KINDA, the Kentucky, Indiana and Norwood-area Dispersal Agency, announced ridership figures today for several new routes that were rolled out recently in a package of service changes. One service in particular, the ‘Metro Plush‘, revealed particularly strong ridership since it’s initiation just weeks ago in mid-August.
The Metro Plush offers direct, limited stop service between the bureau, lamp and washstand every fifteen minutes Monday through Friday. In the past, many routes required a transfer at the washstand for passengers coming from the bureau and traveling to the lamp, a sore point for many busy commuters. “We’ve heard from many of our customers since the changes took effect,” said KINDA communications director Sally Hiller, “and many of them have been quite pleased to be able to make a faster, more direct trip to and from the bedroom’s most popular light source.”
The basic demographic statistics released in the report reveal that most of the new Metro Plush riders are commuters and Lego people.
There has also been a significant contingent of the smaller teddy bears from around the bedroom-bathroom area.
“We’re very pleased with the new service” said Mr. Teddy as he headed toward the bureau, “It’s just very convenient.”
It’s October now, eight months since I first touched on annual ridership figures and it’s about time for a little update. I only have recent numbers from SORTA at the moment (and here they are) so that’s all I’ll be able to touch on for now. Overall, ridership is holding steady, fluctuating down a bit this year:
The total number of rides in 2013 is down 3.6% from the same period in 2012.(beginning of January through the end of September). If this continues to the end of the year, we’ll be about where we were in 2011, with the lowest annual ridership we’ve seen since the National Transit Database started tracking these things in 1991: about 16.8 million unlinked trips.
The slight decrease doesn’t seem to be related to the service changes that took place in August; The month prior to the changes (July) shows a total decrease of 4% YTD so if anything, things have been on the upswing since the shift.
A few random interesting numbers:
The M+ has made 34,791 unlinked trips between it’s start in mid August and the end of September. In September the M+ made 4.2 times as many trips as the #1, which was itself down 48% from the previous year due to route changes that significantly shortened it.
The #51, with significant route changes, saw a 38% increase to 44,000 trips from Sept 2012 to Sept 2013. The #41 which was similarly extended further across the city did not see significant change (-0.3%) for the same period.
SORTA was unable to provide data at the stop level.
Access is a pretty vague word. I don’t think I could succinctly define it and I suspect no one else could either as it regards discussions about transit and transportation. Still, we can imagine a transit line that makes no stops at all and say that it would provide no access whatsoever. It would be useless. Similarly, a line with infinite stops where the bus moves infinitesimally after each stop before stopping again also has an access value of 0; it would also be useless.
Somewhere in the middle is the Goldilocks stop spacing arrangement. Where does the m+ fall on this spectrum? Where do the other lines in the system? Might there be an ideal middle ground or are both either too crowded or sparse? Is there room for …lets call it ‘schedule diversity’ within a corridor? What effect does that have on effective frequency and average wait times at the skipped-over stops?
I’d like to hear SORTA’s and TANK’s official positions, or perhaps not positions but perspectives, on these questions as they move forward with their discussions of adding more rapid-transit-like lines to their systems. It’s not evident to me as an outsider that they’ve weighed the issue at all, at least publicly. Transit planners? Can you weigh in please? I’ve made my opinion clear in the above chart but I’m curious how SORTA and TANK would re-draw it and what they might add to it.
Why is this the wrong way to advertise transit? Let me count the ways:
- What is “METRO * PLUS”? This ad does not tell us.
- Seriously, point #1 is a huge enough fail that I’m going to give it two points. To reiterate, this ad does not even hint at what “METRO * PLUS” might be. Is it a cell phone plan with good uptown coverage?
- Assuming we know it’s some sort of transit which is already a pretty big leap for suburbanites and/or foreign students or almost anyone else who would see this ad on UC’s main campus, where the hell does the thing actually go? “Connect uptown” to what exactly? When? For whom?
- Assuming we’re informed enough to already know what the m+ is and where it goes, let’s think critically abut the statement: “METRO * PLUS is the smart way to connect uptown.” Why would this be so? Why would the m+ be the smart way? Is the m+ the smartest way for someone living on Ludlow to get to campus? It doesn’t go anywhere near Ludlow. That would be decidedly not smart.
The smart way? That depends on where you are and where you’re going! For a great many people, indeed, thousands a day in uptown, the #17, #78, or #46, #31, #51, or #19 seem to be the smarter way to ‘connect uptown’. These routes are going where they’re going. Taking the m+ to somewhere you don’t want to go would be one of several dumb ways to get around. The m+ is the smart way to get around uptown when you’re starting somewhere near one of the stops and ending somewhere near another one of the stops at a time when the m+ is running AND when another route couldn’t serve you better. The m+ is the worst possible way to ‘connect uptown’ on the weekends(when it doesn’t run).
- Finally, are we relying on a minor local celebrity to sell positive associations with an abstract concept and/or set of brand colors or are we trying to tell people about a new transit service they might actually use to get to some real, specific place? It would seem SORTA had the former in mind.
I posit that the person who made and/or approved this advertisement does not themselves use transit much nor do they understand at all therefor how it works or why people would want to use it. This ad probably makes sense to someone who has a degree in marketing, and who sees it as their job to ‘promote Metro’s brand’ or some equally bland, abstract thing. This kind of person would probably be a great fit at P&G where they could work to systematically put smiling, pretty people(potentially also wearing bowties) next to bottles of shampoo or sticks of deoderant. Such products rely on brands because they’re all essentially the same and the differentiation that makes them stand out from the competition must be almost entirely fabricated.
Transit however is substantially, even enormously different in kind from it’s potential competition. Brands simply do not work in such a market in the same way. When products are tremendously different, like a personal car vs. a fixed-route bus, a brand or celebrity endorsement will not be the deciding factor. The facts of either option will be. Which gets you there faster? Which is cheaper? Which is better? This kind of ad tells us absolutely nothing that will help us make a decision about how to get around.
For a transit agency this kind of marketing is just nonsense.
And SORTA just keeps churning it out.
There’s a new bus in town!
Check out the route, including all the stops on OSM.
I’m told by a friend who’s ridden it a few times from Downtown to UC that it’s significantly faster than the alternatives though I haven’t had a chance to verify that myself. The m+ comes about every 15 minutes Monday through Friday, early morning through almost 10pm.