Monday, May 16, 2011

Fresno has the 5th best transit system in the country? Um, no.

Institutes love to pull out lists. They spend some time putting some data into a spreadsheet, look at what is spit out, and then declare winners and losers.

But they forget to use an ounce of common sense to see if the data they're choosing to use is relevant, and if the output is reasonable.

The Brookings Institution recently released a report ranking the transit systems in the country, and their prime metric seems to be what percentage of jobs are transit accessible.

While at first, that metric seems to make sense.....it's really dumb.

A city of 5,000, contained within 10 blocks with a single bus running a loop every 60 minutes may well have 100% transit accessibility. But if your town is only 10 blocks big...then walking or biking will get you to your destination faster than relying on a loop route on an hourly schedule.

A city like NY, where the urban borders are impossible to define might have a situation where 20% of the jobs are out on a suburban highway. But does anyone living in the bronx consider what is happening in Stamford relevant to them? Probably not.


So why was Fresno picked? Because the city is a grid, and the routes were drawn so that on a map, they look like they reach everywhere. But they don't, because the city has grown massively over the past 10 years, but bus routes have been cut. And the buses run north/south and east/west generally, meaning to reach any point you MUST transfer.

But with 30 minute headways, transfers are hell.

And did I mention Fresno reaches 113f in the summer? And shelters at stations are a luxury this town apparently can't afford?

Yeah, enjoy your 30 minute transfer.


I could go into more details into why the study is garbage, but let me just lay out some points....

-Service ends at 10pm. And by ends, I mean don't start your trip after 9pm.
-"Peak" service ends at 5:30pm
-The best frequency is found on two lines, which run every 20 minutes from 6am to 6pm. That's the absolute best. And after 60, they're down to 30 and then 60 minutes.
-Weekend service? Apparently, people don't work weekends, hourly headways and almost no service after 6pm.
-Monthly pass is $48....more expensive than the unlimited bus pass in Boston!

That right there is enough to tell you why the ranking system sucks.

The Brookings Institution should be ashamed of themselves. Yes, they got media exposure....but now everyone knows to never take them seriously ever again.


This week I'll take a closer look at the route system, why the route map also sucks, and why even the coverage metric doesn't make sense.

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