Saturday, May 16, 2009

Quality of service

Adam Giambrone's Facebook profile is always interesting to read. Like a great blog, it generates dozens of comments on almost every post. I'm not ashamed to say that I'm jealous. But, this post isn't about his profile - it's about one particular comment posted a while back.

When the TTC chair posted that he was working on a note to explain why the subway cannot run 24 hours per day (due to necessary maintenance being conducted overnight), someone commented saying "One train an hour during off hours doesn't sound unreasonable... no? Or at least a train right after the bars let out!" Likely this would not fly as the power to the tunnels has to be cut entirely to ensure worker safety, but it got me thinking:

What is better from the perspective of the quality of service provided to the rider - a single subway train once an hour or a frequent night bus service every 10 minutes or better? Subways are viewed as a higher quality transit service than buses and would probably encourage people to stay out and enjoy the city later - in theory - but an hour is a very long time to wait for a train at 3am. If the choice is between waiting for up to an hour to get home and getting home immediately then I suspect that most people would choose the latter and take a cap or slug it out on the night bus. People will be willing to wait longer for a subway train than they will for a bus, but there is a limit. People will not use a service if it doesn't provide convenient departure times, and an hour between trains is really pushing it.

The same line of thinking can be applied to the off-peak train service on the Georgetown line. Currently there is an inbound train departure every two hours or so between 9 am and 2 pm and until recently, a departure every three hours after that. While the GO train is much more attractive than a GO bus, a departure every two hours has caused me to choose between arriving an hour-and-a-half early or a half-hour late to my appointments. From a quality of service perspective, buses running every half hour would be more convenient for the average user of the service.

But, what do you think? If our objective is to provide high quality transit service that is convenient for people to use then is it better to provide an infrequent train service or a very frequent bus service? Our aim should be very frequent train service, but as an interim measure should we invest our money in creature comforts or in frequency?

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At 5/17/2009 6:51 a.m. , Blogger Andy said...

When the subway shuts down at night it turns into a ant hill. There are a lot of things going on down below besides repairs. There are such things as a garbage train to remove the trash from each station. Things get busy when the trains stop operating.

As far as GO supplying a high quality transit service, forget it. Their track record is not even close to being reliable.


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