ACTION AREA #1
IMPLEMENT REGIONAL STANDARDS TO ACHIEVE A MORE EFFECTIVE BUS NETWORK
Fix the fragmented design and inconsistent operation of the region’s core bus system
Make the system easy to understand and use
Increase access to jobs by transit
Promote ridership and better overall performance
New Regional Standards will provide a foundation for having a transit system that citizens can count on across Hampton Roads.
Lacking adherence to any regional standards, current bus services are fragmented. Hours of service are inconsistent from one city to the next. Frequency of service varies significantly. This is the result of having individual service plans for each HRT city that are negotiated annually and have no uniformity to regional standards. Only 6 (of 53 HRT routes) operate in rush hours with 15-minute frequency (the industry standard for high-quality transit). None of them serve the Peninsula.
Existing resources could be reallocated to better serve the region and improve performance. In doing so, meeting local priorities and providing more mobility options within cities will remain important. However, input for the Transit Transformation Project showed overwhelming preference for regionally-connected service more than focusing on connections within cities or prioritizing individual cities over the region. This makes sense – travel pattern data indicate that citizens regularly travel to and from multiple jurisdictions for work, shopping, recreation and other trip purposes. Based on all inputs received for the project, these principles should guide regional transit planning and future funding decisions3:
Follow regional standards for hours of operation and frequency of service based on service type
Prioritize high-frequency services to connect more people and places along busy corridors
Balance the allocation of resources between weekday peak hour services and all-day and weekend services
Prioritize inter-jurisdictional connections
Ensure maximum accessibility
The proposed standards would apply to five different types of HRT routes: Regional Backbone, Local Priority Routes, Coverage Routes, Limited/Express Routes, and On-Demand Service.
To have the greatest positive impacts, the new Regional Standards should be applied uniformly across the HRT service area. Depending on the type of service, hours of operation will be the same across the regional system. Frequency would also be consistent across the jurisdictional boundaries, based on type of service. Frequency standards address how often buses come by a stop to pick up and drop off customers.
Regional Backbone routes will criss-cross the region along the major corridors that have the highest travel demand and connect the most people to the most jobs. These are areas with higher population and employment density. The most frequent service will happen on Regional Backbone routes, where buses will come every 15 minutes during the busiest hours of the day. This is one of the Top Priorities that citizens across Hampton Roads have identified for having a better regional bus.
Local Priority routes would be the “work horse” of the overall system. Frequency on these routes is every 30 minutes during rush hours. They may run within a single city or cross city boundaries, and will provide important connection points to the core transit network. Population and employment densities will typically be a little lower in these areas compared to the Regional Backbone.
Coverage routes will provide service on an hourly basis for areas where overall demand for public transportation is generally lower, yet transit still serves important community needs like access to jobs.
Limited or Express routes. Buses on these route make a limited number of stops and commuters have shorter travel times to get to and from key destinations, like major employers.
On-Demand service. In some areas it will not be most effective to operate regular bus service. Designated areas or “zones” will feature On-Demand service. Rather than using larger buses that travel regular route patterns, customers will catch smaller vehicles that will provide pick-ups and drop-off at various locations within a zone and connect passengers to the Regional Backbone or other types of transit.