How Important is High Frequency Transit Service?

Earlier this month, Portland’s TriMet restored high frequency bus service to ten bus routes around the city. Jarrett Walker makes the case that the frequency of service can make or break a city’s transit system.
March 24, 2014, 7am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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“The reputation of Portland as a transit city in the last two decades may have been about its light rail, streetcar, or aerial tram, but to the extent that the city achieved significant ridership and made transit a welcomed part of urban life, it's done so with a grid of frequent transit services,” writes Jarrett Walker.

Ridership dropped on the TriMet system, however, after a 2009 reduction of service. “During the period of this service cut, as good connections enabled by the frequent grid became more arduous and wait times increased, the overall utility of the system across its strongest market was diminished. The impact on ridership was clear: between fall 2012 and fall 2013 alone, weekday bus ridership declined 3.6 percent, 2.6 on the MAX light rail system, continuing the negative trend starting from 2009.”

Earlier this month, however, TriMet restored 15-minute service to 10 critical bus routes. Walker argues that the high levels of service will benefit many aspects of the city, including TriMet’s ridership numbers: “The return of the grid is good news for riders, and no doubt the agency hopes to reverse the troubling ridership trend and create some good publicity in the [process]. High frequency transit service is a key characteristic of many of Portland's most attractive [neighborhoods], and must be seen as a permanent element of these places if they are to continue to grow in a manner that enables people to make real choices about their travel options.”

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Published on Friday, March 21, 2014 in Human Transit
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