Monday, February 13, 2012

Urban Bus Reductions

In response to anonymous, I am going to break down how further changes to the bus system in the upcoming service changes will have a negative impact on the urban area. Similar to the simplistic method I mentioned in this post, identifying the urban areas is the first step. In my opinion, the urban neighborhoods are Downtown, Uptown, The Cedars, Deep Ellum Knox-Henderson, Oak Lawn and Bishop Arts. Upcoming neighborhoods that are close include Cedar Springs, Design District, Expo Park and North Oak Cliff (some might differ with my opinion that this is emerging. I say that because there are still many suburban designed areas, with large amounts of setbacks and parking. That also makes it more of an emerging urban area when there is no consensus). I don't include anything that is not contiguous with the urban core such as Mockingbird Station or the Medical District.

From here, identifying the buses within these neighborhoods will illustrate my point. The buses that are scheduled for adjustment in the first phase are the 21 (BA, NOC, D, U, KH), 27 (D, U), 35 (D, C), 59 (U, D, NOC), 110 (D), 111 (D), 155 (D, C), 183 (D, U), 202 (D), 208 (D), 210 (D) and 521 (U, KH). Those scheduled for the second phase are the 31 (D, U, OL), 39 (D, U, OL, CS), 49 (D, U, DD), 51 (D, U, OL, CS), 207 (D) and 283 (D).

Now several of these buses can be stricken from the discussion, the 202, 210 and the 207, as new rail additions are replacing the current service. The 283 is canceling a suburban portion of the route. The 208 is a new service. As a whole, the express route 200 series buses are of little use as urban travel. They are merely ways of transporting suburban workers to urban workplaces. While this is important, I have established previously that commuter services carry far less than their urban counterparts. Similar to the 200's is the 183, as it is adding portions to its suburban segment. While this is a good thing, it is also of little use in urban travel.

I would also excluded the 110 and the 111. Leaving downtown, they both travel over two routes toward Far East Dallas. After the change, each will be operating on only one portion, with the same total coverage as before. The 111 will have reduced times, which I will touch on in a minute, but since the 100 series are semi-express, the same rules apply, there is little the urban transportation gain from these routes.

Consequently, we can group several of the routes under their respective negative change. First up is the 35 and 49. These are going to be reduced in frequency. This means less buses plying the streets and connecting the urban areas. It is no secret that higher frequencies lead to higher ridership along the same route. Obviously, cost has to come into play, which is the reason some routes operate quite a bit more than others. If money were no object, every route would have headway's less than five minutes apart and operate 24 hours a day. Sadly, we live in the real world and DART planners have to balance operating costs with service provided. While I don't necessarily disagree with the change, it will have a negative impact on urban transport.

The 155 serves Lamar Street, but the frequency is so low that it's loss will mean very little. It's primary function was operating with limited express from the South Ledbetter area to downtown. Eliminating it will require an extra transfer, but the ridership wasn't that high anyway. It's local service in South Dallas was already served by existing rail feeders so there is no need to add a shorter rail feeder route to replace any loss of service. Again, were this an ideal setting, this bus wouldn't go anywhere, but given the constraints DART faces, I am fine with this one. However, it is still worth acknowledging its negative impact.

Another grouping is the 21, 27, 51, 59 and 39. These will have parts or all of their route eliminated. Obviously, truncated routes negatively effects the urban neighborhoods by no longer offering its services in that corridor. In the case of the 21, part of that route is being added back into a new route, the 521, but not all. It also now means an extra transfer is needed, as is the case of the 39 and the 524. The 524 is picking up the truncated part of the 39. That now means those using that portion of the service will now have to make that transfer. The 27's elimination doesn't bother me too much. It basically duplicated the Green Line, since there is very little on that route between Downtown and Parkland to act as destinations for passengers (the Harwod District in Uptown is the only exception). Some folks addressed their concern with this one in the public meetings, but I think a reshuffling of the circular's scheduling within the Medical District will alleviate some of those issues.

The 31 was addressed in the post linked above, but I'll briefly repeat. The 31 will be pulled from service on Oak Lawn to pick up the eliminated urban portion of the 51. This means a major urban street has no local bus service from downtown and only one route overall. In many ways, a lot of these changes fall under this umbrella too. McKinney has less local bus destinations if the 21 is pulled. Elm and Commerce get less buses now with the reduced headway's and eliminations, it is very easy to travel east-west in downtown because of all the different buses. It will be a little less so now. Other urban streets like San Jacinto, Pearl, Harwood, Lamar and Houston will similarly be effected.

Let me repeat, this is not a criticism of the planner's proposals but merely a look at one set of negative effects. I'd be more upset if they were trying to make a $50 million budget surplus into $60 with these changes. But as it is, they are trying to break even. Some environmental justice folks would be upset that part of the reason for the cuts is the debt incurred for building the rail system. I share part of their position, but I also understand the politics involved. I know, surprise, surprise, something involving tax dollars and public infrastructure involves politics, but that is the way of things.

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