9-line access access management access point accessibility ADA air quality alignment amenity antiplanner atlanta BART BID bike Blogs boston branded bus branded buses brookings brt bus Bus Rapid Transit BYU capacity car pool cars central link Centrality certification commuter rail condo congestion congestion pricing connections consistency coverage crossings CRT cycling DART dedicated dedicated right of way density denver depreciation developers development economics efficiency Envision Utah equity eugene exclusive extension FAQ favela Federal Funding Flex Bus florida free fare zone freeways Frequent Transit Network frontrunner frontunner Gallivan garden cities gas prices geotagging goat Google grade-separation Granary District growth headway heavy rail hedonic High Speed Rail history housing housing affordability housing bubble housing prices HOV income infill innovative intersections intensity ITS junk science LA land use LEED legacy city light rail linear park location LRT lyft M/ART malls mapping maps metrics metro MetroRail missoula mixed mixed traffic mixed-traffic mobile mode choice Mode Share multi-family MXD neighborhood networks news NIMBY office online op-ed open letter Operations parking parking meters peak travel pedestrian environment phasing Photomorphing planning Portland property property values Provo proximity quality_transit rail railvolution rant rapid rapid transit RDA real estate redevelopment reliability research retail Ridership ridesharing right of way roadway network ROW salt lake city san diego schedule schedule span seattle separated shuttle silver line single family SLC SLC transit master plan slums smartphone snow sprawl standing stop spacing streetcar streetscape streetscaping subdivision subsidy Sugarhouse Sugarhouse Streetcar Tacoma taxi technology tenure termini time-separation TOD townhouse traffic signal tram transit transit networks transit oriented development Transit Planning transponder transportation travel time TRAX trip planning trolley tunnel uber university of utah urban design urban economics urban land UTA UTA 2 Go Trip Planner utah Utah County Utah Transit Authority vmt walking distance web welfare transit Westside Connector WFRC wheelchairs zoning

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Private Buses

The last few weeks at Cap'n Transit Rides Again and Human Transit have included an interesting discussion on private transit.

I've earlier written on the use of rail as a method for governments to experiment with different types of transit services. I do not mean to advocate the large-scale privatization of transit. For transit to function efficiently, it must function as a cooperative network. But that begs the question: Must the network paths be determined by some sort of central coordinating agency, or can a most-efficient solution emerge from the rough-and-tumble give and take of market competition?

One some level, the network effect is fundamentally valuable, and a private operator would recognize that connections to other transit services is the way to go. In unregulated developing countries, informal 'hubs' for bus, taxi, and jitney operations arise.

On the other hand, private operators don't go where there isn't any money. 'Coverage' services providing essential social services for seniors, the disabled, the young, and the poor... would almost certainly cease to exist. Providing para-transit costs UTA more, on a per-rider basis, then bus, TRAX, or FrontRunner. Largely because Para-transit functions as a sort of specialized taxi. While the price per ride is much higher than a bus ticket, ($4.00) it's still a superior alternative to taking a regular taxi.

Another problem is 'clustering'. Small private operators are bad at providing 'backbone' service, and thus tend to cluster around terminals for other high-volume services. Most taxi operators make their living giving rides to and from the airport, not running people around down-town Salt Lake City. Waiting an hour for the near-certainty of a pick-up at the airport beats out waiting an hour for the hope of a pick-up in downtown.

In New York city, small private jitney operators frequently compete with buses--following established bus routes. On one level, they compete with buses, taking passengers that would otherwise ride the buses. On another level, they act as an unofficial 'frequency boost', adding more vehicles per hour on the route.

For high frequency buses, where passengers arrive at random intervals and expect to be picked up within a reasonable period of time, jitneys would compete with buses. But for less frequent buses (on 1-hour, half-hour or even 20 minute headways), limited privitization of local bus routes would provide a mechanism for agencies to experiment with bus frequency without undertaking any long-term liability.

UTA could 'badge' private providers with licenses to operate along existing UTA routes, with the private providers being allowed to experiment with different schedules (and frequencies) to determine which ones are most effective.