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The final stage: making transit service decisions

The final stage: making transit service decisions

This post is part of a series about Managing the Transit Network: all about how TransLink plans transit service in our region. See all the past blog posts in the series here.

This post covers pages 22-24 in the Managing the Transit Network primer.

There's a lot to consider when making the final decision about a transit service.

When TransLink planners evaluate a potential change to a transit service, they’re usually looking to achieve one of three main objectives, while keeping in mind the four design themes, and nine route design considerations. But what’s the process like for deciding what changes go ahead? How do they come to a decision about which services will be added, changed or reduced?

Service changes are made four times a year: in April, June, September and December. But decisions need to be made well in advance to allow time for operations planning, scheduling, and in some cases infrastructure changes or fleet procurement. They don’t take these decisions lightly. That’s why planners ask themselves the following four questions for each service change they look at.

Step 1: Should we do it?

Right off the top, they ask if a service fits TransLink’s vision, mission and values. One piece, but a signifant piece, of our mission and values is our commitment to financial responsibility. If money isn’t available to fund or continue a service, then this factors heavily in the decision making process. That said, if a proposed service or change is consistent with the objectives and themes outlined in the primer, then the possibility of it making it to the second decision stage is much higher.

Step 2: Can we do it?

This seems like an obvious question, but what looks good on paper doesn’t always works in reality. This is the stage where they look at the costs, the infrastructure constraints, other demands and whether the service is likely to be productive. Can a bus actually run this route? Are the roads too narrow or too congested? Does the current infrastructure support what we want to do? These are just some the questions planners might ask during this step.

Step 3: What should we do first?

Once they know that a service change is desireable and feasible, they need to decide in what order service changes should be rolled out. There are always more worthy projects than available resources, so we need to prioritize. Planners often use what’s called a Multiple Account Evaluation (MAE) to get the full picture of the benefits and impacts associated with a change. This process includes consulting with municipalities and the public and seeing how a candidate project “performs” within the seven “accounts” as seen on the right.

Step 4: How do we make it happen?

Hooray! We’ve made a decision to create a new service or change an existing one. Now we need to act. The name of the game is delivering as quickly as possible while making the best use of our resources. We design the service and communicate it to our riders and operators by working with our operating companies and contractors.

A summary of the main points of managing the transit network

There are a lot of goals, objectives, themes, steps, accounts and stages to take in when we’re talking about managing the transit network. So, here’s a nice Coles Notes summary of the important stuff.

If you only read one thing about Managing the Transit Network...

I encourage everyone to take the time and download the Managing the Transit Network Primer. It goes into a lot more detail than we have here. Yet, it’s easy to understand even without a planning background.

Want to do a Google Hangout to talk more?

We’ve had a lot of interest in this series, and we’d love to know if you’d like to talk more about these issues directly with our planning folks. Take our poll below to show whether you’d like to do a Google Hangout video chat with Peter Klitz, and possibly Jarrett Walker if we can wrangle a piece of his time!

Would you like to do a Google Hangout where you can talk directly to our planners?

  • Yes (88%, 14 Votes)
  • No (13%, 2 Votes)

Total Voters: 16

Let us know in the comments if you have a preferred time or day: regular work week hours work best for us, but we’ll see what we can do to accommodate.

And thanks again for your thoughtful conversations so far. Let us know more: we look forward to following up on all your questions!