Coverage vs Frequency: What is it and how can we make it work in Guelph

Good transit planning is always about understanding and accepting that there are trade-offs. With limited resources, there are only so many people and only so many places can be served effectively and efficiently by public transit.

Before discussing which route goes where what we first should be focusing on is how much of the limited resources do we want to be dedicated to doing one thing over another and if we want to put more money into achieving a more balanced network or not.

Understanding the Basics: The Ridership – Coverage Tradeoff

Transit Trade-offs include Coverage vs Ridership, Frequency vs Length, Peak vs All Day, and Transfers or Direct.

A summary of the book “Human Transit” that recommends Simple direct routes Grid, Frequency and other items I also have written here.

So let’s start with Ridership Services vs Coverage Services

Ridership service is designed to attract a large number of riders.

Coverage service is designed to provide a basic level of service to as many neighbourhoods as possible.

For example, in Guelph, Route 99 Mainline is considered a Ridership Service while Route 3 Westmount is considered a Coverage Service.

Ridership-oriented networks serve several popular goals for transit, including:

  • Reducing environmental impact through lower Vehicle Miles Travelled.
  • Achieving low public subsidy per rider, through serving the more riders with the same resources, and through fares collected from more passengers.
  • Allowing continued urban development, even at higher densities, without being constrained by traffic congestion.
  • Reducing the cost of for cities to build and maintain road and bridges by replacing automobile trips with transit trips, and by enabling car-free living for some people living near dense, walkable transit corridors such as South Gordon.
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