Subtle Changes

As I’ve mentioned several times here on the blog and on Twitter, I continue to work on what I feel is a solution to revamp the current service at Ben Franklin Transit for the better. However, in nearly every situation, as much as I try not to I find myself drifting away from what would be considered “realistic” and more towards “ideal.” However, for the time being, I want to tackle something a little bit simpler: Subtle Changes.

With the limited resources and funds available, it’s hard to extend the reach of our current transit service. With slight tweaks though, things can be improved. Below is a list of specific or general suggestions for ways that we can take the current Ben Franklin System and make it better without having to incur further costs.

Route 25
Originally, the route was created as a consolidated version of Routes 20 and 24 to run on Saturdays. (Links are to old route maps using the WayBack Machine.) In the Fall Service Change, the 20 and 24 were completely eliminated and the 25 now runs 6 days a week Monday to Saturday. Now, the one main problem with Route 25 is that it serves as a one-way loop. If someone getting on the route intends to go to a destination that was served before their stop, they have to ride the route the entire way around, then go to their destination as it heads toward the spot where they originally boarded in the first place. To increase options for riders, what could be done is to have the 25 run in alternating directions. The :15 departures would run the loop in the “counter-clockwise” direction as it currently does, and the :45 departures would run the loop in the “clockwise” direction. (If you look at the route map, the clock terms are a bit of a stretch, but you get the idea.) To alleviate confusion, the :45 departures would have their own separate route number, most likely 24. Apart from the directions of service, I would also propose a small shift in the routing. Currently, the route travels along Wright Ave in the Beverly Heights/Columbia Heights neighborhoods and continues to do so until intersecting with Thayer Drive. I would like to see the route use Duportail Street from it’s intersection with Wright Ave and then travel to/from Thayer Drive. The segment of Wright Avenue between Duportail and Thayer is not bus-friendly with it’s tight turns and narrow width, so shifting to Duportail would be better for safety and walkability of the route.
Required for implementation: Adjust map/schedule for Route 25 in schedule book and website, design new map/schedule for Route 24 in schedule book and website, new sign for bus bay at Knight Street TC

Route 26
Add a bus stop in front of the Consolidated Information Center on the WSU Tri-Cities campus. Buses already run right by it on the 26 peak-routing, so there’s no reason not to have it. Best of all, there’s already a pole right at the corner of Crimson Way and the south-end parking access which isn’t being used for any other signage, so it would take BFT maintenance seconds to have it installed.
Required for implementation: Installation of new stop flag

Route 39
About a month ago, this story was reported by local TV channel KNDU. In response to that, a very simple solution would be to make a slight change to Route 39K. Currently on the eastbound routing, the bus heads east on Canyon Street from Leslie Road, and then turns south on Bellerive where it meets up with the shared-corridor at the intersection with Gage Blvd.  Instead, the bus could be extended eastbound on Canyon Street to Steptoe Street, and then turn south and finally intersect with the shared-corridor at the intersection with Gage Blvd. Though the frequency of the 39K is every 60 minutes versus Route 50’s 30 minute frequency, it would vastly improve the options that residents in the Steptoe corridor have for transit.
Required for implementation: Adjust map/schedule for Route 39K in schedule book and website, installation of 3-5 new stop flags

Route 41
A few years ago, in order to expand the reach of transit service in south Richland, Ben Franklin Transit created the 39H and 39K. The two routes are alternated, so that each corridor has an equal level of service, and the shared portions of the route have a constant level of service. I would like to see BFT expand that idea and use it on Route 41. Once upon a time, east Kennewick had local service on Routes 45, 46, and 49, as well as 42 and 47. (Links are to old route maps using the WayBack Machine.) Though the 42 and 47 have been relatively unchanged, the 45, 46, 49 were all consolidated into Route 41 during a round of cuts/cost-saving. Unfortunately because of this, multiple corridors had to effectively be abandoned, mainly Olympia Street (between Kennewick Ave and 19th Ave), 45th Avenue (between Washington Street and Vancouver Street), and Ely Street (between 19th Ave and 36th Ave). In an effort to bring back some service to these areas, I propose the creation of Routes 41E and Routes 41V. Route 41E would have it’s eastbound routing (westbound the opposite) via south on Highway 395, east on 19th Ave, south on Ely St, east on 45th Ave, north on Washington St, and then west on Highland Drive. From the intersection at Cascade Street, there are two options. One, continue west on Highland Drive to intersect with the shared-corridor at Olympia Street, or head north on Cascade Street, east on 27th Ave, and then north on Washington Street to intersect with the shared-corridor at the intersection of Washington Street and 19th Ave. Route 41V would be the 41 in it’s current form, and would remain unchanged. As a sidenote, I don’t like using the name 41E, since it could lead to confusion with differentiating route directions (41EEB?), but there aren’t really any other characters to use for distinguishing this route variation.
Required for implementation: Adjust map/schedule for Route 41V (renamed from Route 41) in schedule book and website, design new map/schedule for Route 41E in schedule book and website, installation of multiple new stop flags/poles (a good number of stop poles from cancelled routes are still installed, further reducing cost impact)

Route 48
If the proposed Route 41E (above) were to be instituted, then the current deviation that Route 48 currently takes to serve 19th Ave between Highway 395 and Ely Street could be eliminated. Another change that I would like to see on Route 48 is better service to Kennewick General Hospital. Currently, the closest bus stop to the hospital is just shy of 1,000 feet away via Route 41EB. Before the elimination of Route 45, there was direct, front-door service to the hospital. Unfortunately, that would be impossible to replicate in the present day, as the city made Auburn Street a dead-end south of 8th Avenue. However, bus service can still be brought a lot closer to the hospital’s front door than it currently is. For westbound travel, rather than turning off Auburn at 6th Ave, the bus would head up to 8th Ave, head west, then south on Dayton Street and continue the route as it currently exists. For eastbound travel, the bus would turn off Dayton Street at 8th Ave, head east, north on Auburn Street, west on 6th Avenue, and then finish the trip at Dayton Street Transfer Point. Though I would normally avoid having route deviations like this, in this circumstance I feel it would improve the route, and since the 19th Ave deviation would be removed, travel time impact would most likely be next to non-existent.
Required for implementation: Adjust map/schedule for Route 48 in schedule book and website, installation of 4-8 new stop flags

You may notice that I don’t have anything to say about the routes in Pasco. It’s not that I don’t think there’s ways to improve service there, but there’s not much that can be done unless a major revamp were to be undertaken. Much of Pasco’s current system is a remnant from a period of time when the city planners of Pasco wanted bus routes to be off the main arterials. There are major gaps because of this, and many destinations in Pasco lack good access to transit, particularly Pasco Intermodal Station (Intercity Bus and Amtrak) and Tri-Cities Airport.  There’s also the issue of Route 64 and 65 running notoriously behind schedule, though most times it comes down to the wire for just how close they are to missing connections with other routes.


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