Happy Transit Thursday, folks!
From our first ever Commuter Match Mixer to STRNC tutorial videos, April has been all about Rideshare Month at GoTriangle. We’ve spent the last few weeks encouraging people to drop the solo act and join a carpool or vanpool in their area – with good reason. Ridesharers save thousands of dollars a year and have a much smaller environmental impact.
After reading that very infomercial-sounding stat, I decided to test it by calculating my own commute savings with the GoTriangle Commute Savings Calculator. I found out I could save $1,049.14/year by carpooling just 3 days a week. Okay, I’m sold. But before you jump into a carpool or vanpool, you may still be wondering, exactly who is doing the ridesharing?
It’s easy to point to ridership numbers or passenger manifestos, but we decided to go a little deeper. To create our ridesharer profile, we combined statistics both locally and abroad from carpool.com and Triangle J Council of Governments reports. So without further ado, to all our radio karaoke soloists, road trip crooners, and people brave enough to sing in the car without knowing the words, meet your future duet partner:
(click to enlarge)
Our infographic is just the tip of the ridesharing iceberg. Ridesharing has offered Triangle commuters the chance to use their time on the road learning new hobbies (including knitting, which could be quite valuable if next winter is anything like this one). Lasting friendships have formed and some of our ridesharers have continued vanpooling for decades.
If you’d like to join a carpool or start your own, head over to STRNC.org. If vanpool sounds more your style, you can get more info on the GoTriangle rideshare page. We’ll also be covering both rideshare modes at our Commute Match Mixer tonight, so you can even drop by and meet potential carpool and vanpool matches in person before you sign up. Just RSVP online.
See you there,
On the GoTriangle blog, one of our biggest goals is to make public transit relatable. The plethora of transit acronyms – EIS, NEPA, URS, STRNC – are informative, but quickly start to run together. Meghan Makoid did a fantastic job of breaking down the D-O LRT process (aka the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit Project – see what I mean about the acronyms?) into everyday language that helped us understand our role in the project’s formation. During her Q&A series, Meghan also highlighted how vital public involvement is in transit because that’s what public transit is: public. As part of the public, it’s something that affects you.
Recently, Triangle Transit announced several proposed service changes for the fall. Just like in the Project Development phase, this portion of the service changes process also calls for public involvement. So in the theme of keeping transit a) relatable and b) understandable, I’m explaining proposed service changes by comparing it to something many of us are familiar with: The Voice. Both service changes and The Voice happen twice a year and both rely on public opinion for a final verdict.
So let’s start at the beginning. How do proposed service changes even get proposed?
Excellent question! Just like in auditioning for The Voice, the process from transit data to actual service change takes many steps. Triangle Transit planners first examine hard data, which is measured by the fare box and the Automatic Passenger Counter, or APC. This black box is located at the front and back doors of the bus and detects how many passengers get on the bus, when and where they get on and off, etc. Using the APC and fare box numbers, planners can break down the ridership for different routes.
Planners also keep track of the bus’s real-time schedule. They track how long it actually takes the bus to travel from stop to stop. If the bus is scheduled to arrive at 4:30 pm, does it always arrive at 4:30 pm? Does it sometimes arrive a few minutes later, or is it frequently showing up late? Are passengers missing their transfers because the bus’s real-time schedule differs from its actual schedule? These are all factors that must be considered. So, once all things are considered, how do they decide what routes move on to the next round?
Both Triangle Transit planners and The Voice coaches examine performance standards. Transit planners use specific service standards to check for performance levels, including measurements of how many people are on the buses vs. how many buses are currently in transit. On average, there are 15 passengers/hour, a number that’s increased since 2009. With this average in mind, planners then compare “low-performing” routes to the “average-performing” routes. Are there 500 people riding one route each day when only 100 are riding another? Why is this occurring? Coaches and planners must deliberate these issues (and sometimes, deliberation requires company).
At this point, the entire Triangle Transit system is taken into consideration. Transit planners and The Voice coaches have to envision the bigger picture, whether it’s getting passengers to their destination on time or choosing the singer who’ll win the show for their team. Sometimes, planning with the bigger picture in mind means good talent has to be let go or certain bus stops have to be discontinued.
Difficult, yes, but necessary in the larger sphere.
