MEMO

TO: MICHAEL SMART, TRANSPORTATION DIRECTOR, CTRANS
FROM: AILEEN DANEY
RE: IMPROVING THE TRANSIT NETWORK

INTRODUCTION

The most pressing challenge for the City of Cubetown’s Transportation Planning Department is
mediating traffic congestion. The department has opted to leave the road network intact and
focus on increasing the overall number of public transit riders. In order to increase ridership,
the department is looking to incentivize transit through the reduction of headway spacing, and
the potential provision of additional buses and rail vehicles.
The impending vote on Measure T, a quarter-cent sales tax on most items sold in Cubetown to
support transit operation, will dictate the direction of the city’s future transportation plans. The
transportation department has modeled three outcomes for the two alternate future scenarios –
one in which Measure T passes and one in which Measure T fails. Table 1 enumerates the exact
configuration of the proposed congestion solutions. The details of the model results are
discussed at length in the Scenario Outcomes section.

Future 1
Measure T Fails
Shift 1 bus from Flash Line
to Red Line

Table 1. Future Scenarios
Future 2
Measure T Passes
Option A:
Add 2 buses to each bus line

Option B:
Add 1 bus to Blue Line, 1 bus
to Flash line, and 1 rail vehicle

CURRENT TRANSIT NETWORK

The transit network in its current state attracts approximately 5,657 passengers daily. The
majority of ridership is pulled from the flash and rail line – each attracting 1,316 and 3,689
passengers on a daily basis, respectively. The radial nature of the transit network, with the heart
of the network in the downtown, aptly serves much of Cubetown residents’ mobility needs. The
network effectively interfaces with the central business district, areas of high employment in the
western half of the city boundary, areas with dense population, and areas of low-income
households where transportation options may be limited. There are some areas of potential
improvement, however.

In terms of the intensity of transit service throughout the region, from the perspective of travel
behavior analysis, the red line would benefit from increased service as income has an inverse
relationship with transit, and much of the neighborhoods found along this line are low-income.
In this same light, the fixed rail line would have been best suited connecting the western corner
of Cubetown to the downtown as wealthy, suburban rail commuters are the exception to the
inverse relationship, and this corner holds much of the upper-income households of the city.
The current rail line location, while not movable, perhaps serves only a moderate number of
potential interested riders. Ridership could increase, though, with an additional rail vehicle, or
increased bus service for the surrounding bus lines.
The transit network could also increase ridership by reallocating buses serving less-densely
populated areas to more densely populated areas. A less-densely populated area signals lowdensity land use and a (necessary) predisposition for travel by private vehicle. By focusing
efforts towards bus lines in medium- to highly-populated areas, the network could potentially
reach an increasing number of riders. This notion applies particularly to the flash line where
much of the western corridor of the line runs through a low-density area. The purpose of
improving the transit network, however, is ultimately to strike a positive balance of ridership
and service therefore the department stresses that no one consideration, organization, or
population’s needs will misplace another’s outright without evidence to support improved
traffic congestion and improved transit ridership for the city as a whole.

SCENARIO MOTIVATIONS
FUTURE 1

The decision to shift one bus from the flash line to the red line comes from the department’s
commitment to better serve the low-income population that resides around the line in the
northeast corner of the city. Figure 1 shows the income characteristics of the city. The darker
gradient of the choropleth map indicates a higher percentage of low-income families. Given that
low-income populations on average are more likely to use transit and less likely to own a car,
we expect ridership along this line to increase (Black). The department also hopes that by
increasing the red line’s service we can stave off the inclination to abandon public
transportation once a low-income household earns enough to purchase an automobile (Pucher).
Also, since the red line connects the low-income area with the downtown, and transit is most
heavily used for trips to and from the central business district, we can expect ridership to
increase due to this travel pattern (Black). The downtown, as Figure 2 demonstrates, is an area
of dense employment opportunities so the low-income population can only benefit from
increased access to this area of Cubetown.
Figure 1.

FUTURE 2 – OPTION A

The rationale behind adding two buses to each bus lines stems broadly from the recognition
that frequent service attracts passengers (Taylor). The additional service on the flash line aims
to reach the area of dense employment in the northwestern corner of the city. Figure 2
demonstrates the distribution of employment across Cubetown. Given that nationally the share
of work trips by car has increased from 66.9% to 87.9%, this option hopes to alleviate this
unsustainable trend by shift current journey to work trips from car to transit (Pucher).
The objective of reaching the employed population also extends to the blue line in the southern
part of the city, though to a lesser extent than the flash line. As Figure 3 reveals, the blue line
also passes through one of the most densely populated subdivisions of the city. The density and
land-use patterns here should encourage transit ridership. Moreover, the aforementioned
socioeconomic reasoning for adding a bus to the red line aptly applies to this scenario as well.
Figure 2.

