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Guest Blog: Top tips to combat congestion delays, and keep your buses rolling

Mar 29, 2019
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Person on phone next to busy street

Maintaining ridership with effective measurement

Like an accurate prediction in a fortune cookie or a winning lottery ticket, achieving 100 percent, on-time bus performance can feel elusive. The good news is that there are strategies you can use to get a bit closer to that desired number.

On-time performance, or OTP, is a common way for transit agencies to measure service reliability. A bus is determined to be “on time” when it arrives at the stop within a range of its scheduled time. Outside of that range, it is considered running hot or behind. Though there is no standard measurement, most regional agencies use a metric of one minute earlier and five minutes later than the posted arrival schedule at bus stops as their performance range.

The number one enemy of OTP is congestion. The Transportation Research Board found that increased congestion is steadily deteriorating travel speeds, with the average city bus route getting 0.45 percent slower each year. With a typical bus already crawling along at 13.5 mph (21.7 kph), that’s not promising news.

On-time performance is important for maintaining rider satisfaction and keeping a good metric can reduce ridership losses.

How to improve on-time bus performance

Let’s look at five ways that transit technology can provide data you can act on to enhance customer satisfaction and maintain and grow ridership.

  1. Adjusting schedules – Powerful reporting features inform you of stop data such as boardings, alightings, dwell time, bus arrivals/departures, wheelchair lift deployments, etc. Adjusting trip and dwell times based on the data provided allows for increased passenger capacity or to accommodate wheelchairs and strollers.
  2. Streamlining routes – Once you have identified your busiest and underutilized stops, you can streamline by straightening or interlining routes or eliminating unnecessary turns and underperforming stops. Historical ridership and performance reports allow you to see where riders are getting on and off.
  3. Implementing transit signal priority – Fixed route software supports transit signal priority technology to reduce wait times at traffic signals when buses are running behind.
  4. Updating payment methods – Switching from cash or ticket-based fare types to mobile payment or tap cards lets you speed boarding and permits boarding at both doors.
  5. Active dispatching – Dispatchers can monitor events and take pre-emptive action to minimize potential delays. Fixed route scheduling and routing software allows dispatchers to:
  • Reduce large gaps and bunching between buses
  • Monitor passenger counters and deploy additional buses to add capacity
  • Send out a replacement bus to continue service if a bus breaks down
  • Re-route a bus stuck in traffic due to an accident. Additionally, you can communicate the detour to onboard passengers and passengers waiting for the bus through signage, web-enabled applications, and social media.

Transit technology empowers you to activate strategies that will help you gain measurable increases in on-time performance, keeping passengers on schedule.

This is a guest post from TripSpark Technologies. Learn more about our fixed route transit software.

Tanya Brusse is the Product Manager for Transit at TripSpark Technologies, where she develops cutting edge software and technology. Her commitment to excellence is key in developing better products and services for our clients.
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