Bus Stops: Could Less Mean More?
More than ever bus systems are losing ridership to ride share programs like Uber and Lyft and while there are many reasons to be critical of these private rideshare programs, one thing is certain: they are more convenient and provide a better individual experience than a traditional transit operation. That begs the question: ‘How can buses compete on convenience and experience?’ One way might be for our bus systems to throw out the idea that you need a bus stop to drop someone off. Sound crazy? It is not as far fetched as it may seem. Here is why:
Bus Stops are costly and while it is in most cases an issue of priorities, cities just don’t have enough money to repair or build new infrastructure. This, coupled with an anti-tax political climate, creates a future where we will likely have to make do with less, not more.
Buses stopping on demand will slow traffic and create safer streets. Think about your experience riding in an Uber and Lyft. When they pick you up or drop you off they will pop their flashers on and block traffic while you jump out. If we are accepting of this behavior from a privately owned company, then shouldn’t we be accepting of our public transit systems behaving in the same way?
Riders are already signaling to the driver that they need to get out. Buses don’t typically pull over at every bus stop unless someone requests the stop, which means that the infrastructure, technology and behavior is already in place to make the testing of this change somewhat simple. So why in a bus do I have to pull a lever and then watch the driver drive two blocks past where I need to go while rideshare can drop me exactly where I need to go?
This approach would create a trove of data that would help make cities smarter. Having more exact knowledge of where and when people get off a bus would not only create a better and smarter bus experience, it could also inform smarter housing and economic investment plans; creating more compact livable cities, neighborhoods and districts in the process
Fewer stops could lead to better stops. With less stops, the funding dedicated per stop could go up; creating better infrastructure for riders overall.