March 4, 2016

Time: 8:00 – 10:00 AM
Location: Baltimore Community Foundation (2 East Read Street)

Questions and Comments from Transit Choices Ad-hoc Committee Meeting on BaltimoreLink

March 4, 2016

Attendees: Father Michael Bishop, Robin Budish, Art Cohen, Candace Croston, George Frazier, Phil LaCombe, Jim Leanos, Joe Nathanson, Eric Norton, Klaus Philipsen, Michael Romeo, Jimmy Rouse, Jim Smith, Sandy Sparks, Yolanda Takesian, Raven Thompson

We are awaiting BaltimoreLink 2.0 to see if the route concerns that have been expressed are met or responded to. We have reviewed detailed critiques about the number 8 route (several sources), number 11 route (Baltimore Collegetown), number 17 route (BWI Partnership), and number 19 route (through Ryan Dorsey, city council candidate) as well as on the Sunday light rail schedule to BWI (BWI Partnership). Other issues are loss of service on Eastern Avenue and loss of service on Falls Road.

Some people would still advocate for a plan for rapid service.  By that they mean limited stop service that might even take advantage of additional time saving upgrades like all-door boarding, off-board fare payment, etc.  Their feeling is that there are some very heavily utilized corridors where the time savings would lower commute times enough to warrant the investment. They also propose rapid service because their guess is that the upgrades for BaltimoreLink (given the amount of money made available- $10 million per corridor over six years, or about $1.5 million per year) won’t improve travel time after boarding the bus, as predicted by the current schedules.  Rapid limited stop service might make better use of the investments in physical infrastructure, too.

Instead, those improvements will reduce wait time at stops, including transfers, and improve reliability. Those are important improvements, but not enough to reduce the average transit commute to closer to 45 minutes one way.

We need to establish baselines now for whatever metrics we use so that there is an accurate basis for comparison. In the BaltimoreLink literature, it talks about improved access to frequent transit lines. But access is not defined. Is it 1/4 mile or 1/2 mile?

Houston and Denver are both good examples of effective metrics being used to measure new systems. The BaltimoreLink literature continues stating that there will be an 18 square mile increase in service area. Is this frequent service? One or two route extensions could achieve this, so it is not clear what this metric measures. Similarly, the literature states 30,000 more people will have transit service. What kind of service? How frequent? 99% of current riders will still have transit, but does that mean within 1/4 or 1/2 mile? Does their distance to a stop increase?

The Houston metric spells out the increase in frequent access to jobs and people using 1/2 mile as the measure. It also breaks down increase access (1/4 mile) for people to 15, 30, and 60 minute service. It is important that reliability (both no shows and lateness) as well as overcrowding, are measured and that baselines are established now.

Will there be some way for riders to compare their projected times for existing and future trips including transfer times head to head? When? This would help win support for the program.

We like the four categories of metrics MTA came up with: design adequacy, access, mobility, overall network performance. As with the coverage issues, we think the next step is to see how MTA has progressed with work on these metrics.

On design adequacy we would like to see the analysis for some of the new routes that replace multiple existing routes.  For example, 5 of the top 10 MTA routes serve the east-west corridor: the 15, the 23, the 10, the QB40 40, and the 20.  Altogether, they have 55,800 daily riders.  On the west side they are replaced by two CityLink routes, the blue and the purple.  Even if you assume that the west side only accounts for half of the total 55k ridership (that’s not quite accurate, for example the blue route mimics the QB 40 to Bayview on the east side), that is 13,500 daily riders on those lines, seemingly as a base line.

Transit Hubs
Questions remain about how transit hubs tie into major destinations, especially employment destinations. Hopefully, the new version of BaltimoreLink will begin to answer these questions. The important question is how transit hubs will help people gain access to jobs in a more reliable and timely manner.

Transit Signal Priority
It is a question whether TSP can provide a significant improvement in speed without making concurrent investments in infrastructure such as moving stops to the far side of intersections, proposed street upgrades, and even all door boarding and off board fare payment. Are these infrastructure upgrades part of the budget for BaltimoreLink, CityLink, Express BusLink, and LocalLink?

Signage, Maps & Apps
How are we progressing on the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS)? We would love to see new signage and map proposals before they are finalized and in time for us to give meaningful feedback.

We await explanations of how the $135 million proposed spending will be deployed and in what time frame?