Thursday, February 16, 2012

Extra! Extra! School Extra!

Did you know that the Hamilton Street Railway runs extra buses to help minimise overcrowding during the morning and afternoon? Of course, the regular frequency of many routes increases during 'rush hour' but there are also extra buses added that are targeted to students.

You may have seen a bus pass by with the destination sign reading 'school extra' from time to time. This is one of those buses. Some of these specials are extra buses added in between regularly scheduled buses, timed to leave or pass by a school when students will be leaving en masse.

Other buses follow 'special' unlisted routes. An example of one of these services St. Thomas More Catholic Secondary School. The route travels south on Upper Ottawa St, west on Mohawk Rd and south on Upper Paradise Rd to the school. This special route is not listed on any map and there is no timetable available anywhere.

Why?

I recently asked the question. Below is the reply.

The HSR does not post information about the school extras on our website or in the public timetables for a number of reasons:

First, the school extras are not guaranteed to operate. If a vehicle or manpower shortage exists on any given day, one or more school extras are cancelled.

Second, the school extras that operate on special routings are designed to accommodate all students and minimize the impact on our regular transit service. Even though riders other than students can ride the extras if they so desire, capacity might become an issue if it we were to advertise these specials online. If so, students may be left behind and have to take regular transit service. This is a concern on the Mountain (where most of the extras operate) where it is common for students to have to take 2-3 buses to get to their destination (due to the grid structure of the regular routes), if the school extras were overloaded.

Our current scheduling software is incapable of providing live updates on cancelled trips, detoured trips as a result of accidents, etc. At some point in the future, HSR will get an updated version of the software at which time we would look at displaying our school extra trips online.

This makes sense in that the buses which are extra are the first to go to ensure that regular service is maintained. Certainly the HSR is subject to the same manpower issues that any employer is with respect to employees taking sick days.

The second reasoning is also fair. Special routes designed to accommodate students, if widely known, might result in increased non-student use which could result in students being unable to board an overcrowded bus.

Hopefully, as eluded to in the final statement, the software will come sooner than later to allow for more advanced notifications being possible. And this will also open up the possibility of listing school extra and specials schedules.

And as Joey Coleman might say, open data could open up those possibilities even more.

What do you think?

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