We’re always on the move at Valley Metro. That's surely true in a literal sense, as there's rarely a moment that there's not one bus, light rail train or paratransit vehicle in operation somewhere. But it's also true in that Valley Metro is always looking for ways to be more efficient and utilize new methods and technology in order to improve how we connect communities and enhance lives.
It's in that spirit that Valley Metro is looking to phase-out publication of the Transit Book.
Longtime riders will remember times when it was simply impossible to imagine riding the bus without having a Transit Book handy, or without having consulted one before their ride. They seemed to be always available on the bus. So many pages! So many routes! There was a big colorful map you could unfold and post up on your wall like a poster!
However, those of us who are longtime riders probably haven't actually used one in ages. All the information is available online! Valleymetro.org is incredibly handy. Multiple routes to get you from point A to point B are available with just a few prompts on the trip planner that's right on the front page. You no longer have to pore over pages and pages of information you don't need to find what you want to know. You can just dial up the information with less effort than it takes to craft a clever tweet or apply the perfect filter for your latest Instagram shot.
Back in 2007, more than three-quarters of Valley Metro passengers got their schedule information offline. That includes the Transit Book, Customer Service, NextRide and posted signs. That figure has dropped to just 33% as of 2019. Meanwhile, only 16% of passengers got their schedule information online in 2007. That grew to 62% in 2019. The trends are clear and Valley Metro is looking to make changes to keep with the times.
Of course, there's a small percentage of people who simply aren't online. We're not going to leave them behind by cutting publication of the Transit Book. We'll still have Customer Service available. We're launching a print on demand program where people can ask Customer Service for printed schedules that will be mailed to them at no cost. Pre-printed brochures and maps will be distributed to libraries and other city services.
We also have a new app in the works. Valley Metro statistics show that 87% of all riders have a smartphone and a data plan, and we're going to make it even easier to find your ride and even pay for it with the app. More details will be coming soon!
Another good reason to phase-out the Transit Books is the staggering amount of paper used to produce all those books. In a typical year, two books are produced. The October book regularly runs more than 300 pages, while the April edition typically runs about 150 pages. In 2020, printing the Transit Books required more than 21 tons of paper. That required more than 250 trees! If that sounds like a lot, keep in mind that 2020 had the smallest number of books printed by far compared to earlier years. In 2019, more than 600 trees were used to print Transit Books. Mass transit has always yielded benefits for the environment, so cutting down our use of paper only makes sense.
It's out with the old and in with the new at Valley Metro. Soon, Transit Books will be looked upon with nostalgia as we rocket ahead to a faster, greener and more efficient future.