimum interval requirement implemented across the entire line (for equality), and
  • ridership numbers, wherein the least popular stops get the axe (for rationality),

by Left for LeDroit on Oct 29, 2009 5:10 pm • linkreport

Could we have a BRAC-style bus stop elimination commission, that would come up with a list and members of the WMATA board and other officials would be powerless to edit it-- only approve or reject? That could help with the angry old people showing up to political meetings problem.

by Josh B on Oct 29, 2009 5:32 pm • linkreport

It wouldn't solve that problem--you'd just get *lots* of old angry people showing up.

by ah on Oct 29, 2009 5:45 pm • linkreport

Bus stop spacing is only part of a broader solution to make bus transit more efficient. If immediately combined with simple solutions like rush hour bus lanes (paint on the street and enforcement) on arterial streets where bus ridership is higher, you get huge time and cost savings. If you save 5% on bus stop spacing and 5% on bus lane savings--combined your savings are not 10% but more like 13,14 or 15%. Longer term measures that require capital investment such as signal priority, queue jumper lanes, dedicated bus lanes and pre-boarding fare payment at highly utilized stops would increase the time and money savings further.

by kreeggo on Oct 29, 2009 7:21 pm • linkreport

In Japan, most bus services only stop every 300-400 meters in urban areas, and less in rural ones -- and most of their customers are either elderly or students. Yet somehow most customers are able to reach the bus stops at either end without major issues. The few that cannot make other arrangements if they can -- but they are the minority.

Seeing as how Japan has a much higher number of elderly as a percentage of the population than does the US as a whole (not to mention the DC area, with its large number of young workers), I fail to see any major downside to increasing bus stop distances where appropriate. Increasing average speeds (or even apparent speeds) is key to increasing ridership.

by trainsintokyo on Oct 29, 2009 8:33 pm • linkreport

I dislike stopping at every block as much as anyone (the Woodley/Logan circulator is a godsend--no more 52/54!) but
the idea that someone wants to walk 16-20 minutes to get the bus is lunacy, esp. if it's raining. Many of the people who do make the bus stop at every block are moms carrying their kids (no obnoxious SUV stroller because they can't afford 'em), people with injuries/disabilities, old folks. Sometimes, they're already walking some distance. Express supplements like the 16th Street line or circulators make more sense than inconveniecing people who need transit. Para transit here and elsewhere is unreliable and inflexible.

by Rich on Oct 29, 2009 8:38 pm • linkreport

@Isotopor: Agreed. I have used bus systems before where they enforce the テや彷ront door: entrance only and rear door: exit onlyテや policy (except when extremely crowded, and it makes a big difference. On Metrobus is seems that most drivers wonテや冲 let people get on, until everyone has finished getting off. This makes no sense and is a huge waste of time. Of course the riders could help themselves with this one, but Iテや况e never understood why so many people from the back of the bus walk right past the open rear door and exit through the front door.

by James on Oct 29, 2009 8:49 pm • linkreport

@ James

Its because on many buses the drivers don't open the back doors when they do the front, I have been on buses where I have had to yell to get the driver to allow the back door to open especially if the bus is crowded or a larger bus where you cant hear some one in the back and its actually faster to walk to the front instead of waiting for them to open it.

by kk on Oct 29, 2009 10:44 pm • linkreport

i walk to the front of the bus so i can thank the driver.
perhaps its not the most expeditious of maneuvers, but i believe it to be the right thing to do. unless its really crowded. i'll take civility over efficiency any day.

by reflexive on Oct 29, 2009 11:46 pm • linkreport

Decreasing bus stops will definitely increase caterwalling among some folks, but the express buses do indeed get a lot of riders. The new express 37 bus in NW is packed. The 30s buses stop a great many times and simply take FOREVER to lumber down Wisconsin avenue to Georgetown.

