Sunday, September 29, 2013

Success in Arlington

It has been hard for me to find information on the MAX bus service in Arlington that opened last month, but my Alma Mater's school paper was able to give some information on the early performance of the new express route from the TRE's Centrepointe Station to the College Park district at UTA and in downtown Arlington.

The bus system, which opened Aug. 19, averaged about 227 riders per day in its first week. The system averaged about 248 riders per day in its third week.

Arlington city officials are pleased with the numbers, said Alicia Winkelblech, Community Development and Planning manager.

“We estimated 250 riders per day at the end of the first year, and we’re already hitting the low end of that year one goal,” she said.


The city council will receive ridership reports quarterly with the next report coming in January, Winkelblech said.

So based on their metric, the express route is a success.

The MAX stop at the southwest corner of UTA Blvd and Center St.
I took the route and was pleased with what I saw. The timing wasn't perfect, though it was at least decently timed to not make the transfer times overly long. The main problem is that there are likely two transfers to make this work, one from the first mode to the TRE and the second from the TRE to MAX.

The stop at College Park was clean, noticeable and convenient, at least if you are going to anything in the immediate district. Considering that the major reason I would use it would be athletic events at the arena, College Park Center, it would work really well for me. The average student has a small hike if they are headed somewhere else on campus.

A close-up of the stop.
There are a few tweaks that would make the service a lot better. First, the University operates its own quasi-bus service that links parts of the disparate campus. Its primary function is to navigate students from the outlying parking lots to the main sections of campus. Increasingly, as the on-campus student population grows, it is developing into more of a bus service to circulate passengers within the service area, but it is still predominantly used by the commuters.

Not one of the shuttles has a stop at this location. There are a couple that get close, but not directly at the new stop. Certainly ridership would increase if at least one of the main routes did.

Second, I really feel that in order for this thing to take off, the transfer times have to be tightened. Coming from downtown Dallas, the hub of the DART system, it took almost two hours. Coming from the same spot, I could have drove in 25-30. I guarantee you, of those 248 average daily riders, almost all of them either don't/can't drive or are going someplace where there are external costs to motor vehicle operation, like paying to park. Otherwise, very few will take the service. About 15-25 minutes of that was waiting for the next transit mode to come.

Part of the issue in tightening the times is that MAX is timed to try and meet TRE trains in both directions. Inevitably with commuter rail, whose headways are roughly one hour in non-peak times, that will mean one direction will wait longer than the other.

Of course, that gets into a whole new debate about providing transit service in a low-density area such as ours, and I really don't want to dive into that again.

1 comment:

Ken Duble said...

The UTA shuttle doesn't stop at the Max stop? That's just crazy!