Friday, February 12, 2010

The Fuss About Bus Plus

I like to call Community Transit’s map and schedule book the “best read book in Snohomish County.” Each year we print and distribute more than 300,000 books on our buses and in the communities we serve. If that sounds like a lot, consider that we had about 9.6 million riders on our buses in 2009. I did the math and concluded that our printing costs amounted to 2.2 cents per ride (and we have reduced printing costs 20 percent below that number for 2010).

Even so, printing map and schedule books is a significant expense for any transit agency. We try to order the right number based on ridership trends, past usage and the changing nature of how people get information. We know from surveys last spring that about a third of our riders now plan most of their bus trips online. But even those people like having a book to refer to (50 percent of online survey respondents have a book). Plus, many regular riders keep one Bus Plus at work and one at home (and one in my briefcase, too).

The books are sort of a “bible” for transit users, with information on fares, park & rides, rules, holiday schedules and what to do if you lose your umbrella on the bus (answer: call the RideStore – they’ve found hundreds!). Most importantly, they contain route maps and schedules – hard to plan a bus trip without that.

Community Transit’s Sales & Distribution supervisor called me last week in his semi-annual panic mode. “We’re running low on Bus Plus books!” he said. We are only one-third of the way through the six-month life of this edition, but we have gone through more than two-thirds of our commuter books. It reminded me of a song: “Where have all the Bus Plus gone?”

So, here’s a reminder of the “re” message we’ve been putting out for the past year: reduce, re-use and re-read Bus Plus.

Finally, did you know you can now print or save your own, customized Bus Plus pages right off our website? Just go to your favorite route schedule page (mine is here) and open the PDF at the top labeled “Print or save map and schedule.” Then, instead of carrying an entire book with you, you can just have the pages you use. That helps you – and Community Transit.


  1. This is nice, however, it takes time to navigate to the pages I need.

    Will it be nice if I can simply do and the site redirects me to the right page?


  2. It's handy having the PDF file for my routes on my kindle. :)

  3. I agree with Andy. Better yet, why not provide a mobile/iPhone version of the route pages? More and more people use smartphones these days. I bet they'd much prefer being able to refer to their favorite route pages quickly on their phones over carrying paper printouts. I know I would.

  4. Exactly! I have an iPhone and I'd switch from the book in a second if the website was easier to read and navigate on the phone.

  5. It would be so much easier if I could do it from my phone with searching and send links to my buddies to help them out. You guys should look into this!

  6. It’s great to see the interest in improving transit information. We are very aware of the benefits of being part of Google Transit and of providing our online schedule information in a more mobile-friendly fashion. We regularly get requests for these features – and we want them, too.

    Unfortunately, it takes both staff and financial resources to prepare our data for export to Google, and at this time both are in limited supply. We had hoped to work with Google Transit in 2010 and we have a goal to develop a mobile website platform, but these projects are currently on hold due to budget and staff limitations. We do have a scaled-back concept that would enable us to provide better mobile access to our Trip Planner and scheduled next bus information which we hope to implement later this year.

    We also continue to work on our Transit Technology project that will include real-time bus schedule information for online and mobile users, among many other features. While this project is moving forward, budget constraints have forced us to push back the timeline for completion to 2011.