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SkyScraperKid

How to read the bus schedule?

Postby SkyScraperKid » July 19th, 2016, 4:49 pm

Can anybody help me understand how to read the bus schedule?

it's kinda embarrassing I get so confused by why they have the dashes "-" instead of listing the time. I get the impression that means the bus does not stop at that area for that route but that really seems extremely confusing.

I tried to ask my question to Metro Transit and they saw my message but never responded.

For example I am downtown wanting to take the 4 bus to home depot in north Minneapolis but I'm not sure if all buses stop there or not? So many of the routes have the "-" mark which makes me think that hardly and buses stop there. Can sombody please help me understand what that means?

Thanks, and sorry for asking such a dumb question.

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby FISHMANPET » July 19th, 2016, 4:59 pm

Yeah, the - means it doesn't make that stop. On the left you'll see letters after the 4 for each trip, that corresponds with the lettered branches on the map. So depending on where you're going, only certain branches may go there. The ones that don't will just be a - on the schedule.

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby Silophant » July 19th, 2016, 5:03 pm

No problem, asking questions is the only way to learn, especially with a system as confusing as Metro Transit's branch routes.

You're correct, dashes mean that route doesn't stop at that timepoint. For your example of a northbound 4, a lot of the runs have just dashes north of downtown because a lot of the runs end at downtown, only serving South Minneapolis. These are the "4" buses, without a letter after the 4. To get to Northeast, you'll have to get on either a northbound 4B or 4G. If your destination is within the actual city of Minneapolis, it doesn't matter which, as they have the same route all the way to St. Anthony Village. However, they split at that point, with the 4B looping around Silver Lake Village and turning around, and the 4G continuing through New Brighton.

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby SkyScraperKid » July 20th, 2016, 8:37 am

Ok thank you very much, I was thinking the 4 was part of the "rapid bus" network. I saw a map that shows it is not. A while back I was on the 18 trying to go to American & 2nd St. and the bus driver kicked me off cause she stopped at the SA to use the bathroom, although she said I could wait 10 min for her to come back. She also said she was NOT going to American & 2nd but just going to turn off at the La Quinta hotel and head back north so I ended up walking the one mega block to my stop, and then continued on to my destination on foot as well.

I'm glad others would label the network as confusing as well! It makes me feel better even when bus drivers start to get a bit agitated or annoyed talking to me as they expect this is the information I should have already known. I try to walk and bike as often as I can to avoid using transit, I really like the fixed lines like the A line and even the 535 down to Burnsville. Makes it so much more comfortable riding the bus when you know the bus will always go the same route and not skip your stop.

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby mattaudio » July 20th, 2016, 8:48 am

In general, I think there's a case to be made for getting rid of branches. I know I've argued this before. Split up the routes into distinct start and endpoints so people know where they go, but then "co-label" the bus with some additional service designation where they funnel together to have multiple routes serving the same corridor. The current branching system fails at both of those things, especially in cases where a branched route also overlaps with another route. For example, the overlap between the 4 and 61 downtown and nordeast, or the 6/12/17 combo on Wedgie Hennepin, etc.

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby MNdible » July 20th, 2016, 9:58 am

And I've argued the counter: that for users in the core of the city (the bulk of the riders on any route), the branches simplify their experience, because on the trunk of the route I know that any 4 or 6 or 18 or 21 will take me where I need to go.

In either case, I remain convinced that Google Maps' improving transit functions are going to rapidly render schedules obsolete.

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby FISHMANPET » July 20th, 2016, 10:18 am

My wife refuses to understand branches, on segments where all of the 4 trips, for example, go to her destination, she'll remain focused on the particular branch that Google tells her to get on and see each one as a completely distinct routing. But better transit mapping could help that. Sort of.

