The map above shows Rochester’s public transit network. Looks impressive with all of its lines stretching out across Monroe County. From Webster to Chili; Greece to Penfield; there’s a bus or two to get you there. On the other hand, if our transit network were really as good as it looks on this map, why are less than 2% of all trips in Rochester made using public transit?
Hmmm… Maybe because parking is cheaper than air here in Rochester?
Well, yes. But also, this map might be overstating the effective reach of RTS. Remember, a transit system is only good if it’s there when you need it…
If, for example, you’re trying to get from Bull’s Head to downtown, you might be able to step out on the street most times of the day and hop on a bus within 10 minutes. But if you’re anywhere else, or outside of peak rush, you just might be waiting around for hours. Simply put, not all of the lines on the RTS map supply the same level of service.
There isn’t necessarily anything wrong with only running a bus to a particular destination just a few times during certain hours of the work day. There are several business parks scattered around Rochester that have large numbers of employees who need to get to and from their jobs, but otherwise there may be little reason for anyone to want to go there. This is fine. But as Jarret Walker explains in his case for frequency mapping , “a transit map that makes all lines look equally important is like a road map that doesn’t show the difference between a freeway and a gravel road.”
So how would the RTS map look if it gave more weight to route segments with the highest service frequency? We think something like this…
- This map shows the average headways – the interval of time between buses. Your wait time will likely be shorter than the headway. If a bus comes every 20 minutes, your average wait time would be 10 minutes, assuming you show up to get a bus at random.
- We lumped together all buses serving a single bus stop. More than one bus route may serve a single segment. We did this in part to simplify the map, but also, if we had split each line out separately, frequency would not be high enough most of the time to create any kind of useful map 🙁
- This is not a 24 hour / 7 day a week map. We had to narrow our window of focus down to peak times (Monday-Friday, 6-9am and 3-7pm). Because service drops off during non-peak hours, headways vary quite dramatically throughout the day.
- The “Average Headway” groupings we chose are somewhat arbitrary. We felt anything under 10 minutes was pretty darn good. 10-18 minutes is certainly acceptable. At 18-40 minutes you might want to go get a cup of coffee. And anything over 40 minutes would likely be enough time to walk to your destination, so that’s where we cut things off.
- There are some isolated areas of high frequency across the city that are not shown on this map (i.e. where multiple routes converge/overlap)… For this exercise we decided that frequency should be continuous to and from the transit center. Otherwise we’d end up with a bunch of short isolated segments that go no where. If a segment of high frequency was isolated from the trunk of the network, we dropped it from the illustration.
- Finally, this is for illustrative purposes only. This exercise was conducted several months ago and may not reflect route changes made this summer.
So what does this illustration tell us?
On the bright side, if you live and/or work near downtown, University of Rochester, Mount Hope, or between Lake & Dewey south of Eastman Business Park, you are served pretty darn well (assuming you don’t need to travel outside those areas).
If we start to peel away all the areas with headways over 15 minutes, you can begin to see the makings of a high frequency service area—where one might be able to toss away their bus schedule and live life spontaneously.
It’s important to note here, that while it looks like you’d be able to get from one end of downtown to the other very quickly, remember, all buses stop at the RTS Transit Center. To get across downtown you’d need to disembark and transfer to a second bus. So in actuality, we should probably mark the center of the map with a big black hole.
Now given this picture, we might ask why so much of Monroe County has been left in the dark.
Credit (and blame) goes to Bob Williams, Matthew Denker, Leonard Linde, Mike Governale, and Jason Partyka for their work on these maps. You can download a PDF version of the full RTS Frequency Map here