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Friday, November 14, 2014

TriMet’s Service Guidelines document

What we have here is how Trimet does its service planning, supposedly. 
It appears all  very logical and comprehensive.
Of course there is no way for anyone outside of Trimet to actually evaluate whether the steps that are outlined here actually occur. 
But they are taking comment if  you wish to provide that



DRAFT FOR REVIEW AND COMMENT
TriMet’s Service Guidelines
Draft for Review and Comment
Fall, 2014
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TriMet’s Vision, Mission, and Values
Vision
To do our part in making our community the best place to live in the country.
Mission
To provide valued transit service that is safe, dependable and easy to use.
Values
Do the right thing, by being responsive, inclusive and accountable.
More detail on TriMet’s current efforts to pursue its vision, mission, values and goals can be found in TriMet’s Transit Investment Priorities Process.
Service Planning and Decision-Making
TriMet plans for the future of transit by doing our best to understand and support long-term and short-term needs of the communities in our service district.
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Creating and following a shared vision for the Long-Term
TriMet works with the public, employers and communities throughout the region to plan for the long-term. Between 2013 and 2015, TriMet is asking riders, residents, neighborhood groups, governments, schools and businesses for their feedback to create a long-term vision for the future of transit service (see The Future of Transit for more details). Together, we are identifying and prioritizing opportunities to improve bus service as well as pedestrian and bike access to transit.
The shared visions for future service that result from this effort will become the template for future service improvements. The shared vision defines the long-term expectation for service and helps guide the list of potential improvements for each year. Each year, TriMet uses what resources are available to prioritize service enhancements for that coming year. TriMet makes each year’s service plan build incrementally toward that long-term vision for service.
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Annual Service Plan
Each year, TriMet develops an Annual Service Plan for enhancements, changes or reductions to service. The Plan is shared with the public online and through other channels with an emphasis
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on short, understandable materials that allow riders and other stakeholders to engage with TriMet and provide more information on their needs and requests.
TriMet generally makes its major service changes in the Fall of each year, so the Plan’s annual calendar is based on Fall service changes. Smaller schedule adjustments may be made each quarter. Each year, starting and ending in the fall, TriMet’s annual service planning process occurs in three sequential steps: 1) Engage, 2) Understand and 3) Make it Happen.
1) Engage – TriMet engages with riders and the community to understand service needs. To better understand the complete picture and explore options, TriMet collects data on ridership, costs, demographics, development and employment activity, and adopted land use plans. TriMet also conducts an Annual Performance Review which reviews the productivity of existing services, and the success of service changes made in the recent past. The Future of Transit shared visions provide the basic menu of options for any year during which increases of service are possible.
2) Understand – TriMet uses information from this engagement and analysis to understand needs and define service options in response. We take into account near-term and long-term needs for service improvement and growth, including both immediate concerns such as overloaded and/or late buses and trains, as well as changing dynamics in population and employment. This incorporates demand in current areas and evaluating underserved areas for potential new coverage. TriMet also has established standards for predictability of service and passenger loads on vehicles. TriMet aims to provide quality service equitably; we conduct specific analyses to ensure that service design and operations do not result in discrimination or disparate impacts on the basis of race, color, national origin or income level. Proposals are reviewed with the general public, employers and various communities both through specific service proposals and as part of the overall budget process. Engagement often leads to changes or adjustments in proposals before a final plan is defined.
3) Make it Happen – This process of Engaging and Understanding leads to a specific set of service changes which become part of the budget process for the upcoming fiscal year. Each year for which there is sufficient funding, the Annual Service Plan will include three elements: (1) Maintain the system for predictable service that minimizes crowding, (2) Restore/Optimize the system, and (3) Increase service. These steps are further defined below.
Figure 1 shows for more details on the Annual Service Plan calendar.
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Figure 1: Annual Service Plan Calendar
September, Day before Labor Day
Main service change for the year
May – August
• Finalize precise schedules
• Cut schedules into shifts
• Operators sign up for shifts
• Final preparation for service including maps, schedules, trip planner, online data, etc.
• Inform riders of any changes – and reasons for those changes
January – April
Public engagement on proposed changes
December - January
Merge input, data, and visions for future transit into proposed near-term improvements for September
September - November
Review performance, analyze data, gather input from public, communities, and operators, review service requests, etc.