I think Google Maps transit directions, and in that same vein Metro Transit trip finder or any other similar tool, is really selling high frequency short. If you put a trip into Google, it says catch this bus at this time, get off at this time, get on this other bus at this time, etc etc. Which is great if I need to get to a place at a time. But for those of you (myself included) who use local route transit to commute to work or make some other frequent trip, how do you plan that out? I don't look every morning and see which Blue Line train I need get onto, which Green Line train I'll transfer to downtown, and see exactly when I'll arrive at work. I know about how long my trip takes, I just walk out my door confident that a Blue Line train is coming soon enough, wait at US Bank Stadium Village Station confident that a Green Line train will come soon enough, and do the reverse on the way home. The frequency is what I rely on, which is something that doesn't come through in a planned trip. I'd like to see something like putting a trip into a trip planner and it says you can take these regular local routes and they run every X minutes until Y o'clock, and to get back just do the same thing in reverse.

Give me a trip planner that focuses on frequency and accessibility, not just getting me to a point at a time.

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby mattaudio » July 20th, 2016, 10:22 am

Personally I expect to be able to look at a map and clearly understand where a bus is going to go. Our transit map, combined with our branching system, destroys that opportunity. The only way to understand the branch is to read a giant tabular schedule. It's awful. And it still doesn't capture the benefit of "effectively branched routes" such as the ones I described where they overlap on corridors, since we have arbitrarily decided to branch some routes but not others. Go to the other logical extreme... Why aren't all buses that normally operate on Nicollet Mall given a single route number, and every sub-route is a branch letter? It's ridiculous.

What I'm suggesting is a branching system. But where the branches are individual routes, and the trunks are sub-services that are clearly designated. So you can understand that you are getting on a Route 4 bus, but you're also getting on a Trunk X bus which will serve an entire section of overlap highlighted as X on a map.

I also share FMP's criticism of "trip planners." They're great when you need them, but not a solid substitute for a map that clearly shows where services operate and how frequently they operate.
Last edited by mattaudio on July 20th, 2016, 10:24 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby David Greene » July 20th, 2016, 10:24 am

FISHMANPET wrote:Give me a trip planner that focuses on frequency and accessibility, not just getting me to a point at a time.
This is a perfect example of why Free Software is important and why walled gardens just aren't good ecosystems for some types of apps.

I've toyed with the idea of writing my own transit app but I just don't have the time.

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby David Greene » July 20th, 2016, 10:29 am

MNdible wrote:And I've argued the counter: that for users in the core of the city (the bulk of the riders on any route), the branches simplify their experience, because on the trunk of the route I know that any 4 or 6 or 18 or 21 will take me where I need to go.
Yet somehow in lots of cities multiple subway lines running through a common corridor isn't a problem for users.

Honestly, I think one of the issues is route numbers. They just aren't intuitive the way, for example, colors are. Obviously we can't color-code all our bus routes but there has to be a better way. Peter is on to something with apps focused on frequency and accessibility.

And better mapping. I want a mobile map with filters so I don't have to look at the hundreds of bus routes going through downtown. I just want to see the onces I'm interested in. Maybe something that tracks my frequent destinations and only shows routes relevant to those places, with an option to search for routes to a destination I don't visit frequently.

Now this is all very focused on people that can afford fancy electronics. What could be done to simplify things for walk-up patrons who don't have a mobile device?

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby MNdible » July 20th, 2016, 10:35 am

FMP, obviously people are not google mapping their morning commutes every day, nor are they studying transit maps or whatever. Once you've ridden a particular route for a week, you're probably quite aware of the frequencies and what not.

Anyway, I know we could sit down and design a clearer better more intuitive transit system (along with a better everything else). Let's agree that we're all a bunch of really smart people who, given a clean slate, could come up with a much better world than the dumb one we live in. Great job, guys!

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby FISHMANPET » July 20th, 2016, 11:27 am

Obviously this is a corner case but I think it demonstrates a huge problem with the trip planner as is, namely, how do you get back from where you're going:
http://stubblemag.com/2016/06/29/bus-tr ... -woodbury/

As I started reading the article I kept thinking "how is he going to get back?" and thankfully he called the info line and a human had the same thought and let him know that getting back won't be easy. Especially when going away from the core during the end of the day period, you could very easily end up trapped somewhere with no way to return if you just blindly follow the trip planner.

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby MattW » July 20th, 2016, 12:51 pm

David Greene wrote:
FISHMANPET wrote:Give me a trip planner that focuses on frequency and accessibility, not just getting me to a point at a time.
This is a perfect example of why Free Software is important and why walled gardens just aren't good ecosystems for some types of apps.

