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Busses that outperform rail . . .


I have a slightly new take on this issue since i've compared ridership numbers. Below is a list of our top 20 routes in terms of average weekday ridership. The top three are subway lines. The route numbers followed by the name of a town are commuter rail lines. The rest are bus routes. Some of the bus routes are paired, for instance 21/42 - they are essentially the same route with minor variations or detours.

Route Number Daily
Market Frankford Line 134567
Broad Street Line 83375
PATCO 33234
R5 Paoli 20823
Rt-21/42 19082
Rt-23 18813
Rt-C 18153
Rt-47/47m 17584
Rt-14/20 16537
Rt-18 15243
Rt-33 14462
Rt-52 13564
R5 Doylestown 13489
Rt-17 11505
Rt-G 11110
Rt-H/XH 11008
R7 Trenton 10686
Rt-60 10085
R3 West Trenton 9886
Rt-57 9203
R3 Media 8815

I was shocked to see so many bus routes outperform regional rail. I know first hand about crowded busses and i suppose i'm only on the suburban trains at rush hour but i never realized the disparity. Some of these bus routes should've been candidates for light rail conversion years ago. None of the top 6 routes even run articulated buses. Not that it would relieve the overcrowding. Right now most of these lines are running 7 minute headways with crowds 16 hours a day. During the AM and PM rush it's common to have to "wait for next bus" because there's no room.

To me it's an issue of capacity, wait times, and speed. 4 minute bus headways are useless if you have to wait for 12 minutes for a bus you can squeeze onto. 4 minute headways are also useless if the ride takes that much longer than the trolley.

Does anyone have similar, heavy use bus lines that are being considered for conversion to a higher capacity system - be it BRT, light rail , or subway?


I see the issue here is that the bus routes that have such high ridership are probably those in lower-income areas of the city where people might work multiple jobs, work odd hours, and ride the bus every where because they cannot afford a car whereas the commuter rail lines are used only going to and from work. People get home and take their car out.

That being said, here is Austin there are some routes that are used 16 hours a day and some that are used a total of maybe 8 hours. Take the bus I ride for example. When I get on it at 8:47am to go to class, it is often standing room only...and this is one of the 45' express coaches (57 seats). The other day I skipped my first class and got on the bus at 12:05 pm. The entire trip I was one of 5 people on the exact same bus!!!

Now if you ride the bus that goes straight through downtown and some of the poorer sections of town (Route #1 North Lamar/South Congress) there will be an average of probably 15 people on that bus at any given time.

The probem with my route though, is that a bus comes only every 40 minutes. That is why it is so packed during rush hour, but what can you do? Can't add more busses that wouldnt be ridden at other times of the day. Commuter Rail would be equally pointless.


Chicago has some very busy express bus routes along the lakeshore. They easily outperform the low-ridership L lines like the Green line and Douglas branch. If you look at a city density and L map, it becomes obvious why. The L doesn't go near the ultra-high density areas near the lake in very many places.

Of couse, the obvious solution is to replace those busses with L lines, and that's what the Grey Line proposal intends to do on the south side. By turning a commuter line that ill-serves the community into an L line, it would eliminate the need for all of those express busses and probably result in an operational savings for the CTA, since express busses are so expensive to run.

Along the north lakeshore, the only solution would be to put in a new line (probably subway), which would cost billions, so despite the obvious need for one, there have been no serious proposals to build one yet.


maudit anglais
I can't seem to find accurate regional rail or subway numbers for Toronto right now. I think GO Transit (regional rail) does about 120,000/weekday (2 all-day lines, 5 peak lines), while the subway/RT handles in the range of 500,000 (all 4 lines combined).

We have some pretty heavy bus/streetcar routes...here are the heaviest ones (2002 weekday ridership):

504 KING (Streetcar) - 51,800
501 QUEEN (Streetcar) - 45,100
510 SPADINA (Streetcar) - 42,700 (operates in a semi-exclusive ROW)
39 FINCH EAST - 42,600
29 DUFFERIN - 41,400
506 CARLTON (Streetcar) - 41,200
36 FINCH WEST - 38,300
32 EGLINTON WEST - 37,400
25 DON MILLS - 36,700
505 DUNDAS (Streetcar) - 36,600
85 SHEPPARD EAST - 36,500 (Sheppard Subway opened in Nov 2002)
35 JANE - 36,000
54 LAWRENCE EAST - 32,100