AC Transit could learn a thing or two from the new Burning Man bus route

27 May

routemasterbusToday, the AC Transit board is meeting to discuss declaring a fiscal emergency so that they can cut service without going through a lengthy EIR process. And as V Smoothe explained, there are going to be some serious cuts made to keep the agency solvent. But as bus service deteriorates in Oakland, bus service is being planned for my second favorite city, Black Rock City.

Some crazy burners from the UK have decided to bring regular bus service to Burning Man this year:

The project is focused on an actual London Transport RMT Routemaster bus in traditional livery, with an operating crew of 2 – a driver and a conductor – and a cast of thousands. Seven modified London Transport bus stops, with route maps and timetables, will be placed on The Esplanade at 2, 4, 6, 8, 10 and 12 ‘o’clock and at The Man.

The Nowhere Omnnibus will run a scheduled bus service hourly around this route, for eight hours, every day, for the duration of the event. The service will be split across morning and evening service enabling passengers to enjoy journeys during the busier, cooler parts of the day.

I’m not just sharing this because I think it’s the best thing to come to Burning Man in years, but because I think AC Transit can learn from this project. The Nowhere Omnibus team had to make some very similar decisions about their route. They needed to decide where to run the bus, how often to run it, and on what time of day on which days of the week. And they needed to make these decisions within an extremely constrained budget.nowhereroute

Significantly, they chose to focus on one trunk line that would hit the densest parts of the city. As you can see on the map, the route will circle the Esplanade, which is the main thoroughfare in the center of the city. If you’ve never been to Burning Man, this might be hard to imagine, but sometimes the traffic is so heavy on the Esplanade that I hop off my bike and walk because it’s just too difficult to get around so many bicyclists, pedestrians, and art cars. From the Esplanade, the bus will go to the temple, the man, and then back to the Esplanade.

I think this route is a great choice (actually, in my many fantasy descriptions of a Burning Man bus, this was almost the exact route I had come up with). But the truth is that it doesn’t come very close to most camps, which are located on the grid of the map above. My camp mates and I tend to camp out in the suburbs, near the far edge of the map so I’ll have to bike or walk about a half a mile to get to a bus stop. But that’s ok because I realize that it’s not realistic to run the bus in the far flung suburbs. If the route attempted to serve every camp, it would take forever to get anywhere and would compromise the trunk line service.

AC Transit directors would do well to look to the Nowhere Omnibus plan when thinking about service cuts. And if you want to let the directors know what you think, take the service reduction survey.

3 Responses to “AC Transit could learn a thing or two from the new Burning Man bus route”

  1. Oakland Photos September 18, 2009 at 6:45 pm #

    Didn’t you know?
    AC Transit was in fact at Burning Man.
    here’s a picture of me waiting on the 14.

    • Becks September 18, 2009 at 7:24 pm #

      Yeah, I first saw that sign and bench last year at Burning Man. I was so glad it was back this year because on burn night me and my girlfriend were sooooo exhausted on our way home and needed a place to sit down for a while. We hung out on that bench and watched people and lights go by.

  2. Oakland Photos September 19, 2009 at 6:55 pm #

    Yeah same here, ran into it last year.
    This year I set up a snack stop there and handed out granolas, dried fruits, nuts, mixes, breakfast bars and what not.

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