Let's Debate: Should RTA's Bus Route Network be a Hub-and-Spoke or Grid?

The RTA bus system network operates as hub-and-spoke where routes connect with each other at one or more centralized transfer hubs or transit centers. Preliminary recommendations may call for a decentralized grid-based system for some routes. For up-to-date scheduling and maps for trip planning, visit the RTA website.

By: Nicholas Ventrone, Community Engagement Director

To be honest with you, I feel pretty foolish putting this question out for debate, but believe this topic should be discussed once more as there are some preliminary recommendations to restructure some of RTA's bus routes from hub-and-spoke to grid in the downtown Riverside, Moreno Valley and Perris regions based on information from the transit agency's 2015-2017 proposed Short Range Transit Plan. The proposals are not yet finalized nor any specifics have been presented, but they are in consideration for these regions.

The RTA bus system currently operates as hub-and-spoke with multiple transit centers and transfer hubs in its service area, meaning bus routes connect with each other with timed transfers at a one or more of these centralized hubs. If RTA had routes which operated on a decentralized grid design, the transit path would generally be identical to a car trip along major roads, where a turn to/from a connecting street equates to a transfer. For a grid system to function properly, each of the services would need to be very frequent in order to avoid long layovers at streetside bus stops. Given the facts, I certainly feel that a hub-based network should remain but I would support more direct and streamlined service in between the central transfer points and key destinations on some routes, especially in the Southwest region conditioned that timed connections be maintained at existing transfer hub points and especially larger transit centers.

The Valley Metro System in Phoenix generally operates under a decentralized grid-based design with few routes diverting to connect with nearby transit centers.
One general major issue of moving from a hub-and-spoke system to a decentralized grid network is simply the difficulty of engineering timed transfer points given the wide presence of RTA bus routes that operate fewer than one bus every 15 minutes; many operate hourly. Both I and the Riding in Riverside Transit Blog will argue that a decentralized grid system is the best of all possible designs for public transit, but such a design depends on very frequent service on each route in the system, not just the trunk lines. Therefore, I believe RTA should keep its routing structure as hub-and-spoke but with more direct service in between the transfer points in the areas mentioned.

I'll be in touch with RTA this week to get some more specifics on the SRTP proposals and will analyze them Monday, but what do you think? Which type of bus network do you think would fare best for bus service in downtown Riverside, Moreno Valley and Perris: Hub-and-Spoke, Decentralized Grid, or a little bit of both?