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Author Topic: Arithmetic of a bus connection at Melksham Station  (Read 348 times)
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« on: May 25, 2017, 07:01:27 am »

Background - Wiltshire Council are re-tendering the supported bus services across their "Central" area over the next few months, with new contracts to start in January 2018 [Central is Devizes, Melksham, Bradford-on-Avon, Trowbridge, Westbury and Warminster].   Their default request is to be for services to run as they are at present, but with no increase in budget to allow for inflation over previous contracts, they will probably ask for alternative bids for reduced service.   I suspect that such bids would result in draconian cuts, as the operator's still going to need two vehicles to cope with the mandated school services and laying up vehicle(s) in the middle of the day when they could be making (some) money is expensive.

An alternative approach is to look for new traffic for the buses - to re-arrange the schedules to make use of new roads that didn't exist when the current timetable was set out, to visit major facilities that have been added in, to shrink back where the supported services compete with commercial services that have been re-routed through residential areas, and to service travellers who are already public transport aware - connecting with such things as intertown buses and trains, which have grown in use in Melksham since current routes were set up.

Wiltshire Council has a stated public policy to "review" support for services that cost them over 3.50 per passenger journey, with a view to reducing the support to below that level.   They also have a budget to work to, and are looking at bottom line cost.   These two elements conflict;  if a service that's currently costing 10,000 per annum attracts 2,500 passengers, it's a subsidy of 4 per head.   Spend an extra 2,000 to make the service much more useful, and you'll have 4,000 passengers - that's a subsidy of 3 per head.  In fact you've bought extra passengers for just 1.33 each - excellent value, but I don't know which way a decision would go and I fear a service cut in such a circumstance, even if you end up spending 8,750 (3.50 per original passenger number) but only having 1,500 ride - so an increased subsidy per passenger of 5.83

Bearing this in mind, I've been playing with figures and graphs and loads and looking at the effect on both loading and income of an updated service making use of new opportunities for the town bus.

Bus passenger numbers in the half hour from ... times given on graph. Data is my educated guess for number of passengers for the Melksham Town Bus

School traffic - two big lumps with nothing between
Pensioners - stating at 09:30 and fading off
Work traffic - morning and late afternoon peaks with a little between
Leisure and other traffic - starts around 09:00 and consistent but low level beyond

Which gives a peak passenger count of 31 and an average of 14 - that's 47%

Run the bus for longer so it actually serves the morning and evening commuter

and you end up with lower efficiency - peakier loading with an average of just 12 - that's 41%
Not quite that simple, as you do not have any extra capacity cost - peak is still 31.

add in
Rail commuters - lumps before morning school and after afternoon school
Rail intermodal - spread through the day after the morning peak

and your average rises from 12 to 19, with peak passengers still at 31 - so you're up to 60%. This model uses the longer day - it has to as the traffic is before and after the school runs, and there are simply no trains at the times the buses are busiest with other passengers.

Up to the purple line - school traffic
then up to the red line - ENCTS pass holder traffic
then up to the green line - work traffic
then up to orange line - ADDED rail commuters
then up to the black line - leisure and other traffic
then up to blue line - ADDED other rail travellers

That's not the full story though - children (on school runs that are not council paid) pay half fare, and income from ENCTS passengers is much reduced on regular fares.  If you factor that in, you get an average of 8 effective full fares per half hour without the rail traffic, but 14 with the rail traffic.

The model has not been run for school holidays.  Strange peakiness in the evening on rail commuters is because there's an incoming gap at Melksham Station on the major flow between 15:39 (which comes wrongly at school's out time!) and 18:03.  Add in a new arrival that's being considered for around 17:10 and the graph at that part of the day evens out.

Lots of assumptions made in the figures - as I said at the start "educated guess" but I suspect I'm not too far out.  I'm happy to sit down with people and play with figures - my application is not in a state I can offer an online option to put your own data in though.

With community interest (which we informally have  Grin - chamber of commerce, town and parish council, ruby and football clubs, community area partnership, area board, rail industry key players) and even a strong chance of some grants and marking help I think the changes could work well and be attractive - with one vehicle doing a modified current inner town run but tuned to pull out elements duplicating the commercial run that leaves on a similar route at the same time in each hour, and the second vehicle doing a station - supermarkets - town - industry - residential - town - supermarkets - station run each hour (reverse direction p.m.), using its dead time at the station to run round the residences near there which need serving, I think we may have something to be proud of, market and grow ;-).

Comments welcome - please help me fine-tune.   Please note that I may share this wider that the TransWilts board once any sillies are ironed out!
« Last Edit: May 25, 2017, 09:22:18 pm by grahame » Logged

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