Figure 3.

Reducing the headway time for all lines and attracting ridership, particularly at off-peak hours,
also has the added effect of heightening the rider’s sense of safety. More people using the
facility will reduce the uneasiness and vulnerability passengers can feel when waiting alone and
for extended periods of time. Though issues of safety are of greater concern for lower income
households, this is an amenity that would be equally incorporated and enjoyed at all bus lines if
Option A is enacted (Barber).

FUTURE 2 – OPTION B

The motivations for Future 2 – Option B vary per transit line. Adding a bus to the blue line serves
the purpose of attracting riders located in a moderately well-populated area, suggesting a more
walkable land-use and thus more feasible interaction with public transit. The added bus also
serves two areas with a higher percentage of low-income households, again reinforcing the notion
to support a population proven to frequent transit. Adding a bus to the flash line aims to decrease
the headway time and therefore reduce the overall commute time experienced by the largely
suburban neighborhoods surrounding the line. As suburban commuters typically have a longer
commute time than city-based commuters, the reduction in time (which is highly valued by the
wealthier) should help to incentivize transit (Black). Conversely, the increased service of the flash
line may help to usher urban residents from the city core to natural recreational amenities found
more at the periphery of city, though time is typically weighted less for this trip purpose.

CURRENT HEADWAYS

The current status of the bus and rail headways are detailed in Table 2 below. At eight minutes,
the rail line headway is nearly half the wait of the red or blue line. However, the flash line is not
too far off at only ten minutes, though its volume is more than half of the rail line.

Table 2. Current Transit Network Headways
CTrans Lines
Headway (in Minutes)
Current Volume
Red
15
280
Blue
Flash
Rail

2

15

372

10

1316

8

3689

SCENARIO OUTCOMES
FUTURE 1

As shown in Table 3, the additional bus operating on the red line reduces the headway by five
minutes, from a fifteen minute interval to a ten minute interval, while increasing the flash line
headway by only one minute to eleven minutes. This creates the obvious dilemma over the
name “flash line”. The line, so-named for its speed, is now forced out of the top headway
position. In looking past the semantics, however, the time-cost of the one minute increased
headway for the flash line can be justified by the five minute headway savings for the red line.
The additional bus service and time savings here could potentially attract drivers away from
their cars and onto public transit. This could also alleviate some of the resultant congestion that
appeared after the department’s last project of extending 7th Avenue.
Table 4 shows another positive result of this scenario – the addition of 420 transit riders for the
overall transit network; though it also has the adverse effect of decreasing ridership for the blue
line. The reduction in flash service probably affects the ridership of the blue line because the
two converge and interface not far from downtown. The faster flash line headways are probably
still a pull then. This is a troublesome side effect that must be further investigated before the
department moves forward with the plan.

Table 3. Future 1 Scenario of Buses (Measure T Fails)
Proposed
Number
Minimum
Number of
of
Total for
New
Vehicles
Vehicles
Round
Theoretical
Headway
and
and
Trip* (in
Headway
(in
Drivers
Drivers
Minutes)
Possible
Minutes)
6
5
51.3
10.26
11
4
5
47.1
9.42
10

CTrans
Lines
Flash2
Red

Previous
Headway
in Minutes
10
15

TABLE 4. Total Passengers Carried, AM Peak Hour, Base and Future 1 Scenario
Red

Blue

Flash

Rail

TOTAL

Base Scenario

280

372

1316

3689

5657

Future 1

545

237

1604

3691

6077

FUTURE 2 – OPTION A

In looking at Table 5, we see that by adding two vehicles and drivers to each of the bus lines,
headways for all were reduced by at least three minutes. The red line experienced the greatest
headway reduction of seven minutes. Table 6 depicts how ridership for every line, including the
rail line, increased significantly. The increase for both the red and flash lines represents more
than a doubling of ridership from the base scenario. Unlike Future 1, the blue line exhibits an
increased number of passengers, though relative to the other lines this is the smallest increase.
Overall, ridership for the transit network as a whole increased by fifty percent – from 5657
passengers to 8559 passengers. This scenario produces tremendous positives for ridership, and
appears to be a viable option for turning more residents onto transit should Measure T pass.

