As it turns out, one list of five items to improve Phoenix’s transit network isn’t enough! There are certainly a lot of areas for transportation improvements in this city. Building on last week’s installment of The Friday Five, here is another set of five improvements for public transportation in this city, with a refresher on the first five:
1. Get rid of the $2 bus tax; reintroduce transfers.
2. Designate high-capacity / high-frequency routes.
3. Retrofit existing light rail stations with cooled spaces; shade all bus stops.
4. Have bus system achieve schedule parity with light rail.
5. Introduce stored-value fare cards for all riders.
6. Connect transit to trailheads. I’ve written on this extensively in an essay comment from Monday so I will refer you to that for more detail. In summary, if we want to alleviate parking problems at some of our most popular parks, trails, and mountain preserves, we must think about different ways to get people there. I propose connecting our bus system to those trailheads.
7. Establish site guidelines for bus stop locations, especially during construction. Especially in central Phoenix, bus stop locations can be located quite a distance from the intersection they serve. For instance, the eastbound Thomas Road bus stop is 250 feet from its corner, which doesn’t include any street crossings needing to be made by passengers. During construction, as we are seeing on 19 Ave for light rail’s extension, bus stops can be 1/8 – 1/4 mile away from the intersection and can constantly change. When transfer times are in the 1-2 minute range instead of 5-6 minutes and especially in unshaded environments, bus connections are missed. Guidelines should be created and enforced (especially during construction) that bus stops should be no more than 100 feet from the intersection.
8. Improve bicycle infrastructure on buses, trains, and at major stations. Public transportation is a great way to get from point A to point B without having to pedal everywhere. Most times when I ride the train, the hanging bike racks are full. Often times, too, bicycle racks on buses are full. (Trains can hold four bicycles per car; a bus can hold two or three bicycles.) Bicycles are not allowed on the bus so if a bicycle rack is full, a rider has to wait or cycle to their destination; on trains, when the bike racks are full, bicycles and their riders are blocking aisles and doors. As METRO orders new rolling stock for its system and evaluates its current equipment, more bicycle racks are certainly an imperative! Something that’s equally important is the addition of practice bicycle racks at major transit centers. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve seen try to load their own bicycles into the trains with bad results. I know that I’ve had problems loading my own bicycle into the hanging bike rack. “Practice makes perfect,” as the saying goes, and I am sure that some practice bicycle racks at major transit centers would provide some no-pressure/no-stress practice for both novice and experienced transit users alike.
9. Update schedules with real data. More often than not, there is a disconnect between what the schedule says and when the next bus or train arrives. On a recent bus trip, the schedule was off by 10 minutes. Trains are usually off by 1-2 minutes. As Valley Metro updates their schedules for the future, perhaps they should add this experiential information and realize that while schedules are nice, they are often aspirational.
10. Make Valley Metro data, including real-time positions, truly open source. We’ve heard that Valley Metro is in the process of creating their own in-house app for bus and train schedules, route guidance, and general information about the system. While their limited release of GTFS data is welcome, why not make it open source for everyone? There are great mobile apps for getting transit directions, many often times better than Valley Metro’s own website. In addition, some of these apps contain GTFS-Realtime information, meaning directions are based on realtime bus and train positions, not predetermined schedules.