Tuesday, January 31, 2012

In the Year 2012: Billboards and Screens

Yesterday, OC Transpo's new fare system was discussed. Today, we will look at advertising and customer information from OCTranspo's 2012 business plan.

Besides fares and government subsidies, OC Transpo generates a small fraction of its revenue from advertisements. The business plan states 1.5% of revenues, nearly $3 million annually, are from advertisements on buses, shelters and stop benches and the typical percentage for large North American transit authorities is 2%. OC Transpo plans on “using billboards on transit property to meet the needs of transit users and the general public.”

They can start with...anywhere on the Transitway. There are very few ads to be seen at transit stations, which has been puzzling since OC Transpo seems to be strapped for cash quite often and space does exist at most transit stations. Take Mackenzie King Bridge, for example. There are no ads to be seen on one of Ottawa's busiest transit stations. OC Transpo could make some significant revenue if they placed ads on the median fence facing the platform. As a passenger, I wouldn't mind more advertisements if it means not cutting service or better yet, improving service.

Google Street View of Mackenzie King Bridge looking east.

OC Transpo also says it will have less paper-based customer information and more electronic information this year. Besides the mobile website, there will be “next-bus arrival information delivered through fixed displays”, assuming this is real-time GPS information. When Open Data is released to the public by March 22, OC Transpo may not be in as much of a rush to provide the new displays. Still, they would benefit all customers, especially those without a smartphone, and one day, we won't have to look at those MS-DOS screens anymore.

Monday, January 30, 2012

In the Year 2012: Presto Cards

Last Thursday, OC Transpo General Manager Alain Mercier presented the 2012 Business Plan to the Transit Commission. The 36-page document can be found here. Over the course of this week, we will look at this plan and pick out the highlights. Everything from operating costs to park and rides will be discussed.First, let's take a look at Presto.

As many of you are aware, Presto cards will be launching later this year to replace paper tickets and passes. These cards are transferable between anyone in the same fare group. For example, if you pay student fare, you may give your Presto card to another person who also pays the student fare – of course, you can't be on the bus or O-Train at the same time.

Another benefit with Presto is the different methods of payments you can choose to reload your card: internet, phone, mail, or in person. This should reduce the lengthy line-ups for passes each month. There is also an option to have your pass automatically purchased for the next month, which is adds to the convenience.

OC Transpo wants to simplify the system to two types of fares for students, adults, and seniors: single trip fares (similar to the existing ticket for less frequent travellers) and monthly passes. Since Presto does not use paper transfers, it might be difficult for most people to remember how much time is left on their single-fare.  The plan does not go into the specifics of how the whole fare system will be implemented. However, it might best for OC Transpo to install balance checkers at each Transitway station, on buses, and the O-Train.

Express fares will remain for express routes and the Day Pass, Family Pass, and U-Pass will continue. But, semester passes will be discontinued and the annual passes have stopped since December of last year. There was no mention of children's fare in the report but, it would make sense to have a fare for children, 6-11 years old, as they always have.

More on Presto can be found on OC Transpo's site and on Presto's site.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A look at cancelled trips

As you are probably aware, OCTranspo.com reports bus trip cancellations, but not all of them are revealed to the public. So, keep in mind, this is only a sample of the full dataset. Since December 21, 2010, wheresmybus.ca, the companion website to OC Transpo Alerts Twitter, has been collecting data on bus cancellations. Below, is the data up to December 22, 2011.

Most common cancelled routes:

The top three most cancelled routes are, not surprisingly, routes 95, 96, and 97, which consist of approximately one third of the cancellations. Route 95 alone comprises nearly a quarter of all cancellations and on average, about six of its trips are cancelled per day. Transitway routes have more cancelled trips than other type of route because they are far more frequent and bunch up more frequently too. Routes 12 and 118 receive their fare share of complaints of being late and at times, much too late to even bother starting its run in the reverse direction.

As expected, there are fewer cancellations on the weekends. Wednesdays and Thursdays seem to have more cancelled trips than any other day of the week last year.

Peak hours experience more cancellations than any other time of the day. After 9 am, the number of cancellations decrease (fewer buses on the road and less traffic), but after 11 am, the cancellations start to increase. The afternoon rush hour period seems to be the worst, especially at 4 pm.

January and February saw over 35 cancellations per day, on average, which is primarily due to heavy snow falls and snowstorms. In September, many routes were modified and customers needed some time to adjust to the new routes. Normally, in September, students return to school and people are returning from holidays. The combination of increased ridership, cut buses, and some confusion and enquiries over the new routes created some reliability problems.

OC Transpo reports about 27 cancellations per day on average, which is a very small fraction of all the runs in the system on a given day. Absent buses are due to bus breakdowns, chronic unreliability of the route, traffic jams, bus collisions, shortages in available buses and drivers, and similar events.