We could imrpove the Wisconsin buses and still keep the walks pretty short.

by michaelA on Oct 30, 2009 9:26 am • linkreport

1) Less stops. A bus is supposed to transport people, not to stand still. The number of stops can not be made contingent on the distance between stops because you have to take the local connections into account. However, you should be able to make some fixed data point of the amount of "stopped time" when a bus is loading and unloading, compared to the total time of a trip. In formula: (the amount of time spent at bus stops)/(total time of a trip). You could decide that buses need to be moving at least half the time. If a bus is standing still more than driving, bus stops need to be canceled.

2) Mandatory entrance up front, exit in the back.
@ reflexive: I am sorry. There is no time in transit for personal thanks for drivers. It is plenty polite and civil to greet the driver when getting in.

As has been calculated in these comments before, there is an ENORMOUS capital savings if you can get buses to complete their rounds faster. 10-15% faster can save the cost of a bus + driver on frequent routes. This is not about pocket change.

by Jasper on Oct 30, 2009 12:54 pm • linkreport

@ Jasper

Just thought of this can you lower the back door for seniors and others having a hard time getting off/on?

What about the longer buses if your in the front your supposed to walk all the way to the back wasting time when you could just exit through the front.

What about people with bikes by the time they get off the back door and make it to the front of the bus the bus will be gone/or in the process of pulling off.

A better solution would be for buses like the circulator uses with some modifications to make them have more seats.

by Kk on Oct 30, 2009 2:59 pm • linkreport

@kk: I was afraid that might be the case. I have had the rear doors close on my face far too often and have had to push them open several times. Perhaps a little driver re-education is in order.

@Jasper: Agreed! I always greet the driver while boarding, and often thank them while exiting through the rear door. No need to walk all the way to the front, I can say テや弋hanksテや from the back. I estimate that 5 minutes could be shaved off each of my 30 minute rides each day if people could start boarding as soon as the front doors opened, rather than having to wait for everyone to get off first. While 10 minutes isnテや冲 a big deal to me on most days, it would certainly make a huge impact across all routes.

@kk: There always needs to be exceptions to the rule. Obviously people that have a hard time getting on and off need to use the front door, as do people with bikes. This afternoon an elderly lady took about two minutes to get off the front of the bus while people waited to board. This didnテや冲 bother me at all. However perfectly capable people that walk all the way from the back to the front do. As do people going against the flow. If youテや决e sitting right next to the front door and use it to exit, you are conflicting with the flow of people getting on the bus and wasting everyoneテや冱 time so that you can avoid walking 15 feet. Sure this saves you 5 seconds, but it adds up and costs everyone else a lot of time. The space between the front and rear doors should be a one way street except in extenuating circumstances.

We need some help from the drivers to help speed things up, but as riders we can all help to speed things up by:
1) Not blocking the rear door.
2) Lining up by the rear door as the bus approaches your stop. Donテや冲 wait until after the doors are open to get up (or in the case of some people I see, after the doors have already closed again)
3) If someone is trying to get out of a window seat or past you to get to a door, move.

Metro and the drivers could help by:
1) Not reading the schedule to prospective riders. At least twice a week I am on a bus where a driver has a several minute conversation with a passenger who has no idea what stops that bus serves. I hate to advocate for Metro employees being ruder than they already are, but while the bus is waiting at your stop is not the time to be trying to figure out if this is really the bus you want.
2)Finally I wish Metro would ban the practice of paying cash with a SmarTrip card. At least five times a day I see people add $1.25 to their SmartTrip card, then use it to pay the fare. This is significantly slower than paying either cash or SmarTrip alone.

by James on Oct 30, 2009 4:27 pm • linkreport

Dave--interesting point about different distances between stops in commercial versus residential areas. But I actually see it the other way around; stops should be further apart in commercial areas, since those are the places with more traffic and more riders and thus the places where frequent stops slow down routes. In residential areas, having a stop every block probably doesn't slow things down too much because the bus passes by many of these stops without even slowing down, if there's no one asking to get on or off. Also, there is less of a safety concern about walking a block or two more in a commercial area, since there are more people around.

