Friday, January 6, 2017

Holiday Service Levels - More Art Than Science

Over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we went. The holidays are over and we have flipped the page to 2017. January is a great time for looking to the future and also time to reflect on how things went the past year.

This past holiday shopping season saw record-breaking sales for retailers, which had Community Transit buses working hard to meet the demand of riders heading to work, shopping, school, or just to grandma’s house.

Our data gurus tell us that Sundays are typically the lowest ridership day of the week and our planning gurus tell us that lower demand calls for us to have a Sunday service schedule on major holidays such as New Year’s, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. Historically, those holidays have lower ridership than a typical Sunday. Did you ride on any of these holidays in 2016?

For example, on Thanksgiving 2016 we had 4,423 boardings which, is about half of a typical Sunday and much less than a typical Thursday (which is about 35,000 boardings). While this is a small ridership number compared to non-holidays, it shows that we were able to meet transportation demand for more than 4,000 people who had to find alternative solutions when we had no holiday service.

Why do people ride the bus on Thanksgiving? Families and friends like to be together on this day and share a meal or a football game, so that’s one reason. We can also assume that a lot of these riders were heading into work for the Black Friday sales that start Thanksgiving night, or to be the first shoppers to get the hot deals. Were you working or hitting the sales on Thanksgiving?

Christmas Day had only 3,687 boardings, living up to its reputation as our lowest ridership day of the year. Christmas this year also landed on a Sunday which called for a Monday, December 26, “observed holiday.” Based on historical ridership trends, we ran a Sunday service schedule with no commuter service that day. So we want to know, were you going over the river and through the woods or did you hit the salt mines on December 25 and 26?

New Year’s presented a planning quandary. The holiday was on a Sunday, but the “observed holiday” on Monday, January 2, had our planners coming together for an action plan. We originally planned only a Sunday schedule that day, which means no commuter service. But we thought some businesses or go-getter types would want to kick off 2017 right away. The action plan was put into place to add three commuter routes to meet the possible demand of people heading out of Snohomish County into Seattle. Routes 402, 413, and 421 were supplemented to the Sound Transit Route 512 service for those riders headed back to work right away. This was the first time Community Transit added extra commuter service on a major holiday. Turns out we had more than 11,000 boardings on January 2, which tells us there was definitely a demand. 

Just when we thought the holidays were over we jump right into 2017’s first holiday -- Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on Jan. 16. Because many businesses remain open on several "minor" holidays like this one, we run regular local service but a reduced commuter schedule. Let us know how you use Community Transit on the holidays!  Happy New Year! 

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