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Clark, Sheridan, Broadway buses show big "reliability improvements"

The biggest surprise for me in Ron's President Report to the CTA board at the December meeting is that the 22 Clark, 151 Sheridan and 36 Broadway buses showed double-digit increases in "reliability improvement" this year.

So what does that mean? According to the CTA, "Improved reliability is measured by the increase in consistency of the route.  The #22 route has significantly improved in regard to gaps in service."

Top 10 bus routes reliability 

I probed further about this, and here's how a CTA spokesperson explained it:

"The #22 has been increasing the entire year. There are three factors leading to the #22's growth: 1) reliability has improved by almost 50%. While the route still has challenges in maintaining good reliability, it is one of our most improved routes; 2) Service-level constraints on the nearby rail lines due to three-track operation made Clark Street a more competitive alternative to the Red, Brown or Purple Lines, particularly in the Lincoln Park, Gold Coast and near North sections of the route's service area; and 3) by traversing a service area with already congested parking and low-auto ownership, a street like Clark Street is more likely to pick-up new riders as gas-prices increased.

The titles, "reliability improvement" means the route had improvements made to its reliability; "service improvement" means the route was injected with more frequent service, or increased hours of service and "3-Track" means the service is thought to be beneficially impacted by the 3-Track rail project.

Who knew?

Comments

When reliability is non-existent, a 50% improvement is insignificant. On numerous occasions, I've given up waiting on a #22 bus – an hour and a half between buses just doesn't seem like an improvement to me.

The reason the #22 isn't available via Bus Tracker yet is that the CTA is embarrassed by its performance. I'd like to be able to log on from my cell phone when I get to a bus stop and see when the next one is coming. If the wait is unreasonable, then I can find alternate transportation – rather than sitting there fuming because there's no bus in site and I have no idea when the next one will arive.

I like the definition of "reliability improvement:" it means that the route is more reliable. I would like to see the underlying metrics used to determine that an even 50% improvement has occurred. That's quite an achievement. You would expect 48% or 62%, but not an even 50%. Not like I have much choice but the CTA...whatever. I wish they would spend money on the maintenance as opposed to slick little reports. I bet you 5-10 people were involved in putting together these slides.

The only way to go is up.

When you're at the bottom, it's easy to come up with minor things to do that will result in major differences. When you're at the top, a minor result may require a major effort.

So anytime you see a "Most Improved" list, those at the top of the list are almost always going to be the worst of whatever the subject of the list is. Bragging about being the "most improved" is misplaced pride. Making this measure the focus of attention is nothing more than spin. Lipstick on a pig, if you will.

Does this mean that bus tracker can now be considered for the #22?

Last night, I watched two Clark buses go by as I walked to the corner. I cursed.

But when I got there, pondering whether to drop the movie at the theater plan and rent or to take a cab, I realized a third bus was up the block.

Well, we got on, and when we got past Irving, the driver talked to a supervisor in an SUV, and we were held for 5 minutes. No longer bunched, at least by the CTAs standards. Last bus held ... hmm. Was the last bus ahead of his normal timing? Maybe, but I'm skeptical, since he didn't say that when he got off the bus. He said there were too many buses all jumbled up.

Shit. That sounds like a sign that they're attacking the symptom - the bunch, rather than the problem - the big gap in front of the bunch.

The only sign of hope I had -- the #2 bus in the bunch did power through a stop sign, not really even stopping. So it may be that they're urging drivers to go faster when they're one of the first in the bunch.

Please, for god's sake, CTA, realize that when you have a gap of 20 minutes in a service that's should have 7 minute headways, and then you have three buses in quick succession, followed by a 4th bus 7 minutes behind, the problem is the 20 minute wait in front of the lead bus. The problem is definitely NOT the fact that there is 7 minutes between bus 3 and bus 4. Slowing down bus 3 does nothing of value for us.

Still, Rusty, you're off base. There are:

a) people who take the Clark bus now, yet they'd be happier with better service.
b) people who don't, but would if it were a little better.
c) others who take it sometimes, but would take it on other trips if they weren't quite as afraid of likely long waits.
d) others who wouldn't take it without major improvements.

You're saying don't mention anything until you've addressed the concerns of group D. I think that's wrong.

Thanks for the Monday morning laugh Kevin.

I definitely need it.

