Dear Gabby, What Are Timepoints?
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I need some transit advice. My bus stop isn’t listed in the Bus Book, but Google Transit told me what time the bus should be there. Sometimes the bus comes a little earlier, and sometimes it comes a little later. What gives?
-Confused in Covina
Dear Confused in Covina,
You may be confused, but you’re not alone in wondering about this! There’s a good reason why this happening. Let’s start by talking about what a “timepoint” is.
As you pointed out, your bus stops at many locations, but not all of them show up on the bus schedule. Timepoints are certain stops where we’ve set a specific scheduled time for the bus to leave. Those are the ones we show on the bus schedules in our Bus Book. We have thousands of bus stops. Our bus schedules would be pages long and impossible to read If we listed a time for each one of them.
Timepoints help us keep the buses on a schedule, and they help you predict when your bus should depart. But your bus operator can be more flexible about when to leave all those stops that aren’t timepoints. This flexibility can actually help operators stay on schedule, because traffic along the bus route can be unpredictable. Many transit agencies serve only one city – at Foothill Transit, our buses pass through more than 20 different jurisdictions, from suburbs to cities, all with different planners and traffic patterns. These in-between stops allow operators to make adjustments so that they won’t arrive too early at a time point and have to wait, and so they won’t arrive at timepoints too late.
So how do you schedule your travel if your stop isn’t a timepoint? To find out when your bus should depart a stop that’s not a timepoint, you can look at the two closest timepoints and estimate the time. Or like you mentioned, you can also use Google Transit. Enter your starting and ending bus stops, choose when you want to depart or arrive, and Google Transit will estimate the bus departure times for you. Remember that your bus might come a little earlier or a little later than the estimate, because your stop isn’t a timepoint.
Also remember that the unexpected will happen, even with the hard work of our planners and operators. Whether your stop is a timepoint or not, you should plan to arrive at your stop about 10 minutes before you think it will depart.
Keep in mind that bus operators won’t automatically stop at bus stops that aren’t timepoints. If you’re on board the bus and want to get off, you can use the yellow stop request strips to signal your operator. Make sure to press the signal early enough to give your operator enough time to pull over safely at the bus stop. If you’re waiting at a stop to be picked up, move to where the operator can see you — always on the sidewalk, never in the street — and signal the operator with a little wave.
Our planners keep track of when buses arrive at and leave timepoints, and they talk to bus operators to find out what’s working and where we can improve. We also talk with you, our customers, and track customer feedback to figure out if we need to adjust schedules. Keeping buses on time across 327 square miles of Los Angeles County is no piece of cake. All this communication and planning is how we manage to depart on time for the majority of our trips – over 2,000 of them, every day.
Glad to go good places with you,