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Weekday Exception Scheduling in Rapid Transit Systems

Note: Opinions expressed are the authors’ and do not necessarily reflect official policy or positions of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority State of New York, Metro-North Railroad, the Transportation Research Board, or any other organizations.
I.     Research Problem Statement
Weekday exception scheduling in rail transit services can potentially provide better service to customers by matching transit supply to ridership demand more precisely, while also reduce operating costs of urban transit systems. Specifically, treating Fridays (and perhaps also Mondays) differently from other weekdays offers interesting possibilities. As commuters trend towards more flexible work scheduling, telecommuting arrangements, and 4½-day weeks, gaps between midweek and Friday ridership have widened. 
Exception schedules neither were nor are unusual; transit operators ran full Saturday lunchtime rush-hours in the interwar era, while private bus companies, airlines, and freight railroads operate exceptions today. Systematic consideration of day-of-week scheduling in urban local buses and suburban express buses confirmed that Friday modifications were best leveraged in properly distributing services.
While routes clearly have different day-of-week ridership characteristics, overall trends were not clear. Some routes have barely discernable Friday ridership effects whereas others have large and quite actionable effects. Work is needed to confirm rail transit ridership patterns, and identify and quantify underlying factors affecting Friday rail rapid ridership deviations from weekday averages. Some indices for route properties (number and size of business districts served, station character, route length, stop spacing, express/local/zonal service, “radialness” or “feederness”, and whether colleges were present) could be developed and correlated to ridership patterns and trends.
Earlier studies have shown that labor agreements permitting Friday scheduling exceptions as part of picked/bid crew schedules could reduce bus operating costs by 0.6% using vehicle-hours estimation methodology in a typical urban environment.  Available savings were route-specific, with 25% service reductions possible on some, whereas 25% service fortification was required on others with higher Friday ridership.  However, no run-cutting studies (even in buses) have been completed to validate these findings. Generation of proposed Fridays-only operating plans and run-cuts in a typical rapid transit environment, followed by detailed scenario testing through computerized run-cutting, is required to validate cost savings.
Implementing a separate rapid transit schedule tailored to Friday ridership could result in implementation issues. Research is required to identify issues and determine possible mitigation strategies. Issues include: systems with infrequent service or network features like timed-transfers may be negatively impacted by small Fridays-only reductions; customers may become confused by a separate Friday schedule; supporting infrastructure (payroll, internal reports) may be unavailable.
II.   Research Objective
The research would seek to answer the following questions:
  • Are Friday exception scheduling feasible in a rail rapid transit operating environment?
  • Do the ridership patterns in rail rapid transit support such a policy change in a broad range of operating environments?
  • What are the labor agreements needed to facilitate picked/bid Friday schedules? Do current labor agreements provide a good starting point? How can the necessary agreements be reached?
  • Are there any specific route characteristics that lends itself to a different schedule being operated on Fridays or any other day of the week? 
  • What are the demographic variables that generally gives rise to weekday exceptions?
  • What are the magnitudes of operating cost savings available if Friday exceptions were part of the base schedule? 
  • What are the general trends in time periods/routes that require service fortification on Fridays, versus service reduction? Are there seasonal effects?
  • What are the implementation issues in a typical rapid transit environment?
  • What are the best practices?
III.    Estimate of Problem Funding and Research Period
$150,000 and 24 months
IV. Urgency, Payoff Potential, and Implementation
As transit agencies seek to “do more with less” and match ridership demand to service supply more precisely, transit agencies need new ways of allocating resources to ensure that asset and personnel utilization remain at acceptable levels at all times throughout the entire system. At this time, policy research is needed to guide public transit agencies and decisionmakers. 
V. Related Work:
Lu, Alex, and A.V. Reddy. A Strategic Look at Friday Exceptions in Weekday Schedules for Urban Transit: Improving Service, Capturing Leisure Markets, and Achieving Cost Savings by Mining Automated Fare Collection (AFC) Data. TRB Paper No. 12-0582. http://amonline.trb.org/pap@PaperNo=12-0582
Roorda, Matthew J, S. Saneinejad, and E. Miller. Analysis of Routine Weekly Activity/Travel Patterns. Proceedings, 11th World Conference on Transport Research, Berkeley, Calif., 2007.
Chu, Ka Kee, R. Chapleau, and M. Trepanier. Driver-Assisted Bus Interview: Passive Transit Travel Survey with Smart Card Automatic Fare Collection System and Applications. TRB Paper #09-0822.
Axhausen, Kay W., A. Zimmermann, S. Schönfelder, G. Rindsfüser, and T. Haupt. Observing the Rhythms of Daily Life: A Six-Week Travel Diary. In Transportation, Vol. 29, No. 2, pp.95-124.
Gifford, Jonathan L., and S.W. Talkington. Demand Elasticity Under Time-Varying Prices: Case Study of Day-of-Week Varying Tolls on Golden Gate Bridge. In TRR No. 1558, pp.55-59, Washington D.C., 1996.
Port Authority of New York and New Jersey. Staggered Work Hours: A Report on United States and International Practice. Report TS-A521 IT-09-0023-34. New York, N.Y., 1975.
Federal Transit Administration. Report FTA-TTS-10-94-1. Ten-Hour Work Day Scheduling and Radically Changed Service by Day of Week. In Symposium Papers for the Operations and Service Planning Symposium, Washington D.C., 1993.
Young, Allan. Estimating Trading Day Variation in Monthly Economic Time Series. Bureau of the Census, Economic Research and Analysis Division, Technical Paper No. 12., Washington D.C., 1965. http://www.census.gov/ts/papers/Young1965.pdf.
VI. User Community:
  • U.S. and foreign transit agencies—particularly in the routing, scheduling, crewing, and assignment disciplines
  • U.S. and foreign commuter railroads, intercity train operators, and national railways, where appropriate
  • Toll road authorities and ferry operators, where appropriate
  • Municipal, metropolitan, regional and state planning authorities
  • Supplier of scheduling, train planning, and equipment logistics services and software packages
  • Transit ridership modellers, transit demographics and demand forecasters
  • Transit planners and researchers
Sponsoring Committee: AP065, Rail Transit Systems
Source Info: Committee members and friends
Index Terms: Rail transit, Subway, Rapid transit, Schedule, Service plan, Ridership, Supply, Demand, Cost, Labor agreement, Flexible work

Sponsoring Committee:AP065, Rail Transit Systems
Source Info:Committee members and friends
Date Posted:05/08/2012
Date Modified:05/22/2012
Index Terms:Rapid transit, Transit operating agencies, Ridership, Scheduling, Weekdays, Friday,
Cosponsoring Committees:AP030, Public Transportation Marketing and Fare Policy; AP010, Transit Management and Performance
Public Transportation
Administration and Management
Planning and Forecasting

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