CTrans
Lines

Table 5. Future 2 – Option A Scenario of Buses (Measure T Passes)
Proposed
Number
Minimum
Number of
of
Total for
New
Vehicles
Vehicles
Round
Theoretical
Headway
Previous
and
and
Trip* (in
Headway
(in
Headway
Drivers
Drivers
Minutes)
Possible
Minutes)
in Minutes

Red

4

6

47.1

7.9

8

15

Blue

6

8

80.5

10.1

11

15

Flash2

6

8

51.3

6.4

7

10

Rail

4

4

30.5

7.6

8

8

TABLE 6. Total Passengers Carried, AM Peak Hour, Base and Future 2 – Option A Scenario
Red

Blue

Flash

Rail

TOTAL

Base Scenario

280

372

1316

3689

5657

Future 2 – Option A

738

493

3069

4259

8559

FUTURE 2 – OPTION B

Table 7 shows that the reduction in headway times are not as pronounced as other scenarios –
with the greatest reduction, rather than the minimum reduction, being three minutes. The
increased rail car only improved the headway by one minute – from eight to seven minutes.
Likewise, the flash line experienced only a two minute improvement from a ten minute
headway to an eight minute headway. In looking at Table 8, we see ridership for Option B again
increases for the transit network as a whole by almost forty-five percent. The bulk of the
ridership comes from the flash line which nearly doubles its ridership as compared to the base
scenario. The red line and rail line also experience significant increases – approximately sixty
and thirty percent respectively. All in all, this scenario reasonably improves ridership but only
gently improves headway spacing.

CTrans
Lines

Table 7. Future 2 – Option B Scenario of Buses (Measure T Passes)
Proposed
Number
Minimum
Number of
of
Total for
New
Vehicles
Vehicles
Round
Theoretical
Headway
Previous
and
and
Trip* (in
Headway
(in
Headway
Drivers
Drivers
Minutes)
Possible
Minutes)
in Minutes

Red

4

4

47.1

11.8

12

15

Blue

6

7

80.5

11.5

12

15

Flash2

6

7

51.3

7.3

8

10

Rail

4

5

30.5

6.1

7

8

TABLE 8. Total Passengers Carried, AM Peak Hour, Base and Future 2 – Option B Scenario
Red

Blue

Flash

Rail

TOTAL

Base Scenario

280

372

1316

3689

5657

Future 2 – Option B

444

296

2600

4820

8160

CONCLUDING REMARKS

In comparing ridership of all scenarios, as Table 9 does, we can see that Future 2 – Option A, the
scenario of adding two buses to each bus line, increases ridership the most for Cubetown’s
transit network. This scenario is also the only one to improve ridership for the blue line – the
two other scenarios actually decrease ridership. Option A also has the positive effect of
increasing the number of rail passengers by fifteen percent despite the fact that no direct
improvements to the rail line were enacted.
The scenario’s indirect rail ridership improvement would achieve the city’s ridership goal while
simultaneously avoiding conflict over rail expansion with oppositional organizations, namely
S.P.H.E.R.E. The equal distribution of buses on all lines should also ease concerns for suburban
residents who fear transit favoritism in urban areas, such as S.C.O.R.E.S. If Measure T passes,
Future 2 – Option A should be a popular, well-supported option. If Measure T fails, the
evidence presented for Future 1 should also encourage support for the city’s objective to
increase transit ridership.

Table 9. Total Passengers Carried, AM Peak Hour, Base and Three Alternative Scenarios
Red

Blue

Flash

Rail

TOTAL

Base Scenario

280

372

1316

3689

5657

Future 1

545

237

1604

3691

6077

Future 2 – Option A

738

493

3069

4259

8559

Future 2 – Option B

444

296

2600

4820

8160

WORKS CITED
Barber, Gerald. 1995. "Aggregate Characteristics of Urban Travel," in The Geography of Urban
Transportation, Second Edition, Susan Hanson, Editor. New York: The Guilford Press. Pages 81-99.
Black, Alan. 1995. “The People Who Ride Transit,” Urban Mass Transportation Planning, New
York : McGraw-Hill. Pages 283-306.
Pucher, John, and John L. Renne. 2003. “Socioeconomics of Urban Travel: Evidence from the 2001
NHTS,” Transportation Quarterly, 57: 349-377.
Taylor, Brian D., Douglas Miller, Hiroyuki Iseki, Camille Fink, (2009) “Nature and/or nurture?
Analyzing the determinants of transit ridership across US urbanized areas,” Transportation Research
Part A: Policy and Practice, 43(1), 60-77.