By this point in the show – er, planning process – public opinion has come into play. Since some questions can’t be answered by hard data, planners will often do a pre-survey of the route before the official proposals are submitted. They ride the routes and talk to bus operators and passengers to see how they would feel about the service changes. In planning and on The Voice, once the official proposals and team line-ups are out, the public is still asked for comments. Public comment can even shape early service proposals into something completely different by the time final recommendations are sent to the Board. And as many of us know, early coach-favorites on The Voice aren’t always the last ones standing.
Once recommendations are finalized, they’re presented to the Operations and Finance Committee (O&F) for approval. Like in The Voice’s live shows round, the proposals are now THIS CLOSE to being winners, aka formal service changes. Anyone is invited to attend the O&F Committee meeting to voice their opinion one more time and hear the planner’s final recommendations for the Board. If the O&F Committee approves the final recommendations, they are then presented at the Board of Trustees meeting on May 21st. If the Board examines the proposed service changes and approves them too, then BAM! We have a winner!
The proposed service changes will now become official services changes and the one singer who auditioned blindly in the hope of just getting one chair turn will now have a shot at the big leagues. Once August rolls around, the service changes will be implemented just as students are returning for the fall semester. They may not come with $100,000 and a record deal, but like The Voice prize, service changes offer a fresh start and the opportunity for new growth.
You might never get a shot at The Voice, but there’s still a chance to have your voice heard: read the full proposed service changes details online and share your opinions with our Triangle Transit planners. Comments can be given via the online feedback form, email, phone, and in person. Get the full contact details here. When the planners return your call personally, it may just feel as good as getting a coach’s chair turn.
Last week, I was on my way to work when another car almost side-swiped me out of my lane. I had to have been in their blind spot, I thought, trying to steady my pulse. There’s no way they could have seen me. I chalked it up to a bad rear-view mirror and continued on my way, until the same car began to drift dangerously close to me again. I beeped my horn and merged into another lane to pass them. Are they trying to kill me? I wondered. I shot a glance at the driver’s seat. Who is this person?
I couldn’t tell because their face was pointed down. Staring at their phone.
We’ve heard it time and time again: “Don’t text and drive.” “It can wait.” “Keep your eyes on the road.” We’ve seen the construction signs and impatiently tapped our hands on the wheel as the speed limit dropped to 15 miles slower. We’ve all been busy. We’ve all been running late.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and this week is National Work Zone Awareness Week. With the Fortify Project stretching along one of the busiest sections of I-40/440, driver safety and awareness is even more crucial. Still, not everyone has chosen a hands-free commute, and it’s easy to get distracted on the road. You may be stuck in traffic and decide to text your boss to let them know. You may decide to glance at this weekend’s weather. Your sister may be beating you at Words with Friends. You may think it will only take a second, but more could happen in that second than you realize.
(Warning: video contains graphic content)
For those who might find the above video melodramatic or an exaggeration, listen up: over 25% of all crashes in 2012 can be attributed to distracted driving. An estimated 3,328 people were killed and 421,000 injured in those crashes. In 2010, there were 514 fatal motor vehicle crashes in work zones alone, resulting in 576 fatalities. That equates to one work zone fatality every 15 hours (1.6 a day).
The stats are more than a little sobering, especially when you consider that there are 11.5 miles of the Beltline to rebuild and in May 2013, around 110,000 drivers traveled through the designated Fortify work zone daily. That’s plenty of opportunity for distractions in a situation where every second your eyes are off the road counts against you.
So this month, stay alert and stay safe – not only for you, but for your fellow drivers and the construction workers trying to make our roads better.
Take the National Safety Council pledge to drive cell free. Tweet about it using #DDAM (Distracted Driving Awareness Month). And most importantly, the next time you’re driving and find yourself reaching for your phone…don’t do it.
Apple recently announced that its next software update will finally include public transit directions. The announcement was met with excitement from iPhone users around the country – but why such celebration? Several years ago, a study of commuters in Boston and San Francisco found that “people are more willing to ride the bus or train when they have tools to manage their commutes effectively.” Now, with public transportation use at its highest since 1956, it stands to reason that the demand for public transportation information is at its highest too.
So how do you plan your trips? By answering a few short questions below, you can help us improve our GoTriangle tripplanning services and give us a few ideas how to move forward:
Have an awesome Thursday,