Rate Your Ride Feedback put into Action: 11 and 35 Line Adjustments

by MTA Rate Your Ride on March 1, 2013

Riders have been asking: “what on earth is Rate Your Ride doing with all that data?” Well, we are glad you asked!

Let’s start out by saying that making changes to improve the transit service is no easy task. The MTA’s transit network is big, complex, and has a lot of moving parts.

Many riders don’t realize that we provide over 370,000 rides on an average weekday and over 112 million rides in a year (that is 19 times the entire population of Maryland). During our peak periods, we are operating over 1,350 vehicles throughout the MTA’s service area. Needless to say, that is a lot of people, vehicles, and trips all moving around our system, each and every day. When there is a problem with one of our transit lines, vehicles, or staff, it can take a lot to identify root causes and a lot of time and money to create a solution.

If you read our preliminary report, you know we used Rate Your Ride and other data sources to identify several key issues to be addressed. For example, overall, bus lines 11 and 35 had the most unfavorable performance when we looked at both customer-provided and internal data.

The MTA then dedicated substantial resources to studying these lines, collecting information from drivers and customers, and then crafting some solutions that we think will help them perform better for our customers.

On February 10, 2013, we enacted two major improvements on these lines:

  1. We consolidated bus stops on these lines (see the detail here) to reduce the number of times the bus has to slow down, stop, wait, and then try to re-enter traffic.

2. We adjusted the schedules on these lines. (new 11 line schedule  |  new 35 line schedule)


What does that mean,”adjusted the schedules?” That means that we have assessed the actual running times for these lines and compared them to the scheduled running times. (The phrase running time refers to the amount of time it takes a bus to get from POINT A to POINT B.) This may sound like a simple task, but it takes a lot of time. Running times vary across different combinations of service days (e.g., weekdays vs. Sundays or Saturdays), time periods (e.g., rush hour vs. non-rush vs. late night), directions (e.g., inbound vs. outbound), and locations (e.g., last segment of line vs. middle segment). When scheduled running times do not match actual running times, that results in a late bus (or, on some occasions, an early bus).

Let’s take the 11 line, which runs from Towson to Canton, as an example. From that example let’s take just one segment of the line – from Charles St. and Redwood St. to Charles St. and 33rd St.
View Larger Map

This trip is a distance of 2.8 miles and the running time is 14 minutes by transit, without a traffic backlog. But, as anyone using Charles St. during the evening rush hour knows, Charles St. can become quite clogged. So, the MTA adds about 7 minutes to this scheduled running time during the evening rush hour, because, on average, the same exact trip taken at a different time of day actually does take longer.

Late evening running time = 14 minutes; evening rush hour running time = 21 minutes… Same stretch of road, same bus line, same direction, but different times of the day. (Check it out for yourself, click on “View Larger Map” above and use the Google trip planner to try out several different departure times and see how the running times change.)

If the MTA didn’t decrease the evening running time to 14 minutes in the late evening, then our buses would be running early (or the drivers would have to drive slower than traffic allowed). On the other hand, if the MTA didn’t increase the rush hour running time, then our buses would be running late. So, we have to find the optimal scheduled running time that provides “just enough” time to reflect what usually happens in reality.

Riders of the 11 and 35: we hope that you’ll find the buses on time more often (give or take a few minutes). We’ll be doing follow-up analyses to determine whether our changes produced the desired effect. Keep rating your rides and providing the data that helps us set priorities about what to improve next.

Riders of other lines: We haven’t forgotten about you! Change takes time and data. Keep rating your rides and let us know how we’re doing.

We’re finalizing the data from our most recent schedule period, which ended on Feb. 9th. Please, stay tuned!

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