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“If you try to design a system around not having transfers, you are going to design a system that is not efficient,” said Kurt Luhrsen, the Metro vice president of service planning.
Riders are more likely to accept transfers if there is only a brief wait between legs of their trip. Plus, Metro made transfers more palatable by getting rid of transfer fees.
As stories about the recent devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey detailed, Houston has experienced booming development.
Bus routes were adjusted incrementally to provide service to new residential and business areas.
Asking travelers to make a transfer to complete their trips is a concern in the transportation world.
System-wide, transfers in Houston increased about 1.5 percent with the redesign, but they have become critical, since the routes largely stay along the city grid.
“The way we say we have more ridership is they’re forcing people to transfer, but it’s taking longer to get from point A to B.” The redesign, which came without an investment in additional buses, did reduce service to Houston’s northeast neighborhoods, which are poorer and heavily minority, Luhrsen said.
That area, though, has lost bus riders as the community has aged.
Frequency attracts riders, Shelton said, as they can expect a ride to come along quickly.
Changes two years ago led to more frequent service on key routes, more direct routes, and more weekend service.
The Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, which oversees bus and light rail services in Houston, has reported improved on-time rates, fewer rider complaints, and a 7 percent rise in ridership with bus and light rail ridership combined.
Service increased in the city’s growing southwest, which attracts seven out of 10 immigrants who move to Houston, he said.
“We actually increased the access of low-income individuals and minority individuals,” he said. Mayor Kenney’s office is already contemplating how to sell a significant change to Philadelphia’s bus network.