last week Washington, DC, the board of directors of the Metropolitan Bureau of Transportation, has done something almost unprecedented. It provided riders with more service for less money.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, plunging passengers caused financial hardship, and agencies reduced local subway and bus services. It is now promised to add more buses and trains on weekdays, weekends and midnight, and some bus routes run more often than before the pandemic. Riders, on the other hand, pay a flat rate of $ 2 on weekends, rather than a fee based on distance traveled. You don’t have to go out to change buses, take a break with a weekly bus pass. The plan “better meets the needs of existing riders, reflects new travel patterns and lifestyle changes, and attracts repeaters and new customers,” said the metro director.
These new travel patterns remain unknown. However, officials in Washington and elsewhere are considering the role of buses, subways and trains in cities that have changed over the years of the public health crisis. They want to get the riders back — and they are willing to try some ready-to-use strategies to do that.
Institutions in Boston, Cleveland, Las Vegas, the San Francisco Bay Area, and New Orleans are bringing people back into transit by offering temporary discount fares or free rides. Some are considering abolishing fares altogether. Los Angeles is considering a 23-month pilot with free rides for students and low-income earners. The Kansas City Area Transportation Authority has abolished fares in March 2020 and has no plans to take them home. “The return on investment for sympathy, compassion and social equality far exceeds the return on investment in concrete and asphalt,” agency CEO Robbie Makinen told Stateline last week.
Others are aiming for even more sacred cows: rush hour service.
Historically, commuters with briefcases and breaking laptops have been the primary target audience for transit. That’s why public transport was designed to meet their needs. Commuter trains that travel between the suburbs and the downtown business district ran more frequently during rush hours. The agency sometimes bought more bus and subway cars to handle the rush hour congestion and paid the driver an extra fee to stop by for hours during peak travel hours. They created a park-and-ride service to help people who drove in the middle of their work but didn’t want to deal with crowded city traffic.
“Ridership is back, but it’s coming back in another way.”
Jarrett Walker, Public Transport Consultant
Now, the future of rush hour is complex. Large companies such as Apple, Amazon, and American Express say they will continue to allow workers to work from home several days a week, even after most people have been vaccinated and their offices reopened. On average, there is less congestion during peak hours. Meanwhile, planners have noticed a growing interest in off-peak services since the middle and have begun to redesign services to better serve those who travel to shifts, after-school errands, or social events.
Government agencies are taking advantage of the uncertain period of pandemic recovery to lead schedule changes. In Los Angeles, local commuter train Metra officials announced a new schedule this month to “support a more balanced approach” to run the train more evenly, “away” from pre-pandemic rush hour standards. Said to test. all day. In Boston, authorities proceeded with pre-pandemic plans in April, starting to run more frequent commuter trains outside the 9-5 schedule. Transforming the system into a fairer regional rail network that offers more services than traditional office workers is part of a larger vision. Off-peak riders are more likely to be immigrants, women, people of color, and low-income earners. As observed by local advocacy group Transit Matters, the pandemic may have given local institutions a “political space” for making long-term plan changes. Few people now complain that operators have stolen a particular train.