Thursday, February 24, 2011

Seoul's colorful buses & logical route system

In South Korea, buses are color-coded to let travelers know what kind of bus it is (long distance, feeder route, express, circular). On top of that, they divided the city into 8 zones, and number the buses based on how they travel between zones with the bus's ID as the last digit. So for example, bus 048 travels from zone 0 to zone 4 and is ID# 8. Very simple system for people to get around, especially if they don't speak Korean.

Could TriMet do something like that here?


Al M said...

Good idea!

Erik H. said...

LACMTA does have different colors of buses for different services: "Poppy Orange" for local buses, Red for "Metro Rapid" ("BRT lite"), Blue for express, and silver for the Orange Line (BRT).

NYCMTA uses prefixes to identify which borough the bus primarily operates in (i.e. M - Manhattan, B - Brooklyn, Bx - Bronx).

TriMet sort of has a numbering system but it's generally broken down. For example, many of the 20 series routes are in northeast Portland; the 30 series routes are in Clackamas County; 40 series routes are in southwest Portland, 50 series in Washington County. 60 series routes are generally Marquam Hill Expresses (except the 62 and 67; the 68 serves Marquam Hill but isn't an express); 70s are cross-town routes, which made a lot more sense pre-MAX (except the 73 which is a "hidden route" for the Washington Park Shuttle); 80s are in Gresham and East County and 90s are expresses.

There's a lot of unused route numbers, and TriMet has fewer than 100 routes so I think there is a prime opportunity to simplify the route structure and make it easier for riders. Here's how I'd do it:

1-12: These are the mainline routes numbered essentially like a clock. The 6-MLK would become 12, 9-Broadway would become 1, 12-Sandy would become 2, 20-Burnside/Stark would become 3, 4-Division would remain 4, 9-Powell would become 5, 33-McLoughlin would become 6, 12-Barbur would become 7, 56-Scholls Ferry would become 8, 54-Beaverton/Hillsdale would become 9, 20-Burnside/Stark (west of downtown) would become 10 (or maybe 44-Mocks Landing, or 35-Greeley), and 4-Fessenden would become 11.

From there, buses would be arranged in groups like how TriMet does it today - 13-19, 20-29, 30-39, and so on. 80-89 could be reserved for the crosstown routes and 90-99 for expresses (including the Marquam Hill Expresses).

I would also reinstate the use of suffixes for expresses, but eliminate the distinction between "E" and "L" routes. (I think the 9-Powell line is the only route left that has them, and it has both 9E and 9L trips.)

Transit systems that interchange with TriMet, such as C-Tran, SMART, YCTA, SAM, Columbia County Rider and CAT should use route numbers that do not conflict with TriMet - for example, there are two 45 buses that serve Tigard (TriMet 45-Garden Home, and YCTA 45-99W Link Express).

Of course, is this the best use of money right now? Probably not, there's more important things that TriMet can fix. Like, automatic chains, so that TriMet isn't sending buses chained up on bare pavement!