The definition of "On Time" varies from transit system to transit system, making comparisons difficult. When compared using the same standards, a more accurate portrait of transit performance emerges.
A recent post on the TransitCenter website catches transit systems moving the goal posts when it comes to measuring on-time performance. Transit officials set their own performance standards, without referencing any national standard, and can change those standards when its expedient to do so.
"Baltimore’s MTA recently came under fire by the Baltimore Sun and advocates for doing just that last year, after it boasted of improving its on time performance following the 2017 redesign of the bus network in Baltimore," according to post.
To cut through the fog of self-serving arbitrariness, the team at TransitCenter chose one universal standard, "[using] publicly available open data to look at 2018 transit agency performance, and picked an (ambitious) standard used by SFMTA: 'On Time' definition of 1 minute early, 4 minutes late."
Once the standard is set to a universal scale, the on-time performance of most systems declines, but a few trends in quality performance also emerge. "The systems that rise to the top tend to be in less congested cities (no surprise there – congestion is the primary source of bus delays). The top three cities for reliability saw smaller ridership losses on their bus system from 2016-2017 than the national average," according to the article.
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