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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Death of a Thousand Cuts

Do you want to know how to kill a bus route? It's pretty easy. Once you start the death-spiral, it's pretty hard to undo. All you need to do is cut service, once. Cut it from ten minutes to fifteen minutes.

Lying about the schedule helps, too. Make sure the bus doesn't show up on time. Being late is always good, but being erratically late is better. If you can manage to not show up, once or twice, anybody relying on the bus to make it to work will call it quits and buy a car.

Soon, people will get tired of waiting the extra couple of minutes, and find another way to get where they are going. So buses have fewer people on them. And if there are fewer people on them, you only need half as many buses, right? So you can cut service again, to say, a bus every thirty minutes.

This is about when its time to cut weekend service. Ridership is always lower on the weekends anyway, because you don't have the 9-5 crowd bumping up the numbers, so it's just retail and service workers.

So all the riders that are left are waiting even longer, and some of them find a different way to get where they are going. So you cut service to every hour. At this point, nobody but the most desperate will be riding your bus, because who the hell wants to wait an hour for the bus? A healthy adult with an hour to kill can walk three miles in that time, and probably get there faster than if they had waited for the bus.

Now, add more stops. At this point, the only people riding your bus are probably young, elderly or disabled, so they probably can't walk very far, very easily. And it doesn't cost any money to add more stops, to reduce walking distance. Add some big U-shaped detours, to stop at a library, an old-folks home, or a school. It does make the bus really slow, but at this point, there is nobody left who cares anyway.