Reminds me of the old joke...I'm going to give you a 20% pay raise...but sir, I don't get paid, ok, make it 30%.

lol.

Sorry I missed everyone at the meetup. I was coughing my guys out over the weekend.

KevinB

err, that was supposed to be coughing my guts out...

I'm still only at 60% here..

KevinB

Rusty seems to be implying that they should either do nothing to fix the problem or only announce improvements once the system is absolutely perfect. Anything in between is a waste of time it seems.

DB,

Having metrics available for analysis and learning where you need to and have improved is important. If you ignored the statistics, you'd just be sticking your head in the sand. As for maintenance, they seem to be doing a good job on this, and certainly better than they used to.

As to the 50% improvement, I agree with you but maybe this person didn't have all the facts. I can add that the 151 southbound (north of Belmont) is much better spaced out now and it is nice that it is on Bus Tracker as well.

[I wish they would spend money on the maintenance as opposed to slick little reports. I bet you 5-10 people were involved in putting together these slides.]

What a pointless complaint this is.

[So anytime you see a "Most Improved" list, those at the top of the list are almost always going to be the worst of whatever the subject of the list is. Bragging about being the "most improved" is misplaced pride. Making this measure the focus of attention is nothing more than spin.]

Look more carefully - it's NOT a "Most Improved" list. You conjured that terminology out of thin air; the CTA did not use it, Kevin did not use it, no commenters before you used it.

In fact, I believe Kevin has misinterpreted the chart - as far as I can tell, the double-digit increases he refers to are in ridership, not "reliability improvement."

[Sorry I missed everyone at the meetup. I was coughing my guts out over the weekend.]

Yeah, KevinB, I was really sad you weren't there. Hope you feel better.

I really enjoyed meeting everyone, though. Fun afternoon!

I took the #22 after the Tattler Santa Train Fest on Saturday afternoon. The bus and I arrived at the stop simultaneously and we made it to Foster in under ten minutes. It was nothing less than miraculous.

Yeah, my dog was doing the same thing as KevinB this weekend, except out the other end. Kind of derailed things.

I did eventually get out to do some shopping. On the way downtown on the red line, a man in a fur-ish coat replayed a recent fight he had, with full sound effects. He started some time before belmont and finally tired out just before Lake.

On the northbound I got to watch a shell game across the aisle from me. Some folks seemed genuinely thrilled by this, like we were in Disney's Urban Adventure theme park.

I'm sure they all enjoyed their adventure in the city.

Oh, and I found a way to get bus tracker on my non-Web-enabled phone. I call my wife and ask her to look up the 77 bus from home. Should have thought of that months ago ...

>>>
Rusty seems to be implying that they should either do nothing to fix the problem or only announce improvements once the system is absolutely perfect. Anything in between is a waste of time it seems.
<<<

Wow. You twisted what I said around to get THAT????

What I'm saying is that "Most Improved" is a relatively meaningless measure.

I'm a horrible golfer. Just about any change I make can improve my game exponentially. Compare me to Tiger Woods, and I'm still as horrible of a golfer. If you ranked me against all the other golfers in the world, I might be the "most improved", but I'm still at the bottom of the rankings. Should I be bragging about that?

A horse that comes in last place at the track is still in last place whether he came in a few inches, or a few furlongs behind the rest of the pack.

If you're going to talk about improvement, talk about the improvement, not that you've made a higher ratio of improvement compared to those who didn't have to improve, and/or didn't have much to improve upon.

The focus should be on the improvement, not some goofy measurement that is meaningless. "Most improved" is a mostly meaningless ranking. It's spin. And it detracts from what actual improvements took place (or didn't take place.)

But if you like spin and PR better than basic reality, then it's a ranking I'm sure you'll relish. And perhaps you have a wall full of "Most Improved" certificates of your own.

But let me ask you this: If you went to a doctor, and he had a "Most Improved Surgeon" certificate on the wall, wouldn't you high-tail it out of there? I know I would.

"Most Improved" is not something you brag about.

"I wish they would spend money on the maintenance as opposed to slick little reports. I bet you 5-10 people were involved in putting together these slides"

Geez, I hope not. Those are some of the worst Powerpoints I've ever seen. They're filled with stylistic errors (white text on white background = invisible), grammatical errors (random and arbitrary capitalization), and typos like "Unltrasonic"

Again, I find myself wondering: where exactly is the CTA bragging about "Most Improved"?

