Drop Off Only

Even as we see small incremental gains in the economy, things aren’t anywhere near back to “normal.” Because of this, transit agencies are still struggling financially and continuing to cut service, or even in a few cases, completely end service altogether. For Ben Franklin Transit, things aren’t horrible. The Tri-Cities has been mostly immune to the economic downturn over the last few years, but not 100%, hence why BFT now has reduced service hours, cut routes and trips, and instituted Saturday-only routes. However, there are still ways to help save money, without any serious repercussions to ridership.

When buses reach the end of the service day, ridership tends to be pretty low. (Whether that’s because people aren’t using it because there’s no service left once they disembark, or the demand just isn’t there is another story.) As such, when the bus reaches the very end of it’s route, 999 times out of 1000 it’ll be empty. Is there really a good reason to keep running the bus along the route when all the passengers have disembarked and nobody is waiting to board it? No. And that’s why I propose to institute a policy of “Drop Off Only.”

“Drop Off Only” is just as it sounds. People already on the bus get let off, and when nobody is left, the route is done. The biggest positive is obviously the money that can be saved. No matter what, the bus has to deadhead back to base, so why make that trip longer than it needs to be? Less money spent on gas and maintenance is always a good thing. Driver salaries wouldn’t be affected too much, as they still remain on the clock while they complete their paperwork and whatnots at the end of the day already before they leave base. At most, the amount of riders that would be affected by a policy like this would be less than the fingers on my hands (which I can happily say is 10). If it was one of those rare instances where someone on board the bus was riding all the way to the end of the route, then the bus would still take that rider to that point. In some cases, the bus could also take a detour to further reduce the distance that needed to be covered for all riders to get to their stops. As an example, if I boarded the 6:00PM departure of Route 41 (which is on full “Drop Off Only” in this example) at Dayton TC and was wanting to head to the bus stop just west of Kennewick Ave & Highway 395, the bus could drop off the second-to-last passenger at 10th Ave & Beech St, and then head straight to my stop instead of driving all the way up to 36th Avenue.

Not every bus route would need to have a “Drop Off Only” enacted on it. With the possible exception of Route 110, intercity routes would be immune. High-ridership local routes, such as the 42 or 64, would probably be immune as well. Some routes, such as 39K, could also have a partial institution of the policy, where it would be guaranteed to cover a section of the route (Knight Street to Richland Wal-Mart for example) and then it would switch to “Drop Off Only.”

In case you were wondering, I do intend to bring this idea forward to the BFT Board. I don’t anticipate doing it at next week’s meeting, as I’d like to give it a little more thought so I can be better prepared. Thoughts, comments?… You know what to do. =)

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