Was Cincinnati Metro too hasty in removing 'redundant' bus stops?

Posted at 4:35 PM, Mar 05, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-05 18:24:59-05

CINCINNATI — Cincinnati Metro's network of bus stops shrank over the weekend part of an ongoing effort to improve efficiency and reliability on some of its busiest routes. However, some bus riders feel Metro could have done more to gather feedback before removing the stops and that removing "redundant" bus stops doesn't get to the root of Metro's problems.

Metro removed 115 stops Sunday as part of its bus stop optimization program. The theory is pretty simple: Fewer stops along a route means the bus will move more quickly toward its destination, said Metro spokeswoman Heather Norris-Garcia.

"When a bus pulls over a block or so, when they have to go out of traffic, leave traffic, pull over and pick someone out, and then get back into traffic — that takes time," she said.

Like dozens of other metropolitan bus systems across the country, Cincinnati Metro buses often struggle to stay on schedule, especially in rush hour traffic.

"We have more than 4,000 stops in the system. We evaluated all of them, took photos of them, did an analysis looking at usage, amenities, spacing between stops," Norris-Garcia said. "We looked at spacing, accessibility, whether or not there’s somewhere to stand, grassy curb, does it have a bench?"

The 115 stops removed sat along four Metro routes: 17, 31, 33 and 41.

Derrick Turner rides Route 17 frequently and told WCPO he's wary of the bus stop removal.

"That’s a bad situation for me," he said. "I think they should keep it just like it is. If they change it, then people will be all confused."

So far, the bus stop removal is still only in its pilot phase, Norris-Garcia said, and that Metro will continue gathering rider feedback over the next several months. In the months leading up to Sunday's removal, Metro held 14 public hearings to gather feedback from riders and ultimately preserved about a dozen stops initially slated for removal.

She also said the bus stop removal was strategized so that it would not add more than a quarter-mile to any bus rider's walk to their bus stop.

Some agree with the theory behind the bus stop removal but felt it was rolled out too hastily. Cam Hardy, with the transit advocacy group the Better Bus Coalition, felt the public hearings were not held at times when most riders could attend.

"When they had the community outreach, they were having meetings at noon, and I just don’t think that’s realistic to get the quality feedback that you need," Hardy said. Of the 14 public hearings, two were held after 5 p.m. and another two were held after 4 p.m.

"In principle I agree with it, but I think they could have done a better job with how they rolled it out," he added.

Hardy also said the bus stop removal doesn't address the Metro route network's outdated hub-and-spoke structure. As it's currently laid out, most Metro routes connect outlying neighborhoods with the city center — chiefly terminating at Government Square in downtown Cincinnati — with very few crosstown routes.

"We have a very 1970s-centric bus system, so we’re speeding people up to come Downtown? It’s already very antiquated anyway," he said.

Ultimately, Hardy worries about the strategy of reducing resources in order to improve efficiency.

"In the midst of cuts — and we’re talking about deficits and levies — I think this looks more like the beginning of some massive cuts that are going to take place for Metro," he said.

Meanwhile, riders like Turner might have to cope with walking just a bit farther to their stops.

"I wish the bus stop would be by my house in front of my door," he said. "But I can’t do that."