Continuous
Receive and respond to service requests. Incorporate into annual service plan analysis.
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Considerations (whether expanding, reducing or managing service):
TriMet examines a range of important considerations in developing service planning proposals and making service planning decisions for managing current service, expanding service when possible, and reducing service when necessary.
Demand
The service we supply must respond to the demand for mobility and access via transit. Now, in reality, this is trickier than it sounds because, unlike some other goods and services, the demand for transit is actually related to the supply. More frequent service produces more demand because the service has become more convenient. TriMet collects and uses a wide selection of information – including current ridership patterns, population and employment numbers, safe walking paths and sidewalks, and projections of ridership – to better inform decisions in response to the needs of different communities. TriMet is always working to hone its tools and find new ones to better anticipate demand as the region changes and grows.

Productivity
At TriMet, we use productivity as a measure of the effectiveness of matching service supply to demand. Our unit of measure is typically number of boardings per vehicle hour. Because we are a vital public service with high expectations for service levels throughout the region, TriMet strives to keep a high level of productivity in the services we provide. The higher the productivity for any service, the lower the cost per ride – and the more riders can be served with the same budget.
Annually, TriMet reviews the productivity of all its lines. Higher productivity lines are stronger candidates for increases in service. Lower productivity may be considered for reconfiguring routes or reducing service levels to better match demand. Lines that fall below 15 boarding rides per vehicle hour will receive special focus for potential optimization or reductions of service. However, other considerations among those listed may lead to retaining the service.
TriMet has also sought other mobility solutions in areas where TriMet fixed-route lines would not meet productivity expectations, such as last-mile connections or partnering with other agencies or service providers to meet the needs of specific areas. Any such services should integrate with the overall system to allow riders to access the entire TriMet district, but may allow better tailoring of service to the local needs.

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Connections
Connections to jobs, to school, and other high priority places for communities and individuals are key considerations when looking at where service could be optimized or increased. These can include key locations such as job centers, schools, colleges, training centers, and neighborhood housing. Many of these places are in or near activity centers that are likely to support comparatively productive service. However, other places may generate lower ridership but still be important destinations for communities. TriMet weighs the importance of those connections in addition to the ridership they generate when increasing service and when we must reduce service.
Equity
TriMet’s services and business opportunities are open to everyone in our community. We operate with fairness and equity for all. TriMet complies with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, but also strives to go further to understand the needs and desires for service, so that we can better respond both in long-term visions for service and in the decisions we must make each year as part of the Annual Service Plan. When we are able to increase service, we ensure that the decisions of where and when to serve are made through an equity lens, considering the needs of low-income populations, people of color, people with disabilities, and other communities of concern. Similarly, when we are forced to reduce service, we make a concerted effort to minimize impacts on these groups.
Growth and the Future Vision for Service
TriMet is working with riders, residents, neighborhood groups, governments, schools, and businesses for their input to create a long-term vision for transit service (see the ‘Future of Transit’ at www.trimet.org/future). TriMet’s understanding of future needs is informed by public engagement, cities, counties, ODOT, and the Metro-led regional planning including the 2040 Growth Concept and the Regional Transportation Plan.
Having a vision for how service should look in the future helps ensure that each year’s improvements meet this year’s needs while setting the stage for future improvements. When TriMet needs to cut service, those services that are least consistent with the visions for the Future of Transit are considered earlier for reconfiguration or reductions.
Additional Planning Considerations
In addition to the Considerations above, TriMet also examines a range of issues when information is available, including safety issues; how easily people can access service, looking at safe crossings, sidewalks and pathways; operational issues, such as the physical design of streets, including turns, stops, layover locations, traffic, ridership, reliability and predictability of service and on-time arrivals, route efficiency, capacity, travel time, frequency, peak vehicle requirements and availability of spare vehicles to provide reliable service, operator availability; distribution of coverage in various communities across the region; partnership opportunities to improve service and access; and longer-term visions and plans such as regional plans, land use, and future development scenarios. TriMet strives to make our services and projects support the economic, social, and environmental health of the region
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Investing in Service
Each year that budget allows, the Annual Service Plan will include:
1) Maintain – Investments in capacity and reliability to help bring service in line with TriMet’s standards for crowding and on-time performance. This category primarily involves adjustments to schedules, more service on specific lines at specific times, and other detailed improvements to maintain the performance of existing service. TriMet’s long-term budget projection provides for annual investment in this maintenance function for bus and MAX service.
