Straightening Out the Vestigial Kinks in Bus Routes

Metro Transit Route 2
Metro Transit Route 2. Map: Metropolitan Council via Streets.mn

Just a few months after Houston reorganized its bus network to provide more frequent service where more people can use it — without increasing the operating budget — ridership is already on the upswing.

A lot goes in to bus network analysis and how to put scarce resources to better use. But some inefficiencies clearly stand out on a map. David Levinson flags a couple of these kinky bus routes in Minneapolis for a recent post at Streets.mn:

While I don’t ride it as a regular, I have on occasion found myself on the number 2 bus. It offends my sensibilities as a transportation planner. It runs along Franklin Avenue from near Hennepin Avenue S to the University of Minnesota and then runs along 8th St SE to Hennepin Avenue SE. Each of the tails is sensible enough, no one really rides from one end to the other. The problem is the zig-zag in the middle.

This route has had essentially this structure since before the Green Line (actually before the Blue Line). A transit historian could tell us when it started, as it clearly does not exactly follow any one streetcar line, instead it circumlocutes. So from Franklin it does a ~120 degree turn and goes up Riverside Avenue to pick up the Fairview Riverside campus (M-Health) and Augsburg College. It does another ~120 degree turn when it stops at the West Bank Station, and then runs along Washington Avenue to East Bank, turns at Oak Street and then again at University Avenue/4th Street which is essentially a third 120 degree turn. It crosses the same line of latitude 4 times. It then turns at 10th Avenue.

Imagine we removed all this zigging and zagging and zegging. Instead it would turn at 20th Avenue, picking up the other side of Augsburg College, coming within 2 blocks of Fairview University, and then to the West Bank… This would shorten the route by a couple of miles in each direction. It would be less convenient for some riders, but more convenient for others. More importantly, because the route was shorter, more runs per day could be achieved on this or other routes…

I am sure there were reasons the bus ran this way. They might have made sense at the time. I am sure there are reasons the bus still runs this way. They make less sense now.

Elsewhere on the Streetsblog Network today: Transport Providence combats the argument that putting a price on parking amounts to “gotcha government.” And BikePortland shares follow-up thoughts on Nike’s big bike-share sponsorship.

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