I had the pleasure of attending a public hearing of proposed changes to the Gardena, California (a southern suburb of Los Angeles known as one of the earliest places where it was legal to play poker in public locations) last night. Since it has been many years since Gardena changed their bus schedules or routes, a revamp has long been overdue. However, judging from the large number of people who attended the public hearing and who without exception criticized the changes, perhaps their changes were not what the public wanted. The point of this entry is not the changes themselves but how other transit systems can go about making changes that do not invoke the ire of bus riders. Some points to take into consideration:
- Make sure you publicize notice of the hearing in many places and sufficiently ahead of the meeting so that people can prepare for it. Looking at the website for the bus system I can find no mention of either the public hearing or what changes are being proposed; the city meeting calendar does not have the meeting listed either (it was last night, April 20).
- Before you proposed canceling a route, make sure you have as much data as you can. According to Gardena Bus Lines, decisions to cut routes were made on the basis of how many people rode a particular bus trip on one single day. As any individual trip can be unusually light or heavy in patronage on a single day, at least two weeks worth of data (more if the ridership is very volatile) is really needed to have a clear understanding of what is giong on.
- If you desire to cancel a route that has a lot of passengers, be very clear in your communication to the public as to why the cancellation is necessary. A particular bus that had operated to a high school for forty years and routinely had standees was proposed for cancellation, but no rationale was given for the cancellation except the fact that overall ridership had declined by 24% and overall revenue had declined by 12% since 2007. If this particular trip was not canceled would the bus system be unable to pay its' bills? We do not know.
- Above all, TALK TO THE PASSENGERS before you propose changes. Perhaps a different route change could be made that could improve efficiency but still serve the passengers. Perhaps, in the case of the parents of students using the school tripper, people are willing to pay higher fares to keep their service operating. The people who are on the system on a daily basis - the passengers and drivers - are the ones best able to tell you what changes to make if changes are necessary.
The best way to gain credibility with the public and understanding of the transit system is to go on regular bus rides. I highly recommend every administrative employee of a transit system spend at least one half day a week riding around on the system. That morning or afternoon will be the most productive one of the week.