2) Optimize & Restore – Route restructuring to optimize the performance of existing services and investments in frequency to restore previously-provided service levels. Restoring bus and MAX to Frequent Service levels is a recent example of an important investment implemented in this category.
3) Increase – Investments in new and reconfigured lines, including improvements in how often and/or how long lines provide service each day, to make progress towards the shared visions described in the Future of Transit.
1. Maintain
Each year, TriMet reviews service and identifies lines that need improvements just to maintain the basic quality of service. There are two basic categories: overcrowding (measured by peak passenger loads) and unpredictable service (measured by on-time performance). TriMet’s long-term budget forecast includes resources to apply to both categories. The application of these resources, if available, is determined each year based on an annual review of performance for every line in the system.
Overcrowding
Some lines have trips where the supply is not enough to meet the demand, and the buses or trains are overloaded. Popular lines will always have standees, but the highest ridership trips may have such high loads that riders cannot board and must wait for later trips. This can drive away riders and make transit less productive and effective. In order to maintain the effectiveness of transit on these highest-ridership trips, TriMet attempts to add enough service to at least accommodate riders without forcing them to wait for a later bus or train.
TriMet’s loading standards are based on the achievable capacity of the vehicle (see Figure 2). Vehicle manufacturers identify design capacity assuming far more standees than most riders would consider comfortable. The achievable capacity represents a peak load that is very busy but more acceptable to riders. An average below the achievable capacity will still have a little room for additional riders so that riders are not passed up. This keeps the service available for those who need it and attractive enough to encourage more people to use it.
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Figure 2: Vehicle Capacities by Mode and Type
Vehicle Type
Passenger Capacities
Seated
Standing
Achievable Capacity
Load Factor
30’ Bus (note: this may change slightly with 2015 replacement of fleet)
28
2
30
1.1
40’ Bus (most of TriMet’s fleet)
39
12
51
1.3
MAX (2-car train)
128
138
266
2.1
WES (2-car train)
150
48
198
1.3
WES (1-car train)
72
23
95
1.3
Note: All MAX trains operate as 2-car trains. WES may operate as 1-car or 2-car train.
Note that WES trains are made of up one car that is powered and sometimes include a second car that is not powered (a “trailer car”). The two have different passenger capacities which accounts for the variation in capacity between a 1-car and 2-car train.
Trips with an average peak load at or above achievable capacity are considered first for additional trips to help meet demand. For buses, when multiple consecutive trips are above the maximum seated load (39 passengers on most of our buses), additional trips may also be considered because even small variations in travel time can result in individual trips being above achievable capacity. Loads are typically calculated as an average during any given service quarter. Fall service quarter data are used for this analysis because it is the most recent data available for each Annual Service Plan and because Fall tends to have the heaviest ridership. Other seasonal adjustments may be made to the schedule if demand varies significantly across different seasons.
Unpredictable Service
Some lines and trips have schedules that are stretched to the limit, with too many buses running behind schedule due to heavy traffic. This leads to unpredictable service that doesn’t serve riders’ needs and can drive away people who might otherwise ride, reducing the effectiveness of TriMet service to meet our communities’ needs. When resources are available, adjustments are made quarterly to address unpredictable service. These improvements are also needed to ensure that TriMet’s operators get adequate time for modest breaks from the stressful job of negotiating traffic and attempting to maintain safe and on-time operations.
TriMet analyzes on-time performance data comparing actual departure time to scheduled departure time. For buses and MAX, a vehicle is considered "on time" if it departs a scheduled timepoint no more than one (1) minute early and no more than five (5) minutes late. This is known as the “six minute window”. For WES, trains that arrive at the destination station (Beaverton or Wilsonville) within four (4) minutes of the scheduled time are considered on time.
TriMet also consults with our bus and MAX operators and gathers input from the public to identify needs and potential solutions. Each year’s improvements will generally include more bus service assigned to lines so that the schedules can be rewritten to better reflect real-world travel times. Lines with a combination of the lowest on-time performance, the most number of trips needing improvement, and the highest demand are considered for improvement first.
