Transit Ridership - Observations
From our observations, we saw that the 30 line was very crowded, especially in the Chinatown neighborhood (down Stockton, in between Columbus and Sacramento). In fact, at one point during the field observation, we saw buses so crowded that the bus rider had to ask some passengers to leave to be able to safely close the doors and drive the bus down Stockton St.
Most of the ridership was Chinese, and it seemed like the children and elderly made up the majority of the riders. The rest of the ridership was quite diverse, ranging in age, ethnicity, and gender, and that fact wasn’t entirely lost in the slightly more homogeneous crowd of Chinese riders.
Transit Ridership - TEP Data
According to passenger data collected by the Transit Effectiveness Project, the 30 Stockton line accommodates 10,000 to 12,000 passengers per day. The stops in Chinatown are the busiest and accommodate for around 6,000 passengers per day. The Stockton and Washington intersection, for example, accommodates a daily load of 6,313 passengers. The only stops which come close to these numbers are those stops around Market Street, a major transit thoroughfare.
The 9BX Route (now the 8 route) used to pass through Stockton and Chinatown. Those stops in Chinatown on Stockton Street (Stockton St & Columbus Ave, Pacfic, Ave, Washington St, and Sacramento St), accommodate a daily load of around 1,000 passengers (952; 1,145; 1,270; 1,325 passengers, respectively). The 9X (also part of the 8 route) added to this load with around 4,000 passengers daily (peaking at around 5,006 passengers on Stockton St & Sacramento St). However, now the 8 route does NOT pass through Chinatown, which begs the question - where do all these riders now go? The 45 Route bus accommodates around 4,000 passengers as it passes through Chinatown on Stocktown, with the peak stop also being Stockton St & Sacramento St with 3,580 passengers total.
This data from the TEP was taken, most recently, in the fall of 2007, and so may be outdated and slightly unreflective of transit ridership. If anything, transit ridership may have increased in these areas since gas prices have risen since that year and because of the recent economic recession.
With these numbers, we can safely conclude that Stockton street is a major thoroughfare for bus riders despite its congestion and narrow streets. Many riders in fact do use the bus, which makes it an important target for transit improvement.
It was actually quite difficult to find demographic ridership data on transit ridership. When asked, Felipe, a transit planner at SFMTA working on TEP, mentioned that most transit ridership data is based on census data. It is assumed that ridership demographics reflect the demographics of the districts which public transit passes through. It seemed that this was the method they chose to use due to the problematic task of taking transit ridership data in the field - surveys would be too slow and invasive, yet untrustworthy assumptions would have to be made if researchers simply guessed a rider’s ethnicity, age, or even gender.
Transit Service Type, Bus Stops, and Rider Amenities
In terms of types of transit services, there are many busses with different routes which transport customers to all areas around the city. Busses travel to the north, east, south, and to the west corridors of Chinatown, which gives the convenience of transportation to its residents. Bus routes includes, but are not limited to the 1-Downtown(Inbound)/ Richmond District (Outbound), 30- Caltrain (Inbound)/ Marina District (Outbound), and 8X-Fisherman’s Wharf (Inbound)/ City College (Outbound). Bus stops in Chinatown, especially in the busier blocks, become overpacked with residents waiting for the bus. This becomes an obstacle for pedestrians who are walking along the regular streets. On streets such as Stockton and Broadway, bus stops have been extended into a bulb-out. These bulb-outs allows for more pedestrian flow along the streets, while allowing sufficient waiting space for bus riders. Some bus stops shelters along Stockton street have been redesigned with black plastic seats, an electronic advertisement screen, as well as a red wave-like roof. Muni transit offers rider amenities such as wheelchair accessibility, elderly and disabled priority seating, and the clipper program.
Recommendations for Improvement
Sidewalk extensions for bus stops:
With such narrow road space on Stockton Street, the MUNI buses face difficulties pulling in and out of travel lanes to pick up riders. Transit bulbs will allow buses to pick up riders without having to pull out of their traffic lane and then wait for a space to merge back in.
Lines at bus stops and passenger/driver education:
Certain bus stops in Stockton can be chaotic because a large amount of riders are struggling to enter the bus. Waiting time increases at each bus stop when entering riders do not wait for people to exit first. If riders are lined up orderly to enter the bus, the buses can leave each bus stop faster. Some sort of ridership etiquette education campaign would provide an outreaching avenue which could make the onboarding, offboarding, and ridership experience more efficient and pleasant for all users. Since many riders on Stockton are monolingual, there is a language barrier between the driver and riders. Prerecorded announcements in Cantonese can help drivers communicate better with passengers.
Widening traffic lanes
During our bus tour, Felipe noted that from Columbus Avenue to Broadway, MUNI buses barely fit on their traffic lane. The lane is so narrow that the bus wheel touches the yellow lane line. Large vehicles that pass by in the opposite directions must yield for the MUNI bus. The protruding side mirrors of MUNI buses is an additional hazard for cars that are passing by in narrow lanes. The driving lane can be increased by reducing parking or decreasing sidewalk space.