May 20, 2019

Think Like Your Riders: Introducing the Swiftly Headways Module

by Swiftly

It doesn’t matter if your buses are on time if your riders don’t check the schedule. That’s why we’ve launched our new Headways module — to offer agencies a high-frequency alternative to on-time performance metrics.

Measuring reliability the way riders do

Reliability is one of the strongest predictors of transit ridership, so it’s important to understand how riders gauge reliability in your city. Are they using the printed schedule as true north of reliability? Or are they just showing up to stops and hoping they don’t wait too long?

Research suggests that for high-frequency service (routes with headways of 15 minutes or less) riders usually just show up and wait. That’s why on-time performance (OTP) metrics — how well vehicles stick to their schedules — aren’t ideal for measuring reliability on high-frequency routes, despite it being the standard metric that most agencies use to measure reliability. Instead, headway consistency is what riders care about most on high-frequency routes, so if you’re working to make transit more desirable in your city, you need a metric that will help you think like your riders.

That’s why we’re excited to announce a brand new Swiftly module — we’re calling it Headways — to offer agencies a new paradigm for measuring the customer experience on high-frequency routes, and addressing ridership trends in the process.

Introducing Headways, a new Swiftly module

The Swiftly Headways module uses a simple, visual method for transit staff to pinpoint unreliable headways on high-frequency routes. With Headways, agencies can quickly identify where vehicle spacing issues usually arise, giving them smart tools to proactively mitigate bunching and gapping and keep spacing consistent.

The Headways module works by comparing actual historical headways to scheduled headways, focusing only on relevant trips and organizing them into three categories — expected, bunched, or gapped. Bunching and gapping are viewable at the route level, stop level, and time of day, and based on fully customizable definitions, so agencies can see the exact points along their routes that contribute to a negative customer experience.

The Headways module organizes high-frequency departures into three categories — bunched, expected, and gapped — making it easy to identify where along your routes issues arise that affect your headway consistency.

With the Headways module, planners and operations managers can quickly understand historical trends in vehicle spacing on different dates, days, or times. For example:

  • Are trips on Route 14 starting with even headways, only to have insufficient layover time causing bunching and gapping later on?
  • Is that long red light at Chestnut Avenue causing gapping farther down the line during morning peak service?
  • Where would Transit Signal Priority have the biggest impact for high-frequency routes?

Agencies can now quickly answer these kinds of questions and help prioritize solutions that will have the biggest effect on rider satisfaction and ridership.

With the Headways module, planners and operations managers can quickly understand historical trends in vehicle spacing on different dates, days, or times.

Improving public transit by thinking like riders

With so many competing interests for your riders, it’s more important than ever for riders to perceive public transit as a reliable way of getting from point A to point B. And with headways suffering across the country, the agencies that address their headway consistency can expect riders to notice. It all starts with measuring reliability the way riders experience it. Armed with the proper tools, planning, operations, and scheduling teams can improve service the way that will make the biggest impact to rider satisfaction.

The Swiftly Headways module gets to the heart of this issue by making it simple to track what riders on high-frequency routes care about most, namely, how well vehicles stick to their scheduled headways. Headways makes it possible to get on their level.

Interested in seeing how Swiftly’s Headways module could work at your agency? Reach out for a demo today at!

Bring reliability to your city

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