Express Bus services that significantly reduce travel time between distant locations for substantial numbers of riders can provide effective alternatives to automobile commuting and urban travel. However, little evidence of net reduction in traffic congestion, or sustained volume of riders of such services has been produced by the transportation agencies promoting and providing them. Failure to assess and account for the impacts of express bus service operations on existing street and traffic conditions, as well as, the destructive effects of over-sized, over weight vehicles on streets and highways, makes any realistic assessment of express bus services impractical. Express bus services that cannot maintain travel time advantages or ridership levels do not efficiently perform their intended mission; while attempts to increase ridership by reducing fares, or shortening travel time by reducing boarding stops, would only compound the inefficiency of many express bus services. Although the curbside lanes of Wilshire Boulevard have been extensively crushed and potholed by oversized, over weight buses, the $31.5 million bus lane improvement proposed along 7.7 miles of the thoroughfare may only improve the street surfaces temporarily, and lead to perpetual, expensive street repair as long as the buses run on the traffic lanes.
Measurement and determination of the efficiency of express bus service tends to vary greatly between transportation agencies and jurisdictions, while many operators do not identify or distinguish the operation and maintenance costs of their express bus systems. Costs of road maintenance and traffic congestion directly related to express bus systems are seldom assessed or disclosed in public reviews or reports. Resources committed to express services should be justified by measurable success in moving passengers and reducing automobile trips in their service areas, by determining the cost per rider, per auto trip averted, per bus route, compared with other transportation services, in the allocation of limited public transportation resources. Evaluation processes should provide decision makers and mangers of transportation services with accurate assessments of the relative efficiency of all transportation services.
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