An easy way to speed up buses

15 Apr

I have a few pet peeves when it comes to bus riding etiquette, but the thing that bothers me most is when lots of people exit the bus from the front door. As I explained in my post on possible solutions to making the 51 faster, alighting through the front door increases dwell time at the stop, particularly on crowded lines. But I didn’t need a report to tell me that – it’s so apparent every day!

Like yesterday, I was riding the 1R, and even though it was rush hour, for some reason the bus I was on was a single length bus, which was very crowded. Since it was rush hour, there were people getting on and off the bus at every bus stop on the route. For some reason, everyone on my bus was determined to exit through the front door so at most stops more than 5 people would get off the bus, and then more than 5 would board. This whole process nearly doubled the dwell time because everyone had to wait to board the bus, and this added dwell time often caused us to miss green lights.

The 51 report recommended putting signs up in buses that would encourage rear door alighting. I think it’s pretty clear that we need those signs not just for the 51 line, but for all AC Transit buses or at least for the busiest lines. It would not cost very much money, and would make both bus riders and bus drivers happier – riders would get where they’re going on time, and drivers wouldn’t be in as much of a rush to keep to their schedules.

But until that happens, I’m asking all bus riders out there – please, use the rear doors. They’re there for a reason!


8 Responses to “An easy way to speed up buses”

  1. OaklandSpaceAcademy April 15, 2009 at 4:18 pm #

    Experienced (and observant) bus riders will know this, but I don’t think your average bus rider does. And of course for signs to work you need observant (and considerate) riders, an even smaller group.

    High performance bus riding is like anything else, it must be learned. And in order for it to be learned it will probably have to be taught. The most natural teacher would be the driver. Especially on a route like the 1R with fewer stops, it would be easy for the driver to, a couple blocks away, call out the stop followed by a reminder to exit (or alight, but you’d probably need to use both to start) out the back. I think that would be a lot to ask the drive to do at every stop on a normal route, but if they did it every 10-15 blocks it would help a lot.

    If AC Transit incorporated this into their drivers duties, I think you’d see a significant increase in bus rider skills within a just a few months, allowing us to dominate the bus-riding Olympics.

    My pet peeve is riders waiting at a stop who don’t turn away from an oncoming bus they don’t want, or bother to flag the one they do. I’m tired of the bus pulling over for those just enjoying a seat in the sun. I think drivers should sail right on past stops unless they are flagged, and maybe stop a half a block down for a few months. After that, if you aren’t observant and considerate, no bus for you!

    • Becks April 15, 2009 at 4:27 pm #

      Good points. Along the lines of your suggestion, AC Transit could implement that language on the bus lines that already have PA systems that announce the next bus stop. It would be simple, cost nothing, and not add any responsibilities to the bus drivers.

      And on your pet peeve – that irks me too, though I don’t see it happen very often on the 1 or 1R, except in downtown Oakland and downtown Berkeley. I know I always step very far back from the bus stop if I see a bus coming that I don’t want to board.

      Maybe we need to create a pamphlet, or better yet, a YouTube video, on bus etiquette. Maybe it exists already?

      • V Smoothe April 15, 2009 at 4:38 pm #

        OMG, let’s make one! I have a camera. You wanna play the inept rider? Or maybe an irritated commuter glaring at our star and checking your watch.

        • Becks April 15, 2009 at 4:44 pm #

          That would be great! Now we just need to convince AC Transit to let us film on one of their buses. If you’re serious about this I’ll contact a couple of the ACT directors to see if they can make it happen.

  2. david vartanoff April 15, 2009 at 5:01 pm #

    OTOH, if you are closest to the front door on a crowded bus, it is faster to get to, AND if you are on a Sloooow Opennnning door bus you are on the sidewalk moving away before the back door opens.
    BTW in our greenwashing neighbor Berkeley, the PCOs are under orders NOT to ticket trucks double parked in a traffic lane on Tele. This cuts throughput by 50% causing nice smog belching idling cars and buses.

  3. cstone April 15, 2009 at 5:42 pm #

    This is interesting to hear, because I regularly exit through the front door so that I can thank the driver. These folks drive all day long and sometimes are barely acknowledged and I think it’s worth giving up some thanks. I always move to the front of the bus before the stop and idle until the bus driver is pulled over, and hop out quickly.

    Then again, I don’t do it on a crowded bus. 😛

  4. Michael Ohlrogge April 16, 2009 at 5:14 pm #

    This also has big economic implications as well. The Alameda County Congestion Management agency studied this in 1999 and found that 45% of the time the San Pablo bus is in service, it is stopped for traffic lights or paying fares. Buses cost about $150/hour to operate, so that extra lag time from people jamming up at the entrance can actually add up to a lot of money when multiplied by all the AC buses on all the routes.

  5. david vartanoff April 18, 2009 at 10:51 am #

    The AC Transit 51 doc cites a UCB dwell stidy showing the dip swipe pass/transfer system as close to fumbling for change–both very slow. From their study, it is clear that flash passes (such as AC used until 6 years ago) POP or RFID tag speeds buses. The original excuse for the Belgian buses was the extra door to facillitate POP, BUT the latest order now has no third door. So much for that plan. The other major delays to the 51 are a few very congested segments of College Ave for instance the Alcatraz to Claremont block. If the Safeway project is tweaked enough that can be fixed. If AC does noy get enough cooperation from City of Oakland, the 51 remains doomed.

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