I definitely see Rusty's logic. Not that I found the #22 or #36 extremely horrible to begin with. Maybe because I expected massive bunching or big gaps. I've had my "miraculous" encounters with those buses to, hundreds of times over the many years. But I wouldn't call any recent experiences with it "much improved". IN fact, if you want to convince me it's improved, find a way to make it so that not EVERY evening rush hour #22 or #36 bus that goes north past Randolph and Dearborn or Lake and Dearborn isn't packed to capacity. I've seen three or four of each bus go by before one or two people can even squeeze onto one. It's getting cold out there, CTA. Fine some way to remedy this.

"... and typos like "Unltrasonic"

Unltrasonic: Adj.The speed at which most CTA elevated trains move, particulary in slow zones.

I wasn't expecting any miracles to occur ever again after my aberrant #22 experience on Saturday and then yesterday I had another on the #81. It was swift-moving, uncrowded and had a low theater-of-the-absurd factor, all of which are quite uncharacteristic of the 81. If it happens again, I'm going to start thinking CTA is tracking me via the RFID chip in my CCP and making these outlier buses appear out of the mist.

Dear Santa:
I don't want anything for myself this year, but please have the elves give the CTA whatever they need (hopefully before it gets even colder) to activate the bus tracker for #22 and #36.

hugs,
Mark in Lakeview

Why are you guys using these buses? The L is so much more reliable.

Any thoughts as to which routes will get Bus Tracker next? I am hoping now that we are receiving these new Hybrid buses (and presumably retiring old ones at the same time), we should get some new routes coming online. I believe the main issue cited for most of the remaining routes was that they had old buses on them they were not going to spend the money to retrofit with the Bus Tracker technology since they were going to be retired soon.

About a week ago, I was on a Flxible on the X80 route that had the retrofitted announcement sign and the CCP pad on the farebox rather than over the right front wheel and yet it was on Bus Tracker. I thought this was rather curious since CTA has stated again and again that they're not going to install Bus Tracker on old equipment.

"Why are you guys using these buses? The L is so much more reliable."

Why do you ask a question with several very obvious answers?

[If it happens again, I'm going to start thinking CTA is tracking me via the RFID chip in my CCP and making these outlier buses appear out of the mist.]

Hmm ... you may be on to something here, Martha. I use a CCP also. Perhaps this is why I so rarely have the apocalyptic experiences so many others do on the CTA.

Then Ron must have it in for me since I seem to have the horrible 22 experiences...maybe it's payback for some of my comments here :)

Although, I was running late this morning and thought I missed a purple line at 8:16 and low and behold it wasn't there when I ran down the stairs and saw it was 8:18 and then it came into the station as I was slowing down to call work and tell them I might be late...

KevinB

All 6000 Flxibles out of Forest Glen, Chicago, Kedzie, and 74th St. garages are equipped with bustracker capabilities.

[Why do you ask a question with several very obvious answers? ]

The 3 routes mentioned basically follow the red line, and the red line doesn't get caught in river north traffic. Maybe I'm missing something?

Everyone on or east of Clark, between Diversey and North Ave. is more than 4 blocks, or 1/2 mile from the Red/Brown/Purple Line (the generally accepted distance that one will walk to a train). Ditto for anyone East of Broadway, South of Addison. Ditto for folks at the North end of Southport. And then of course there's anyone West of Clark in Andersonville.

Now, I suppose you could make the point that it might behoove some of those folks to transfer to the Red at various points in their journey (Clark/Division maybe, Addison, or Belmont) to get off the surface roads, but you lose a bit of efficiency in the time spent not moving while you complete the transfer.

Much like a traffic jam where it seems the more you change lanes, the slower you go...making too many transfers in the name of efficiency will almost always result in the trip taking longer than if you had just "stayed the course."

There's only been one minor update of the buses included on the tracker since August, I'm pretty sure. Unlike a lot of folks, I know all the routes will end up on the tracker, and the order in which they appear doesn't matter to me. But it's looking like the CTA doesn't care much either... and the ongoing shrugs from the CTA on the question aren't encouraging.

This is just a joke from the CTA.
Instead of putting the Clark & Broadway buses on Bus Tracker, they put out a bullshit press release.