Gavin Baker--YES to moving stops to the far side of intersections, especially in areas with bus lanes (to address the argument that the change will increase car traffic). It is super annoying to be on the bus and have the light turn red just as the bus is getting ready to go, or to get off the bus and have to wait for the signal to change before I can start walking to my destination.

James--I realize this is annoying, but I'd only agree with you if there were more places to add cash to a SmartTrip card (more CVS, grocery stores, kiosks at popular bus stops, online, libraries, etc.) I'm a frequent bus rider and don't always have the chance to go into a metro station and put money on my card, and I don't want to pay the extra 10 cents and give up my free transfer by paying cash.

by Stacy on Nov 1, 2009 1:01 pm • linkreport

@ Kk: Just thought of this can you lower the back door for seniors and others having a hard time getting off/on?

The Europeans and Japanese have figured this out. Ten if not fifteen years ago. America can too. Welcome in the 90s. If current buses are not properly equipped, then the elderly can be allowed to get out of the front.

What about the longer buses if your in the front your supposed to walk all the way to the back wasting time when you could just exit through the front.

If everybody gets in in the front and out at the back, there is a natural flow from the front to the back. It goes faster. Trust me. Have lived the experience for 25 years.

What about people with bikes by the time they get off the back door and make it to the front of the bus the bus will be gone/or in the process of pulling off.

Those folks tend to be fit and will make it. Bus drivers should check on them anyway. Or are you now gonna get worried about 80 years old grandmas riding their bikes on buses?

@ James: Lining up by the rear door as the bus approaches your stop. Donテや冲 wait until after the doors are open to get up

I am all for speeding up. But I refuse to be thrown around a bus because a bus driver is a poor driver (and many are).

@ Stacey: I'm a frequent bus rider and don't always have the chance to go into a metro station and put money on my card, and I don't want to pay the extra 10 cents and give up my free transfer by paying cash.

First of all: Put $100 on your card and stop worrying for half a year.

Second: This is the direct result of the insanity of charging people extra for using good old cash. It should be outlawed.

Third: You are damn cheap if it's worth your time to walk into a metro station to charge your smartrip for ten cents. Can I hire you for some yard work at that rate? Rough estimate is that you cost $2/hour.

by Jasper on Nov 1, 2009 3:04 pm • linkreport

@ Jasper
You seem to think everyone is like you; most of the responses you have made are quite insensitive.

"Those folks tend to be fit and will make it. Bus drivers should check on them anyway."

How the hell would you know if people could make it off the bus from the back and to the front to get your bike have you tried?

If yes was the bus empty/crowded and were there many/only you getting off.

If they are the only person getting off of a bus or are on a crowded bus in-which they are almost last to get off they wont have time.

That is not apart of the job description of a bus operator.

"If everybody gets in in the front and out at the back, there is a natural flow from the front to the back. It goes faster. Trust me. Have lived the experience for 25 years."

It may be a natural flow but people have to get accustomed to it and that wont happen over night and it the time between you will have problems.

"First of all: Put $100 on your card and stop worrying for half a year.

Second: This is the direct result of the insanity of charging people extra for using good old cash. It should be outlawed.

Third: You are damn cheap if it's worth your time to walk into a metro station to charge your smartrip for ten cents. Can I hire you for some yard work at that rate? Rough estimate is that you cost $2/hour.

You seem to think everybody has the money to do that however you don't take into account that all people don't; there are people of all classes using the bus and you seem to blast people for not being able to afford something.

$100 dollars does not last a half a year 182 days is half a year and $2.50 per day X 182 is $455

Every does not receive benefits for transit with there jobs.