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TriMet also works with cities, counties, and the Oregon Department of Transportation to identify key improvements for transit priority that would help make trips more reliable and perhaps save those resources for service increases instead.
2. Restore/Optimize
Optimizing Service
To optimize service means to reallocate current resources in ways that are more effective to meet riders’ needs and improve the usefulness of the network. These generally involve low or no cost, but provide the potential to better serve riders’ needs. As part of TriMet’s annual assessment of performance, potential candidates for optimization are identified. These may include service changes to trips or periods of the day with especially low or high productivity (measured by boardings per vehicle hour), route structures that duplicate service more than is warranted by the demand in the area, and other potential improvements. Special attention will be paid to lines or portions of lines with less than 15 boarding rides per vehicle hour. At lower productivity levels, the cost per ride becomes very high and those same resources could potentially go to service with many more boarding rides per hour serving far more riders. For example, in 2014, the system average was around 34 boardings per vehicle hour, with the top services reaching 60-75 boardings per vehicle hour during certain times of the day. Both routing changes and service reductions may be considered for these low-performing services.
Proposed changes are guided by considerations for expanding service (see “Considerations” above) as well as by best practices in route and network design. Any proposed changes are part of the engagement and conversation with the public. For significant changes, especially those in routing or time of day, on-board outreach may be needed. TriMet makes changes when possible to better meet needs identified during outreach and engagement.
Restoring Service
If needed, TriMet will restore service when the funding is available. The first priority is to restore service levels for TriMet’s Frequent Service network, which includes all identified Frequent Service bus, MAX, and streetcar lines. Not every trip reduced in an economic downturn is necessarily restored. Because TriMet focuses on the lowest productivity lines or trips when forced to reduce service, there may be other lines where those resources will better serve riders when it is possible to restore service. All proposed restoration is part of the public engagement each year for the Annual Service Plan.
3. Increase
Each year, when budget is available, TriMet will increase service. Using the considerations (see above “Considerations” section for details) of demand, productivity, connections, equity, and future growth, TriMet will use each year’s increase to meet the highest needs and step-by-step move our system to be consistent with the shared visions for the Future of Transit. This includes adding new service in expanding job centers as well as growing neighborhoods. TriMet has many potential tools to increase service, including making buses and trains come more frequently on existing lines, adding more hours of service or new days of service to existing lines, reconfiguring existing bus routes, or adding new bus lines. New service is focused on
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those opportunities that are likely to attract enough new riders to perform well, and to avoid developing new lines that soon end up in the low-performing category, which then would need to be considered for changes or cuts just a few years after introduction. For lower demand areas, TriMet considers other options such as Community Connector service offered with partners or other options, such as park and ride access and first and last mile strategies.
Reducing service
When TriMet is forced by budget pressures to reduce overall service levels, TriMet uses the following guidelines and priorities, informed by the Considerations above (see “Considerations” section). In these cases, TriMet clearly defines the budget impacts and options, engages with riders and the public and makes changes in proposals whenever possible to better respond to the needs of the region and our riders. Every decision must consider multiple factors, so they are not listed in a specific order of priority:
• Generally try to preserve as much service for as many riders as possible
• Evaluate proposed reductions in service to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse and disproportionate impacts on people of color and low-income populations
• Preserve the highest demand trips as long as possible
• Maintain Frequent Service bus and rail service from at least 7am-8pm weekdays, 9am-6pm Saturdays, and 10am – 5pm Sundays at 15 minute or better headways.
• Eliminate or reconfigure any redundant bus service, where other accessible services may exist and have adequate capacity to serve the current demand
• Reduce frequencies during lower demand days and times of day
• Reduce service in the off-peak direction with lower ridership first
• Avoid or minimize impacts on elderly and disabled riders
• Eliminate lowest ridership bus service trips and times of day (if such changes appear necessary, TriMet will consider eliminating full lines, but first will consider less significant changes, and will conduct on-board engagement with riders to understand potential impacts and other possible alternative access)
• Generally reduce frequency before reducing span to preserve basic access to jobs and other needs
• Attempt to maintain a minimal level of service on better-performing lines.

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