And to echo Bob S., it's ludicrous to make transfers instead of just riding a single bus, especially in this weather, which means multiple waits in the cold & wind.

That's Josh making that point, but it's a good one, and I'll happily share the credit with him.

(My point was the silliness of conspiracy theories about the 22 and 36 appearing on the tracker. Cough.)

FWIW, today I had a bearable Red Line experience coming from Edgewater into downtown... my train actually beat the 147 buses that left my stop around the same time by 10 or 15 minutes. It was miserably overcrowded (with people being left on the platforms as far north as Argyle), but for once it took only 35 minutes to get from Edgewater to Grand. If they can solve the miserable overcrowding, once they've finished rebuilding Grand, I could see myself returning to the Red Line.

I think in the long term, another train line needs to be built on the north side, to take people off the existing lines and serve people farther away from the existing lines.

Purely as a thought experiment, an interesting alignment to take some of the pressure off the lakefront buses might be this:

Subway under Indiana Ave from Cermak to somewhere in the park, cutting over to Columbus and following Columbus/Fairbanks to the general vicinity of LSD, where it would travel until Lincoln Park, to emerge as a ground-level light rail line aside Stockton. There would be little impact to the park, and due to the small number of cross-streets, trains should move along just fine. Then, return to subway and follow Diversey or Belmont out to a terminus on the NW side (at the very least, intersecting with Cicero, for potential future transit line there).

This would effectively service the lakefront areas that have no rail service today, as well as more directly service some tourist areas, AS WELL AS provide easy Southward expansion as Bronzeville continues to grow. Maybe even down to Hyde Park.

Now, who's going to pay for it? lol. At the very least, can we ever connect the Brown and Blue at Jefferson Park? Pretty please?

Less pressure on the bus routes hopefully means fewer buses. Fewer buses means that cyclists on the right side of the road don't get cut off as often, and less traffic on Michigan Ave.

The other problem that needs to be addressed is overcrowding on the brown and red lines. Hopefully the new line would take the pressure off of these rail lines.

Anyways, cutting across grant park would mean less direct access to the loop, and no meaningful transfers. Maybe a Clark street subway?

Reuben's new here ...

And?

Has the CTA explained to any one on this blog why the 22 can't be added to bus tracker? I know they said it has some thing to do with the algorithm not working for that route, but that sounds like answering 'why is my plane delayed?' with 'because it won't arrive on time'. If the CTA has kept statistics on how buses perform on that route, and if they have GPS, I don't understand what 'algorithm' needs to be developed. You don't need an algorithm to tell you that a chicken still needs 5 minutes in the oven. It seems like some thing you submit to a customer, fingers crossed, hoping they don't ask anything further.

"Has the CTA explained to any one on this blog why the 22 can't be added to bus tracker?"


I asked a similar question of someone I know who works at Clever Devices, and as I understand it the 22 and 36 can now be added to Bus Tracker. The reason it's not happening immediately is that the 3-Track extra bus service on Clark ends in January, and CTA wants to wait for that. Plus the discontinuation of the 3-Track extras will, as I understand it, retire the 10 or so remaining 1995 buses at the 22/36's garage.

"Has the CTA explained to any one on this blog why the 22 can't be added to bus tracker?"


I asked a similar question of someone I know who works at Clever Devices, and as I understand it the 22 and 36 can now be added to Bus Tracker. The reason it's not happening immediately is that the 3-Track extra bus service on Clark ends in January, and CTA wants to wait for that. Plus the discontinuation of the 3-Track extras will, as I understand it, retire the 10 or so remaining 1995 buses at the 22/36's garage.

(start sarcasm vent)


Wow, they must have solved their big "algorithm problem".

Will we be seeing new ground-breaking mathematical treatises in the Mathematics journals? Will Carole Brown be getting a Nobel prize for solving one of the great mysteries of the century? I'm glad to see that the CTA is a hotbed of "intellectual renewal" now and not the doublespeak spouting, excuse-giving, organization that has employees that can't spell "Belmont" that we've come to know and despise.

It goes to show that there is no one that can't be redeemed...

(end sarcasm vent)

KevinB

Good thing is that more buses are coming too!

The CTA has ordered for 900 60-foot diesel-electric hybrid buses. These new orders take the tally of total orders from CTA since
2002 to 1,258 buses, including 1,050 40' diesel and hybrid and 208 60'
hybrid buses.

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