A Tale of Two Cities?

Back in the early ’90’s I worked as a bus driver in the city of Los Angeles. There were differences and similarities with how the buses in L.A. and buses here in Austin went about doing the same thing, that is, picking up and dropping off passengers.

One of the differences was in how we operated buses in downtown. In L.A. we didn’t pick-up passengers at every corner. We pick-upped at every other corner. But there were bus stops at every corner.

Here’s how it worked. Let’s say, for fun, that you are the bus driver. And your route goes along 1st Street. Your stops would be on Los Angeles, Spring and Hill Streets, but you would skip Main, Broadway and Olive Streets. There are always other buses along your route and the stops you skipped would belong to those. But you, as the operator, would not stay in line behind the bus in front of your bus like we do so here in Austin. After you picked-up passengers, you change lanes and move in front of the other bus, which in turn, will move in front of your bus after boarding people. I always thought of it as playing leapfrog. It worked well.

I have to add that a city block in L.A. is longer than here in Austin. I can walk from 2nd to 3rd Streets while holding my breath. I’ll use Austin for an example. If you, as the bus operator, picked-up folks at 11th Street, your next stop would be at Cesar Chavez Street. That is about how far apart the bus stops are in downtown L.A.

I’ll end this tale of two cities with a quote from someone I love. “A-du-a-du-a-ta-a-ta-that’s all folks.”

4 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Cities?

  1. Don Dickson

    I have already suggested here that CM buses should not need to stop at every corner between 2nd and 10th Streets. While there may or may not be enough space for buses to pass each other, I believe my suggestion would still allow all buses to make it through this area in a lot less time than it now takes, and would ease traffic congestion.

  2. A Samuel L. Bronkowitz Production

    I can see both sides of the downtown issue. On the one hand downtown is made for walking so you can safely assume no one is getting off on Congress that has a disability so severe that traversing an extra block is going to be a dealbreaker. But on the other hand having the buses stop every 2-3 blocks only may cause more sidewalk congestion as would-be passengers would be congregating in larger masses on any given corner. I imagine some advanced study would have to be done to determine whether leap frogging would counter act this, or whether the majority of people waiting at any given stop are there for a particularly popular route. For instance, if there were a crowd of 30 people waiting on 6th & Congress and 80% of them were wanting the #1 leap frogging wouldn't do much to ease congestion.

  3. vindobonensis

    Leo, I enjoy reading your posts and like your suggestions!

    You are absolutely right that it makes more sense for buses to pass each other than to stay behind one another. It’s inefficient for one bus to carry a lot of passengers, while another drives mostly empty behind it. It also slows down the system, since the first bus has to wait that much longer (and the second bus behind it) for passengers to board and deboard from the same bus.

    I don’t think the buses necessarily have to pass one another; I’ve seen it on the #1 route (when a bus is really full) that it will not stop at all stops and have the bus behind it pick up the remaining passengers. I’ve also seen them stop and explain that they are at capacity and the next bus is only a few minutes away. Perhaps you can implement a system where you display a message on the screen at the front of the bus to let waiting passengers understand they will be picked up by the following bus?

  4. Don Dickson

    I doubt that gathering crowds would be a serious problem. If you add benches and shade, you’ll have a handle on the matter.

    And I agree that buses won’t need to pass each other to benefit from this consolidation of stops. The congestion is attributable not only to people getting on and off at each corner, but also to the traffic lights on each corner. We all know the experience of stopping while the light’s green to pick up and drop off riders, only to have the light change just as the driver closes the door. That prolonged stop at, for example, 7th Street, is now holding up two or three buses behind it, who didn’t need to stop, or already stopped and are ready to go.

    I love our wheelchair riders and I love that they’re able to share our buses….but they can slow down progress. I don’t mind! I will never complain about the extra minute or two it takes. But that also means that if one bus picks up a wheelchair, often two or three buses share the delay. If there were more than a hundred yards between stops, maybe some of us could get on our way a little quicker.

    Remember when people used the phrase “rapid transit?” 🙂

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