Roundup: Metro Board’s Customer Experience committee tackles delayed trains, bus restructuring, bus/rail cleanliness & more

The Metro Board’s newest committee — the Ad Hoc Committee on Customer Experience — met again on Thursday. I’ll add a link to the audio recording of the meeting once it’s posted.

The agenda is above and below are a few of the highlights:

•Metro’s bus restructuring/reimagining effort is taking a step forward with the full Board on Nov. 30 to consider a $1.296-million contract with Cambridge Systematics to do the restructuring study.

As they have in the past, Metro officials noted some reasons behind falling bus ridership. Commuter travel patterns have changed. About one-third of Metro riders who no longer ride said it’s because they can no longer access their homes or jobs via Metro. The times that commuters travel have also shifted with not as many people are working 9 to 5.

On top of all that, despite spending about $13 million annually maintain bus speeds and reliability, Metro is seeing slower travel times and reliability. Staff report on the Cambridge contract.

•The Microtransit project team provided a brief update. The project — overseen by Metro’s Office of Extraordinary Innovation — is now out to bid with proposals due Dec. 6. Metro hopes to pick a contractor next year.

“Honestly, I’m still not sure quite it is we’re talking about. What exactly are we planning on doing?” asked Committee Chair Mike Bonin. The answer from Metro staff that did not 100 percent clarify matters for Bonin: “Dynamic point-to-point on demand transit service.”

To put it another way: Microtransit will likely be a small bus that can be fetched by riders similar to an Uber or Lyft and shared with others. It will likely cost more than Metro’s regular $1.75 fare but cheaper than a private ride hailing service. Much more in our recent blog post.

•There was an update on efforts to improve TAP.

The news that probably interests everyday riders the most: Metro is planning on launching a TAP in the latter half of 2018 that initially will let you load fare onto a card by tapping your phone. The app will later be upgraded to allow people to use their smartphone as a TAP card, according to staff. It will also let Metro integrate transit fares with other ticketing applications. 

As staff said, “they are working on a ton of stuff” and this presentation sums it up:

Bonin — who refreshingly has bluntness weaved tightly into his DNA — noted that in his view the TAP system is one of the least liked things about the Metro system and thanked Metro staff for work he considers essential.

•An audit that found that there were more than 2,500 Metro Rail service disruptions in 2016 was discussed. We posted about that earlier and, yes, there’s a chart showing which line had the most delays. Committee members asked a few pointed questions about the average delays to riders and staff pointed to this chart in the audit which sampled some delay data from last year:

Please note that staff said the tall red line at the far right was an outlier due the data sample they used.

•From a report given to the committee on cleanliness of Metro buses, trains and facilities — and because this is a question we get often:

Metro buses and rail vehicles are cleaned daily by removing interior dirt and debris, wiping down dashes and ledges, mopping floors, removing graffiti, cleaning the operators’ area and washing the exterior of the buses and trains. Bus vehicle detailed cleanings known as “scrubs” are completed every 6,000 miles. Scrubs include all of the daily cleaning activities plus more thorough washing/wiping of interior surfaces and ceilings, removing gum deposits in crevices around seats and cleaning every window. Special cleaning projects and/or campaigns occur regularly to focus on improving specific interior and exterior conditions including bus wheel cleaning, removing scuffing and scrapes, and focused cleaning of doors, seats, and railings
And that’s it for this month. The Ad Hoc Committee on Customer Experience will meet again in early 2018. We’ll keep on covering the Committee’s efforts as a lot of items of actual interest to everyday people will be flowing through the Committee.


Categories: Policy & Funding, Projects

9 replies

  1. I read the report about the delays on the light rail lines and when I found out that Metro management didn’t have accurate knowldedge as to what was really causing stuff, I just threw my hands up. Really? What do they do then. I noticed that over 40% of the light rail trains leave the yards late to handle the flow of those wanting to go to work and that operators showing up late is 15% of the problem. This is a management problem and I am angry that the Measure M funds are being wasted with no real results.

  2. Inter-agency transfers and daily/weekly/monthly caps on TAP are obvious places for improvement, but they’re not so much a technical challenge as a matter of fare policy.

  3. Metro policy often seems to be made by people who never use the system or do not need to, else things would be very, very different.

    Kudos to Councilman Bonin for paying attention and listening to those of us who must rely on it.

  4. This afternoon on a Metro bus, I could’ve sworn I saw somebody tap a smartphone on the validator. Was it just my imagination? I know that Big Blue Bus is doing it already, but not Metro, right?

    As far as I know, fare inspectors have been using NFC on smartphones to check TAP cards for a while now. Using this function to load fare onto a card makes sense.

    • I’ve seen that a couple times but it’s most likely someone with a wallet phone case- it’s convenient but if you lose your phone, you basically lose everything

    • There are Metrolink App users who think this will work. Obviously it does not “unlatch” a turnstile, but it could seem to the user to work at a Stand Alone Validator.

  5. How about just making the TAP card system faster and more reliable? Many other systems beep and give feedback on contactless cards a few times faster and with more sensitivity at longer distances away from the card reader.

  6. Around 1987 I was assigned to a special project at Division 3 where I would check a group of buses for graffiti, cleanliness, and body damage every night. If a bus was noted with any defects it could not be sent out the next morning until those problems were fixed. Needless to say I was not very popular in the maintenance department. While the roll-out could never be completed with those stiff standards for the entire fleet there should be stronger objectives in place to correct them more rapidly.

    As a bus operator in the early 1980’s it was not uncommon to receive a bus with the same defects week after week. From what I understand this is still a problem. One rarely sees mechanics goofing off and not working hard but that is not the rule for others in maintenance who clean and service the buses.