Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 9

It's bright ahead.
Because smart cities like smart mobility.

newflyer.com/leadingthecharge

2018 BUS & PARATRANSIT CONFERENCE

How MTS is Turning Around the Ridership Decline
BY PAUL JABLONSKI
Chief Executive Officer
San Diego Metropolitan Transit
System

R

eversing the current ridership
decline is the public transportation industry's top priority. The
answer may be as simple as giving riders
what they want.
Ten years ago, the San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) undertook
a complete overhaul of its bus network.
It had been decades since the network
had been examined in totality and with
a market-driven mindset.
The overhaul plan, called the
Comprehensive Operational Analysis
(COA), and the resulting reallocation of
resources became an industry best practice-and for good reason. Its systemwide changes-taking resources from
low-performing routes and putting them
on routes with high demand-immediately reduced costs by $2 million annually and led to immediate and long-term
increases in ridership. Annual ridership
climbed by almost 12 million trips over
the subsequent eight years.
That came to a screeching halt in
FY 2016. Ridership peaked at almost
97 million trips and has dropped to
88 million in the last two fiscal years.
This phenomenon is being experienced
across the U.S. Reasons include a sustained good economy, low gas prices
(even in California), all-time low-interest
auto loans, a new law allowing undocumented immigrants to obtain driver's

MTS polled more than 6,000 riders online and in person for what they value most in their public transit
system.

licenses, growing rideshare options and
more.
Decreased fare revenue put a $5 million deficit in the agency's operational
budget, and MTS needed to do another
deep dive into its bus network to ensure
its services were still aligned with the
market.

Reinvigorating the Initiative
MTS's new strategy was to build on the
principles of the earlier COA. We call it
the Transit Optimization Plan (TOP).
The first step of TOP was to ask both
riders and non-riders what they valued
most in their public transit system. More
than 6,000 people participated in the
survey, which was posted on the MTS
website and taken in person at more
than 50 outreach events.

Key takeaways:
n People would walk farther to a stop

if the service was more frequent;
n People would rather have faster

trips than lower fares;
n People would rather have more

frequent service than increased
security; and
n People would rather have more
frequent service than improved bus
stop amenities.
With that information, MTS, with
the help of Transit Management and
Design Inc., took a series of recommendations to its board of directors. One set
of recommendations was cost-neutral;
the other would invest an additional
$2 million in the operations budget to
give the agency the best possible shot at
reversing the downward ridership trend.

The $2 million investment was paid for
with new tax dollars from SB 1, a new
gas tax in California.
The board went all in and directed
staff to invest more money and implement more than 60 changes based on
the following principles:
n Reallocate resources-buses and bus
operators-from low-ridership areas
to areas where ridership is already
high and has the best chance for
increased ridership;
n Increase the frequency of as many
routes as possible to expand the
system's high-frequency network
(15 minutes or better);
n Discontinue underperforming
routes;
n Streamline routes to make them
faster;
n Improve connectivity between
routes; and
n Reduce the number of long routes
to improve reliability.

Beginning to Bear Fruit
MTS implemented the first round of
changes in late January of this year.
Additional changes scheduled for June
and September will continue to increase
the high-frequency network and speed
service.
The agency increased the frequency
of six major routes in January. Here are
the early results:
n A route that increased frequency
from every 15 minutes to every

SAN DIEGO RIDERSHIP CONTINUED ON PAGE 24
May 7, 2018 | 9


http://www.newflyer.com/leadingthecharge

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9

Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 1
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 2
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 3
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 4
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 5
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 6
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 7
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 8
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 9
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 10
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 11
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 12
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 13
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 14
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 15
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 16
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 17
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 18
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 19
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 20
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 21
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 22
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 23
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 24
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 25
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 26
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 27
Passenger Transport May 2018 Vol 76 No 9 - 28
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