Back in June, we reported that Princeton’s FreeB shuttle was getting expanded service. The little free bus, which is intended to help Princeton residents get around town by transit, had suffered from low ridership in the past, and we hoped that the service would become more popular. As of today, the daytime service isbeing tweaked slightly. A new timetable has begun, which you can find here. (This is for the FreeB ‘neighborhood’ service only. The ‘commuter’ service which runs in the morning and evening rush hour to the Dinky station is unchanged- you can find the timetable for that here.)
At first glance, the new FreeB schedule looks like a cutback: there is one fewer trip compared to the old timetable. We reached out to Cheryl Kastrenakes, executive director of Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association, to ask what was going on, and how passenger numbers were holding up on the FreeB. The good news is that passenger numbers have ‘doubled’ over the past year! And as for the new timetable:
“This adjustment was made to improve the reliability of the service. The freeB’s on time performance dropped when the service expanded in June. There were a few contributing factors; adding two additional trips made the schedule tighter and didn’t allow as much dwell time for the bus to catch up on the schedule when there were unexpected occurrences (heavier traffic than usual, road closures, constructions, graduations, tree trimmings, heavy rains etc.) and the increased number of people riding also take more time to board.”
It’s good news that the FreeB is gaining in popularity. It’s hard to run an efficient transit service in Princeton, because the sites where people live are very spread out. In particular, the FreeB route is circuitous because it aims to connect local affordable housing developments, which are generally on the edges of the town. The service has to balance reliability with frequency, because let’s be honest, if a bus doesn’t turn up on time one day, we’re not going to wait around for it the next day.
Do you ride the FreeB? Do you know anybody who rides it? Do you think that it is a useful service? Leave your comments using the form below!