Many workers in the area are blue collar and blue collar work does not give out benefits to there employees most of the time.

by Kk on Nov 1, 2009 6:07 pm • linkreport

@Stacey: I'm not advocating for disallowing riders to add value to their SmarTrip cards on the bus. I just wish that there was a minimum value that you could add on the bus, like $5. That would prevent the same people from adding exactly $1.25 everytime they get one. I realize some people on the bus may not have a lot of extra money they can afford to put on their card, but I don't know anyone that gets paid twice a day everyday, so there's no need to add exact fare everytime you get on the bus. Ideally you'd be able to add fare at every second or third stop, then the busses wouldn't need to accept cash at all.

@Jasper: I think you mised the most important part of Stacey's point. Being able to use a SmarTrip card isn't nessecarily about saving 10 cents, it's about the free bus to bus transfers. Strictly paying cash can double or tripple the cost of your trip if you need to make a transfer. Charging more for cash is an economic disincentive for people to pay cash. It causes more people to use SmarTrip, which I think is something we all want. It makes things faster for all of us. Metro just needs to close a loophole.

Along these lines, why is it that the SmarTrip prices tend to be more convienient than cash prices. For example cash bus fare is $1.35 while SmarTrip is $1.25 and express cash fare is $3.10 while SmarTrip is $3.00. Wouldn't it make more sense to have cash fares that could be paid without needing dimes ($1.50 and $3.25 for example)?

by James on Nov 2, 2009 6:58 am • linkreport

@Kk: You seem to think everyone is like you; most of the responses you have made are quite insensitive.

No, I don't. I am very well aware of the differences between people. I do not try to be insensitive. I am occasionally frustrated.

It is said to see an enormous amount of "no can do" spirit on this blog (and elsewhere). I thought I was in America, the land where everything is possible. Didn't you just elect some guy with a slogan "yes, we can!"?

It is frustrating to see people argue against things that have been resolved without objection decades ago in other countries. I thought it was supposed to work the other way around. Other people implementing American solutions.

That is not apart of the job description of a bus operator.

It is not part of the job of a bus driver to make sure bike riders get their bike back when hey get off? Really? Seems like a change in job description is overdue. You are correct that it is not part of the attitude of many bus drivers. They are only interested in completing their round as fast as possible, without regards to the comfort and safety of passengers.

It may be a natural flow but people have to get accustomed to it and that wont happen over night and it the time between you will have problems.

Every change requires people to get adjusted. Those adjustment problems can not be an argument to never change anything. This is the "no can do" spirit that frustrates me. I would assume that when such a policy is implemented, there would be some public announcement campaign. You also seem to have less confidence in the intelligence of the general public than I do.

$100 dollars does not last a half a year 182 days is half a year and $2.50 per day X 182 is $455

Ok, put $455 on your smartrip card and don't worry for half a year. Or do it in portions relative to the frequency of your paycheck. My point was that it was very inefficient to have to regularly fill up your smartrip card.

Every does not receive benefits for transit with there jobs.

Correct. Neither do I. I do use pre-tax money for transit. That's a benefit that everybody can use. It seems you assume I was more different than you than I am.

Many workers in the area are blue collar and blue collar work does not give out benefits to there employees most of the time.

Neither does my white collar employer.

@ James: Charging more for cash is an economic disincentive for people to pay cash. It causes more people to use SmarTrip, which I think is something we all want.

I don't. Metro focuses on the easy of use. Well, if smartrip cards are truly that handy, I would guess that people start using them for those benefits. The fact that people don't points to a lack of benefit.

There are some disadvantages to the smartrip card as well. For instance, by putting money on your smartrip card, you are basically giving metro an interest free loan. Great for metro. Not so much for me. You may not think that it's a lot of money, but all that money combined is a good bit.

Secondly, metro gets the money people forget to transfer to their smartrip card. How's that a benefit for the public?

Third, by giving your money to metro before they provide a serice, economically, you turn from a potential customer to a future liability. Good for metro, not for the public.

Fourth. It bothers me that there are more and more companies invent "benefit cards" that you have to preload with money. Metro does it. My employer does it. Some cell phone companies do it. They all reap the benfits described above, and I end up handing out loans for no benefit, and with less money in my pocket.