I've toyed with the idea of writing my own transit app but I just don't have the time.

I've been doing this for a while, but start lobbying for City Mapper. It's a vastly superior transit app to Google Maps. Vote here: https://citymapper.com/cities

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby Anondson » July 20th, 2016, 1:19 pm

Yes. Vote at city mapper. There should be a Twin Cities campaign.

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby David Greene » July 20th, 2016, 2:22 pm

MattW wrote:I've been doing this for a while, but start lobbying for City Mapper. It's a vastly superior transit app to Google Maps. Vote here: https://citymapper.com/cities
Another great example of why the commercial software model doesn't work very well for information that is really part of The Commons. Why should people have to wait for some random company in London to get around to supporting their city?

OpenStreetMap has a ton of information but AFAIK there's no good comprehensive app to access it and make it really useful.

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby RailBaronYarr » July 20th, 2016, 3:04 pm

To be fair, The Commons hasn't provided anything that great yet, either. OMGTransit was (and still is IMO) vastly superior to the Metro Transit app experience. The best thing Metro Transit has rolled out in the last 5? years or so is the new bus stop signs with more information. Even then, find me a person who hasn't gotten on a 21E or 21D and been really confused why they're not still riding down Marshall or Selby, or hopped on a 4 in downtown only to be forced off the bus at MCTC, etc etc. The system is not very legible. Maybe all these major trunks (Hennepin, Nicollet, and anywhere downtown) should have extremely large and detailed maps. Matt's suggestion of making the branches the primary route with a trunk denotation is a good start. The only downside is listing schedules could become cumbersome.

I'll beat this drum again, but for my money fewer branched bus routes collecting downtown is a better path in the first place. We rely on slow buses meandering through neighborhoods, all heading downtown. This makes any non-downtown trip longer than necessary with any transfers required further out of the way than they should be. The solution obviously requires more truck radial rail lines than we have (or are even planning) for local routes to feed to. Radial rail lines can easily branch and that can be communicated better for users on the vehicle (Line Color - Endpoint Station Name), and on maps (thick colored lines with all stations clearly labeled, so you know which branch to hop on). Cities with real transit systems aren't difficult to understand how to get places - the biggest challenge I've ever had was figuring out how to pay.

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby David Greene » July 21st, 2016, 8:17 am

RailBaronYarr wrote:To be fair, The Commons hasn't provided anything that great yet, either. OMGTransit was (and still is IMO) vastly superior to the Metro Transit app experience.
I was speaking of a more radical "Commons" of which Free Software is a part. Metro Transit's app is still a closed app. Only Metro Transit can contribute to it. It's "public" in name only. Lots of other bits of government have figured out that licensing their software under a Free license is not only good public policy on principle, it advances their goals much more quickly.

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby RailBaronYarr » July 21st, 2016, 8:34 am

I agree with that. Here's a post I found compelling. Legitimate question: how is this mindset different than, say, having Metro Transit be a manager of a transit platform & fare collection system, where a bunch of companies bid on operating different routes based lowest cost (or lowest subsidy)? Obviously it's *different* but, I dunno. My gut says there's some room for this in local government (he says from an ivory tower).

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby Tcmetro » July 25th, 2016, 8:41 am

With regards to contacting bus lines out, Metro Council already puts about 30 or 40 routes out for tender, mostly low volume services. Currently most, if not all, of these contracts have gone out to First Transit. It wouldn't be impossible to do this, but it would take a while to set up the private infrastructure, and to convince the unions to take work with lower pay and fewer benefits.

London is probably the city most experienced with this kind of operation, but it is my understanding that their bus garages are significantly smaller and typically only handle a few routes, which reduces barriers to entry and allows many operators to proliferate.

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Re: How to read the bus schedule?

Postby RailBaronYarr » July 26th, 2016, 7:45 am

IIRC this is the model most German regions use as well. Some public agencies still provide their own transit, but they will also go bid on services in other regions that contract them out.

Anyway, none of that is really useful to helping someone read the bus schedule.


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