Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Overnight transit service

OCTA photo.

"Does Metro close too early on weeknights" is an entry in GGW.  In short the answer is yes, but it's complicated by the fact that the system wasn't designed to be robust--meaning there are only two tracks, not three, so there isn't redundancy and the ability to shut down one track and still maintain full service--and they need the time overnight to do maintenance.

At the least, WMATA could begin testing Owl bus service to run along the subway lines during the hours when subway service isn't provided.  See "Yellows to launch first night bus service" from the Yellow transportation service website in the UK, which discusses later night bus service from a local town to Bournemouth University, primarily to serve night time activities by university students.  The service runs til 4am, Thursday through Saturday.

-- The Night Bus Service entry from Wikipedia lists some global examples.

Below is an entry on the subject from 2007.

There is a yahoogroup on DC area transit ( and I am taking the liberty of reprinting a recent post by Dick Kotulak:

Except during the second World War years, buses provided what Capital Transit called "owl" service. Generally, this was from about 1 am to 5 am each night. The buses followed the same routes as the streetcars, stopping at the safety islands along the route. Except for the Benning line, the other private right of way lines (Cabin John and Maryland beyond Mt Rainier) had no all night service. I did not check the exact dates the owl runs went back to streetcars and back to buses, but it was generally between 1942 and 1947.

One particular owl routing during the War was combining the Wisconsin Ave line with the Benning line as a through route. Mervin Borgnis who wrote numerous books on Atlantic City, Philadelphia and Allentown, worked here during the war and his favorite ride was on this owl route.

On a personal note, one night about 12:30 am about 1959, I was coming home on a route 30 streetcar. That night was the change over from Standard time to Daylight time. Since the changeover involved the loss of an hour, during that time change, the owl buses began their runs an hour earlier before the streetcar runs ended. Thus for an hour, there was double service with both streetcars and buses. Pennsylvania Avenue looked like rush hour for a time. Needless to say, when the time changed back in the fall, provision was made to fill in the hour that would have missed service during the change.
Bus stop sign from Columbus, Ohio.  CMH Gourmand blog.

Some WMATA Metrobus lines do provide almost round the clock service, such as the 30s, 90s, 70s, and X buslines.  

And such lines tend to be in the city, not the suburbs.

But as discussed previously in the entry "Washington Post article on the demand for night-time bus services," some of the lines need to provide more service at night than they are providing now, and clearly that's another indicator of the need to provide more night time transit service more generally.

Drinking and riding

This blog entry "C-Bus N Bar Crawl," from CMH Gourmand in Columbus Ohio, describes a late night bar crawl designed to promote the local night owl bus service.

I can't see local transit services getting involved in such promotions here.
Budget issues

 (Image from the Boston Globe.)

Of course, post-crash budget crises for most U.S. transit systems has resulted in the elimination of such service, which generally has lower ridership when compared to service before and after the work day.  See "Night-Owl Bus Riders Face the End of the Line" from the Orange County Weekly, on the elimination of overnight bus services on certain routes in Orange County, California and this 2010 article from the Boston Globe, "T chief: Now's not the time for late-night service." 

Still the point is to plan for high quality transit service, and by making the case and laying out the vision, it may be easier to raise the funds necessary to provide that level of service.

Late night service as an equity issue

(This is also discussed in the above-cited blog entry about late night bus services in DC.)  Note that the OCTA transit service has been criticized for cutting such services, as cuts such as this are seen as inequitable.  See "OCTA must find money for bus service, grand jury says " from the Orange County Register and the study, A Short Ride on The Bus, produced by the Orange County Grand Jury.

(California counties have sitting civil grand juries, convened to evaluate the performance of government agencies and functions.... like blogs, but sanctioned, and with some suasion capacity.)



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