I’ve written before about the complexities and uncertainties of bus systems. Here I outline one simple way to make transit networks more accessible to riders and would-be riders: guaranteed high-frequency routes. Creating such routes and marking them in bold on maps makes clear what portion of a system is accessible without a schedule, making possible spontaneous trips and more natural transit use.
Lines should be marked in bold on route maps if they run (for example):
- At least every 10 minutes Monday through Saturday from 6 am to 10 pm and Sundays and holidays from 8 am to 8 pm;
- At least every 30 minutes the rest of the time.
Express routes should be clearly delineated from other routes on the same corridor. Branching is okay, but only sections of a line meeting the frequency criteria may be marked in bold. Streetcar lines, if any, should meet bold line standards, perhaps being drawn in a separate color for clarity. Maps should list the service frequency for bold lines, and bus stops along bold routes should clearly indicate their status as such.
Currently there is not a single Grand River Transit route that qualifies. Route 7 mainline is pretty close to bold between King & Ottawa and King & University, but lacks night service. On University between Westmount and Weber, routes 8 and 12 could together be close as well.
Bus routes necessitating a schedule are only accessible to committed bus riders, and are unfriendly to casual users. A guaranteed high frequency on selected routes makes those lines easier and more pleasant to use for the choice rider as well as for the regular transit user. Minimum nightly service assures users that they will not be stranded, which encourages use during all hours.
Transit systems without bold lines should try implementing a small network of them. And systems that already have lines that qualify should be making a big deal of it. Simplified pocket-size maps ought to be freely available to show the transit-novice and the transit-averse which routes are easy to use.
It is difficult for low frequency service to spur enough ridership to “justify” high frequency service; it’s an uphill battle of incremental service increases in tandem with small ridership increases (and sporadic service cuts for good measure). Bold lines allow a transit network to pull itself up by the bootstraps through strategic allocation of resources into a network structure that is qualitatively different and more accessible to riders.
There’s a decent chance you’ve heard of Kamut grain. It’s in cereals, some breads, pasta, and so on, especially ones found in health food stores. Think back to the last time you had it; was it organic?
The answer is yes, it was. That’s because Kamut is actually Kamut®, a registered trademark of Kamut International. The grain is generically known as khorasan wheat, a heritage variety of wheat that was barely cultivated until one Bob Quinn decided to market it. As near as I can tell, the company currently contracts with farmers in various parts of the world, though mostly around Saskatchewan and Montana, to grow their wheat, pays them a fixed high price, and then markets the resulting products.
Here’s the twist: Kamut International does not own the grain. What they do is ensure for the consumer a standard for the production of that variety of wheat, which standard includes that it be certified organic and free of other wheat contaminants. You can peruse their justification for using a trademark.
The intriguing thing about this business model is that the company has popularized the name Kamut and created both a supply of it as well as a rapidly growing consumer demand for it. Success for Kamut the brand leads quite directly to increased organic agriculture and more money for wheat farmers. It is probable that eventually generic khorasan wheat will appropriate for itself the name “kamut” and the corresponding market share. But I don’t see that serving any particular interests right now, so it’s unlikely to happen anytime soon.
I’d always found it somewhat odd to see an ingredient in various organic foods be something trademarked, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results of this investigation.