Wednesday, September 17, 2008

MBTA Service Plan 2008 and Its Implications for Salem

451 at Walgreens, Salem (1) - Copy (640x480)

The MBTA has released its 2008 Service Plan.  This is an analysis of current bus and rapid transit ridership with recommendations for each route.

From the introduction:

The MBTA Board of Directors adopted the Service Delivery Policy in September 1996. This policy defined service standards and outlined a process to evaluate and modify service. Standards relate to:

  • span of service
  • frequency of service
  • vehicle loading
  • schedule adherence
  • net cost per passenger

The first Service Plan was implemented in phases in 1998. This resulted in expansion of service and was the first attempt to apply Service Delivery Policy standards. A comprehensive data collection effort preceded the analysis. Recommendations were developed using both public comment and quantitative analysis.
Development of the second Service Plan began with public outreach in spring 1999 and concluded with implementation of service changes in summer 2002.
This plan brought many changes to routes on the
North Shore, and was the first time that these routes had been significantly altered in many years.

The 2002 Service Plan reshuffled virtually all of the North Shore bus routes.  It was a big change, though mostly for the better.

There are four bus routes that serve Salem, and they are covered in this year’s service plan.  I’ll quote the MBTA on each route and explain the impact to Salem T riders.  Note that the service plan does not cover commuter rail.

Route 450:  Salem Depot – Haymarket/Wonderland via Western Ave.

Route 450 links Salem with Boston via Western Ave. in Lynn. Weekday service operates to Haymarket, weekend service operates to Wonderland as Route 450W. Route 456 links Salem with Central Square in Lynn during weekday middays only.
These routes have been experiencing severe
problems with schedule adherence. New run times have been designed that should allow the buses to maintain a reliable schedule on both routes. In both cases, the new run times exceed the capacity of the current number of buses serving these routes. In light of the steady but moderate ridership on this route, adding more resources is not possible at this time.
It is proposed that the frequency of Route 450 and 456 in the midday be decreased, so that alternating trips operate every 40 minutes instead of every 30 minutes. Route 456 would operate later into the afternoon, with the last inbound trip arriving in Central Square just before 5:00 PM instead of the current 4:16 PM.

I regularly take both the 450 and the 456 and they fall behind schedule regularly.  Like most riders, I much prefer schedules that run every 30 minutes or 1 hour as that’s easier to remember, but it’s hard to argue with traffic realities.

Impact:  the 450 and 456 will run a bit less frequently on weekdays (when I travel) but no trips will be dropped.  No changes to weekend service were recommended.

Route 451: North Beverly - Salem Depot

Route 451 links North Beverly with Salem on
weekdays. On Saturdays a short route operates between Ellis Square in Beverly and Salem Depot.
This route is coordinated with Routes 465 and 468 at Salem Depot to allow for traveling through between Beverly and Danvers.
Route 451 fails the Cost Standard on Saturdays.
Since ridership is especially light on Saturday
mornings, it is proposed that the first round trip be eliminated. The first trip would depart from Salem Depot at 9:30 AM rather than 8:30 AM. It is expected that 2 customers would be affected by this change.
Departure times on Route 451 may need to be
adjusted to allow for planned run time changes and schedule adjustments on Routes 465 and 468.

Impact:  One trip on early Saturday mornings will be dropped.   No changes to weekday service.

Route 465: Salem Depot - Liberty Tree Mall

Route 468:  Salem Depot – Danvers via Water St.

I’ve listed these route after the 451 since the 451 and 465 run through-service for each other and the 468 is an alternate route for the 465.

Route 465 links Danvers with Salem via Peabody, and Route 468 provides limited Danvers-Salem service via Water/Margin/North Streets.
Both of these routes fail the Cost Standard on all
days of operation, and ridership data collected early in 2008 indicates that ridership on both routes has declined in recent years. On Saturday morning, the 9:00 AM trip from Salem and the 9:50 AM trip from Danvers are proposed for elimination due to low ridership. This change is projected to affect 7 passengers, who could take service an hour earlier or later. Route 468 already provides very limited service and is interlined with other routes in the area. Because of this, significant cost savings could
not be realized by eliminating Route 468, and this elimination is not recommended at this time.
There have also been requests to better coordinate arrival times at Salem Depot with connections to the commuter rail. This will be done, along with run time adjustments for a more accurate schedule. These changes can be made without additional costs.

Impact:  As with the 451, one Saturday morning trip will be eliminated.  Unlike the 451, this is a trip I actually take, since I like to get my errands done early to avoid being in a noisy mall around lunchtime.  (North Shore Mall, toxic noise, we has it!  Do not want!)

Mayor Driscoll once expressed a desire to have the bus schedules better coordinated with commuter rail, and the T cites this, though this should affect all of Salem’s T service, not just the 465.

Route 455: Salem Depot - Haymarket or Wonderland Station

Three morning trips and four afternoon trips on
Route 459 between Downtown Crossing and West Lynn were designed to provide reverse-peak connections between Terminal C at Logan Airport and Downtown Crossing. At the time, there was no Silver Line service to Logan Airport. Since Silver Line connections from downtown to the airport have become available, ridership on these trips has dropped almost entirely. It is proposed that these trips be eliminated due to low ridership. Schedule adherence is low on these two routes, and
running times will be examined and changed if
necessary to ensure reliable service.

Impact:  Virtually no changes for Salem riders on this route.  If you’re already in Boston and need to get to the airport or South Station, you know what to do already.

The MBTA is accepting comments on the service plan at through September 30th.

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