Muni Bus-Stop Spacing Analysis Shows 70 Percent of Stops Too Close

bus_stop_pole_small.jpgFlickr photo: Octoferret
The MTA this afternoon released analysis of bus stop spacing showing what anyone who has been on Muni knows: there are way too many stops too close together (PDF). Overall nearly 70 percent of the 4,000 bus and rail stops in the city don't adhere to the MTA's own distance policy, and its clear to the operator that consolidation of stops would speed service and cut costs dramatically.  Furthermore, staff suggests the board might want to consider an increase to the distance between spaces as a matter of policy.

"I'm glad they've done the research. It's an option we've wanted the MTA to explore," said Livable City Executive Director Tom Radulovich. "There's a tradeoff, every stop has a constituency.  The other thing that unfortunately has happened is that keeping every stop has been mythologized as a social justice movement.  We've heard that seniors don't care about speed, poor people don't care about speed, they care about stop spacing. Some analysis that I've seen from the TEP shows the opposite to be the case, some seniors care very much about travel times."

Radulovich added: "There needs to be rigor to it so that it's not political and not arbitrary."

MTA staff noted that nationwide research indicates most people are willing to walk a quarter-mile (1320 ft) to access local transit, though they note that spacing distance should be reduced on steep grades. Further consideration would be given to important transfer points and destinations such as schools, hospitals, and other community facilities. Staff also suggested that approximately 20 percent of delay on the 15 most-used routes is dwell time, due in large part to the density of stops, though it should be noted that the MTA could introduce faster payment options, bus bulb-outs, separated lanes, etc to reduce dwell times.

In their presentation, MTA staff highlighted the 9-San Bruno, a route that has 126 total stops, 70 of which are too close. If 9 inbound and 11 outbound stops were eliminated, MTA estimates it would achieve a 7 minute (5 percent) running times savings and an annual cost savings of $200,000 in operator costs alone.

The policy recommendations will have to go before the full board and will likely lead to significant drama, as supervisors and advocates resist what has been a contentious battle in the past. Staff will provide the board with detailed spacing plans in October and then conduct public hearings in November and December. If all goes to schedule, space consolidation would begin February, 2010.

Picture_3.pngAn example of what bus stop consolidation would look like if the board accepts MTA staff's proposal.

General Policy Recommendations

  • Stop consolidation is needed to meet existing policy guidelines and reduce travel delay
  • More flexible policy guidelines are recommended to account for San Francisco’s varying block lengths
  • Maintaining access at transfer points and key destinations should remain a priority
  • Stop spacing policy should consider delays to onboard customers 

Specific Stop Distances

  • Stops on grades less than 10 percent: bus stops should be 900'-1400' rather than the existing policy of 800’-1,000’
  • Stops on grades over 10 percent: bus stops may be as close as 500' rather than the existing policy of 500’-600' on grades between 10-15 percent and 300'-400' on grades over 15 percent
  • Surface Rail stops should be: 1,000’-1,500’ rather than the existing policy of 1,000’-1,200’