Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Is Omnitrans moving away from Hub-and-Spoke in Downtown San Bernardino?

Current hub-and-spoke Omnitrans Routing System as of March, 2013. Visit Omnitrans.org for updated schedules.
Graphic: Omnitrans

The proposed Omnitrans route changes generally look promising to bus riders but there are a few exceptions. Before we look at the good proposals which we will cover later this week, we need to get the questionable ones into the public square of debate.

The Omnitrans bus transit system in the East Valley area which includes downtown San Bernardino generally operates under the hub-and-spoke model, meaning the routes connect with each other at a transit hub with timed transfers and serve major corridors before rejoining again at the next hub. RTA also operates under hub-and-spoke. This design mode works well for bus routes that operate fewer than one departure every 15 minutes or if the roadway infrastructure design dictates so.

In contrast, the grid model has routes serving the major streets directly without going to one or more centralized transfer points. Los Angeles Metro and OCTA for example generally operates under the grid system. Buses should generally have a service frequency of 15 minutes or better to operate an efficient grid-based bus system with the roads themselves designed as a grid on flat land; otherwise the hub-and-spoke design would fare better. That is to maintain timed transfers between lower frequency lines which reduces connection wait times at intersections. That is exactly why getting around some parts of LA's San Fernando Valley and South Orange County seems to be difficult by bus given the reduced headways.

To be clear, we are generalizing and there could be exceptions to this notion.

Omnitrans' Questionable East Valley Proposed Changes

Graphic: Omnitrans
In the case of Omnitrans, two bus routes in the East Valley are proposed to be moving away from the hub-and-spoke design to grid. Omnitrans proposes to extend Route 5 south via Waterman Avenue, but the new alignment would bypass the downtown transit hub. Also, Routes 9 and 19 are proposed to be combined into one east/west line with 30 minute headways between Yucaipa and Fontana with the Route 9 branch via Waterman Avenue to be served by Route 5.

Omnitrans will continue to have Route 8 serve the Yucaipa-San Bernardino corridor with 30 minute headways between San Bernardino and Redlands and hourly service east to Yucaipa. Unfortunately, Route 8 will no longer connect to the Yucaipa Transit Center and instead terminate at Crafton Hills College.

Debate: Are these proposals good?

We're not downright opposing these proposals, but they are very questionable and need to bring them up for debate.

Route 5: If the ridership facts back up an unlikely argument that an insufficient number of riders aboard Route 5 board or alight at downtown and productivity would be better by having the route bypass the hub with a timed connection to Route 3/4 at Baseline Road as an alternative, then the re-routing proposal would be fine. Since there is much activity in the central city area, that notion is highly unlikely, but it is possible.

To be fair the Route 3/4 circulator is proposed for 15 minute headways. Line 5 is also proposed to operate more frequently with 30 minute headways but that is still far short of an interval to have it bypass the transit hub. 

Routes 8, 9, 19: The same holds true for the proposed service changes for the Yucaipa-downtown corridor. Citizens living in Yucaipa should have a single-seat ride from its transit hub to the downtown San Bernardino transit center. That would mean maintaining Route 8 service to the Yucaipa Transit Center. If Route 19 operated once every 15 minutes, the grid-like route design from the Yucaipa Transit Center would function fine given the sbX transfer in Loma Linda, but Route 19 is proposed to operate every 30 minutes. Let's consider keeping the affected routes as hub-and-spoke. 

One last fact and question: Since officials propose to extend Metrolink to the downtown transit hub that would drive up connecting bus ridership, and the facility has a massive 20+ bus capacity, why is Omnitrans pulling the feeding local routes away from it?

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