Last, I find it principally objectionable that cash money is devalued and snubbed by some vendors. Cash is legal tender. It should not be replaced by alternatives with all kinds of fine print attached to it. In the end, that fine print does not tend to favor the public.

In conclusion: I use the smartrip card because I do find it easy and fast to use. And because it is the only way to get my pre-tax money on my smartrip card. Those are good benefits. But I am also very aware of the disadvantages of this type of cards.

by Jasper on Nov 2, 2009 9:54 am • linkreport

Here's a suggestion. In order to speed up buses but not face political suicide, WMATA could just downgrade certain stops.

For instance a 52L or 54L could be created as the "super-locals". Perhaps only 10% of the current 52, 53, 54 buses would stop at bus stops less than 1000 feet apart. So if you live near the 14th/Shepherd stop (as I used to), you would probably rather walk to Randolph/14th (375 feet away) if there was more service.

by Matt Johnson on Nov 2, 2009 1:30 pm • linkreport

kreego makes the point I would have made. This could make sense on high frequency bus routes on major arterials and in denser areas, like 14th or 16th or H Streets, and wouldn't make sense on routes that are in less dense areas. Higher frequency in return for fewer stops would be a tradeoff many people would be willing to make, but it only makes sense financially on well used routes.

1,000 feet is 3 blocks or a little under 0.20 miles. Montgomery County's policy is that service should be provided so that everyone lives within 0.25 mile of a bus stop.

by Richard Layman on Nov 2, 2009 5:36 pm • linkreport

@Jasper: Your argument doesnテや冲 make much sense. First you argue that we shouldnテや冲 get a discount for using SmarTrip. Then you argue that by using SmarTrip, we are giving Metro an interest free loan. I typically put $100 on my card and refill when I have $5 left. If I invested that $100 which I donテや冲 have access to while itテや冱 on my card, I might earn $10 a year off it. With current rates, thatテや冱 a big might. At the rate I use the bus, I save $4 a month using SmarTrip over cash. Thatテや冱 $48 a year. That more than makes up for what I lose by not investing that money.

While you are correct that cash is テや徑egal tender for all debts, public and privateテや, your interpretation is off. The key word in that phrase is テや彭ebtsテや. You have not incurred a debt using the bus, because payment is due up front. Therefore Metro does not have to accept cash. The fare boxes do not accept pennies (nor do most toll boths or vending machines), and I hear no one complaining here.

by James on Nov 3, 2009 1:16 pm • linkreport

I get what Jasper is saying, but don't think it applies in this context.

He's referring to the sale of gift cards and whatnot, where people don't ever use the full value of the card - and the company issuing them gets that cash for free.

The difference with Metro is that I always use all the money on my card. I don't know of any people that don't.

The other thing is that there are signficant transaction costs involved with cash. SmarTrip significantly reduces those costs. Even the paper rail fare cards reduce those. I don't see outrage over the fact that the rail turnstiles don't take cash.

by Alex B. on Nov 3, 2009 1:36 pm • linkreport

Off topic, but is anybody following the fact that the buses are running not only slower than normal, but they are also missing scheduled times more than normal? Mostly I ride the 90/92 and the 80 and over the last few weeks, it seems as though they are running 20-30% (at least) less buses than scheduled each hour. Is this related to the union directive that came out that instructed bus drivers to obey every rule and reg? Feels like a work slowdown to me. Has anybody else been noticing this trend?

by eli on Nov 4, 2009 11:40 am • linkreport

To speed up entrance/exit times, why not get buses with more doors like they do in Europe? There the regular buses have no fewer than 3 entrances/exits. In addition, the bendy buses could have the fourth back door as an entrance as well, with a turnstile that opens when a smartrip is scanned for stops with more people. Also, having a buzzer above or next to the exit so that drivers with the irrational phobia of people getting in through the back door would know that people are trying to get out would sure help.

by kv on Nov 5, 2009 12:19 pm • linkreport

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