Sunday, November 11, 2007

I get it- it's a shell game! 2 by jeff rose

Sorry about my rant last night. My work this signup looks like its going to be
a little
frustrating. I really don't mean to be too hard on Trimet, but I'm finding it
harder and
harder to beleive that they really know what they're doing- and If they really
DO know
what they're doing....

I really think the scheduling here is unbelievable. People tell me that is was
much better in
the past so I wonder how we arrived at the place we are today. The obvious
answer seems
to be budget. Tighter schedules and efficient scheduling using offline trips to
breaks means getting the work done with fewer man hours, thus saving Trimet,
supposedly, a bunch on money. For the operator- the tighter schedule means that
order to get a sizable chunk of that smaller break at the end of the line he/she
has to
really put the pedal to the metal from the moment he/she begins the trip to the

I think saving dough is part of the reason for the tight schedules, but I think
there is much
more involved. The real problem, if I'm guessing correctly, involves multiple
layers of
faulty premises that scheduling is built on here. A couple of these premises
immediately to mind as I'm sitting here.

One faulty premise is this: If operators run hot, there is too much time in the
This is the one that kills me. As I have said before, the cardinal rule of bus
driving is
"NEVER RUN HOT" yet, I am astounded by how bad the problem is here. So how can
have both a system that has lines timed so tight that you can't even make up a
AND one where operators running hot is a serious problem? I'll tell you. I've
blabbed on
about this before, but in a nutshell- if a line is scheduled too tight,
operators know it and
SOME of them will leave the end of the line and run as fast as they can to get
ahead and to
lighted thier load. They will run hot so they can get to the end of the line
and get a break.
Meanwhile the poor sucker behind them will get totally hosed and be tragically
late thus
you have the beginning of a bus bunching problem. How is this interpreted with
coming back to scheduling? I don't know. I imagine that they see that some
trips are
performing really bad, and others given the same scheduled time for the trip are
managing to stay on time. Do they consider this a difference in the ability of
The result, in any case, is that if you are the kind of operator that runs hot
and speeds
through neighorhoods you can manage to get your break. If you're the kind of
that holds as principal that you have a contract with the passengers that at the
time you
are scheduled to be at a stop, you won't be past it, that you won't speed
neighborhoods to make up time, that you'll wait for little ol' ladies to sit
down before you
take off, that you'll answer people's questions and help them navigate the
system etc-
you're screwed. This is a tragedy.

It is interesting that I came here as an operator with pretty rock-solid
principals. I was
good with passengers (and still am!), I could really move a bus through traffic
when I had
to (and still can), and I believed that an operator should NEVER leave a
timepoint even 1
freakin' second hot. I'm one for reliability. Somehow, in my few years with
Trimet, I have
learned that sometimes you HAVE to run hot. This is a clue to me that running
hot is an
institutional problem here. Somehow Trimet has created a system that actually
ENCOURAGES operators to run hot, I think, out of self preservation. Adequate
breaks are
crucially important in this job, and the best way to get them (sometimes the
only way) is to
run hot.

If Trimet wants operators not to run hot they need to do two things: one- they
need to
give us enough time (usually MORE time, not less) in the schedule that we can
get to the end of the line on time WITHOUT having to screw the operator behind
up by
running hot, and two- they need to train operators to keep schedules and how to
themselves through a route and then actually DISCIPLINE operators who continue
to run

The second misconception that I think Trimet has in regard to scheduling
involves what
they percieve passengers want. One of the biggest reasons people give for NOT
public transportation is that potential "choice" riders say, public
transportation takes too
long to get from point a to point b. I can get there in half the time in my
car. So Trimet,
I'm guessing, looks at this and says, well if we have the bus go as fast as it
can possibly go
people will be more likely to ride the bus! We certainly don't want a bus
sitting for 30
seconds at a time point.

So by hacking 2,3, maybe even 5 minutes away from a route what do you get- more
riders? No. You get bus bunching, surly bus operators, missed connections,
speeding through neighborhoods, etc. You get operators who have to speed, run
even cut routes at times, and are really pissed off. Like me right now!

If you wan't riders to continue to be riders (if they have a choice) you have
to make sure
that they have a good experience. How often do they miss a 5 minute connection?
often is the bus 10-15 minutes late to thier stop? Is the bus driver helpful
and courteous
or are they haggard and pissed off? My contention (from being a bus passenger)
is that
people mostly just hate WAITING for busses. Once it's thier they're actually
just happy to
be on their way wherever they're going. They DON'T much care if it is scheduled
to take 2
minutes longer than it possibly could. More time in the schedule BENEFITS them
increasing the likelyhood that they are actually going to get where they're
going when the
schedule SAYS they will get there. That is gold to them.

Well, it's my day off and I'm going to the zoo, so I'll leave you to chew on
that for a while!
I'll leave you also with this little excerp from the Transit Cooperative
Research Program
Publication 47 in regard to what is REALLY important to riders!


° The most important dimension is convenience (1).
•The most important convenience factors are equally "availability of bus stops
close to
home and work".

° The next most important dimension is safety (2).
•The most important safety factor is "safety related to bus operations".

° The next most important dimension is performance/reliability (3).
•The most important performance/reliability factor is "frequency of service".

° For comfort, the most important factor for bus passengers is the "temperature
on the

° For condition of vehicles and facilities, the most important factor is
"cleanliness of bus

° Value is judged most often as the "availability of volume discounts, such as

Disregarding ratings of dimensions, the most important factors for bus service
quality are,
in order:

1-cleanliness of bus interior [Condition of Vehicles/Facilities]
2-knowing when buses arrive and depart [Ease of Using the Service]
3-comfortable temperatures on the bus [Comfort]
3-knowledgeable and courteous drivers on-board [Ease of Using the Service]
4-frequency of service [Performance/Reliability]
4-availability of volume discounts, e.g., mo

1 comment:

harry said...

In my 20 years experience as a passenger, my drivers will do ANYTHING to get in the sweet spot two blocks behind their leader. Blow by passengers, run hot as hell, you name it. I've even had a driver refuse me boarding and direct me to his overcrowded leader's bus instead of his empty bus. Then after screaming hot through their run, they'll pull aside and read the paper for precious minutes around the corner from the supervisor's station, imprisoning and delaying a bus full of commuters.

Whatever management does to correct this problem, you've brought it on yourself.