When a route's frequency is high it does not matter as much when you miss a bus. With infrequent routes wait times at most are 1 hour or 30 minutes, if you just missed your bus you have to wait the whole interval for the next bus to arrive. Whereas when a route has quicker intervals such as five minutes, the most you will ever have to wait for the next bus is 5 minutes. Your maximum possible wait time is always equal to your frequency, unless of course your bus is late.
This is highly convenient as you do not have to carefully plan your routes and trips for errands. If I want to go somewhere that is only accessible by bus I have to find out when the next bus will come to take me there, since I do not want to wait 30 minutes in -20°C weather. I also have to find out multiple departure times at the end point to head home, since I do not know exactly when I will be done my errands.
On top of all that I need to arrive at my bus stop 5-10 minutes early, since bus drivers do not always respect the fact that their customers actually depend on transit services as their main mode of transportation. A bus should never be allowed to arrive earlier than the specified route timing, the bus in a perfect world should wait at the bus stop until the designated time has passed. This fault should improve with the installation of GPS tracking services soon to come to Edmonton and Calgary transit, as supervisors will suddenly now have a way to track a bus drivers performance. However it may also happen since the bus may have been delayed by 10 minutes, so this brings your total wait times up to at least 15 minutes by including the 5 minutes that you had to arrive early to just to make sure you could catch your bus. This does not include walking times that you spend to get to your bus stop, destination or bus transfer.
However with higher frequencies I would be highly more likely to simply walk to the bus stop without carefully planning my trip, since I know I would at most only be waiting 5 or 10 minutes. The fact is that it makes for much more convenient, and stress free transit commuting.
What leads to this design of infrequent routings? A large part has to do with the nostalgic notion that transit planners possess, that the bus service has to reach every doorstep with little or most likely no transfers. City planning also changed after WWII, as City Planners threw the knowledge proper city planning from our forefathers out the window. If you look at most cities downtown cores which were developed ages ago, you will notice a similarity. Most downtown's and mature neighbourhoods were designed in grid like patterns with roads running north-south, and east-west.
|Downtown Edmonton Grid Style Road Network|
However if you were to look at the road network for the newly minted neighbourhoods, you will notice a similarity as well. Suburban planning dictates that the design of its road network focus on making car commutes as light free as possible. This results in a spaghetti like mess of roads that wind and curve, complete with cul-de-sac dead ends.
|Example of Edmonton's Suburban Road Network|
Transit planners have a belief that its citizens hate transfers (where you have to get off one bus to catch another). Well the fact is that we do hate them, when they are planned incorrectly. When you have to wait 30 minutes for one bus only to have to get off to wait for another bus for 30 minutes, yeah...nobody is going to A) enjoy that or B) want to do that. So since transit planners believe that its patrons hate transfers, they do everything in their power to design routes to eliminate them. This causes routes to turn off of a road to serve a neighbourhood only to turn back onto the road it left later. This sort of planning only serves to add travel time to those that don't live in the said neighbourhood, a route that could have went straight down the road had to add a series of zig-zags. This type of planning is only compounded by the lack of access into and out of suburban neighbourhoods.
|Example of Calgary's Route 33 Deviation from Straight Route|
How could we rectify this? To start from a blank slate, every major roadway should be assigned its own high frequency straight route. These routes will follow the road as much as possible, directly between bus and LRT stations along dedicated bus lanes when possible. I would like to compare bus routes in north east Edmonton, to show how much more efficient the bus system could be by implementing this type of routing.
|Existing North-East Edmonton Routing|
I have selected four existing routes (11-blue, 182-green, 180-red, 152-black) to study between Clareview/Belvedere and Northgate stations. The relevant information for these routes is tabulated below. With the routes current frequency and travel times, a total of 10 buses are required at any point in time.
|Direct North-East Edmonton Routing|
With direct routing under existing fleet capabilities, Edmonton would be able to provide its customers with city-wide 10 minute frequencies. You would only have to walk 10 minutes north-south or west-east to stumble upon a bus route, and patrons would only have a maximum waiting time of 10 minutes for any bus. By implementing direct routing you make your system more convenient since patrons do not need to look up bus routings, if they want to head north or south they simply walk east or west 10 minutes at most to find a route. You simplify the commuting for transit riders as they no longer have to worry about missing their bus as much, and do not have to research their route options.