SEPTA wants to redesign its bus services from scratch. What should that look like?
Would you walk an extra minute to a bus stop to knock 10 minutes off your trip?
When a bus network evolves over a century in an old place like Philadelphia, idiosyncrasies build up that can complicate change.
For instance, planners got into the habit of drawing long bus routes to try to limit transfers, a fact of life before SEPTA restructured fares last year to allow one free transfer per trip.
“Some central routes have over 200 stops, and it’s really rare in the United States for a bus route to have more than 100 stops,” said Geoff Slater, a principal at Nelson\Nygaard, a transportation consultancy the transit authority has hired to examine and redesign the region’s biggest bus system.
“If routes are too long, buses get hung up in traffic, which affects the reliability everywhere else in the line,” Slater said.
SEPTA’s three-year Comprehensive Bus Redesign effort debuts in earnest Thursday with intensive data collection and analysis of the system as a whole and its more than 120 individual routes, as well as conversations with riders and regional leaders.
How many bus stops are too many is just one of the thousands of questions the team of consultants, SEPTA officials, and the riding public will grapple with as they design a bus network for how people travel now, also taking into account changes wrought by COVID-19.
For example, Route 18, the bus that runs from Cedarbrook to the Fox Chase Station, has an average of nine stops each mile, about a two-minute walk apart, Slater said.