The Importance of 'Wasted' Space

It’s an interesting coincidence that, while debating the merits of spending more government money on public transit, the K-W Blogger Psystenance discussed the need for having space left over when making transit available to users. Half-empty buses are not a bad thing:

It seems to me that transit advocates like seeing full buses, and I admit I’ve been one of that number. Full buses mean that people are riding transit, which is good! But full buses are actually a bad thing for a number of reasons, and they may be detrimental to the growth of transit mode share in areas where transit does not predominate.

A full bus takes longer to get everywhere. As a result of having so many people, it is likely to make more stops. Plus, it takes much longer each time someone needs to get on or off. It’s even worse in the case of buses running every 15 minutes or more frequently, as the later a bus arrives, the more people will be waiting for it. The next bus is comparatively less burdened, and is able to catch up. This bus bunching decreases effective frequency.

It is an order of magnitude better to run half-full buses at twice the frequency than running crush loaded buses. The difference in quality of service between the two choices is huge: higher frequency is itself attractive to riders, as is having more space available and having shorter dwell times. This higher frequency would of course be particularly effective if it crossed the schedule-free threshold. I suspect that in many cases of full buses in K-W, running at twice the frequency might actually lead to running 2/3 full buses (not just half-full) as a result of increased use by choice riders. These would be serious effects on overall ridership figures and on transit mode share.

Eloquently put. And to say that there’s an overcapacity at the TTC ignores the fact that the commission expects to carry 473 million passengers this year, a record. The system’s farebox recovery is down to 75%, some distance from the 82% it was able to achieve in the lean years of the mid to late 1990s. Transit advocates such as myself did like to point to that high farebox recovery to show that Toronto’s system was efficient, but that efficiency wasn’t always a good thing. At the time, the TTC’s ridership was tens of millions passengers per year lower.

Spending a little extra money per passenger gets more people into transit and off the roads. It’s not wasted space, it’s just space. It’s room for another user if they choose to use it. It makes more of the city accessible by transit. It makes transit a more comfortable alternative than what exists now.

On Watching The House Season Premiere

Brilliant! Lovely! Wonderful! Please to God, make this stick.

I’m serious. They had better not throw this away, or else I’ll stop watching. Indeed, I’ll burn my copies of every single episode of House after this one and claim to my dying days that the series ended here.

Just… make it stick, will you? Please?

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