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How Transit Routes and Schedules Get Planned

From the gathering of initial data such as bus ridership, population and density change, and new developments to the on going ridership of transit trip times and ridership, transit planning is a fascinating but complicated field. In this category you will learn how we decide where routes should go, where bus stops should be placed, how often the routes should operate, how schedules are written and bus driver runs assigned, and how we reduce service when economic conditions force us to do so.

How Do Bus Routes and Schedules Get Planned?
This article provides an overview of how bus routes and schedules get planned. It includes discussion of the following: long range planning, grant applications, and short-range route and schedule planning.

Transit 101: How Do We Determine Transit Ridership?
This article explains how we determine transit ridership.

Where Did Today's Transportation Planning Methods Come From?
A review of transportation planning history.

How Does Light Rail Affect Traffic Volumes?
A review of a study by University of Utah researchers that found that the University TRAX Red Light Rail Line in Salt Lake City reduced the amount of cars using the parallel arterials on 400 and 500 S.

Rural Transit - How the Need, Funding, and Operation Differs from Urban Transit
A review of how rural transit differs from urban transit.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Different Ways of Counting Ridership
Building on the article describing how we count ridership, in this article I go over the advantages and disadvantages of the three different ways of counting ridership.

Owl Service
A description of owl service - what it is, how it operates, and who rides it.

The Last Mile Problem
This article examines the last mile problem in transit planning and how it could be overcome.

Environmental Assessments
This article is a review of what environmental assessments are and how they are used.

Exploring Comparative Ridership and Ridership Drivers of BRT and LRT
This article reviews an article exploring ridership differentials between bus rapid transit and light rail transit.

Walking Distance to Transit
This article examines how far people are willing to walk to transit.

Overview of the Bus Rapid Transit versus light rail debate
This article provides an overview of the debate between whether light rail or bus rapid transit will/should be built in a particular corridor.

The Three Sources of Transit Planning Information
The article describes, in my opinion, the three sources of transit planning information.

How Bus Routes and Schedules Get Planned Part I: Placement of Bus Route (Page...
This article describes the steps to follow in determining the initial placement of a new bus route.

How Bus Routes and Schedules Get Planned Part II: Placement of Bus Stops
Part II of the series "How Bus Routes and Schedules Get Planned." This installment describes best practices and suggestions for initial bus stop placement.

Designing Bus Routes and Schedules Part III: Determination of Times for the Bus
This installment describes how times for the bus are calculated, and how time points are determined.

Designing Bus Routes and Schedules Part IV: Writing the Bus Schedule
The fourth part of the series in which I describe how bus routes and schedules get designed.

Progression of Writing a Vehicle Schedule in Hastus Part I
This is the first of a series of articles describing more specifically the steps of writing schedules in Hastus and other scheduling software programs.

Progression of Writing a Vehicle Schedule in Hastus Part II
This is the second of a series of articles describing more specifically the steps of writing schedules in Hastus and other scheduling software programs.

Timepoints: How Many Do We Need, and Do We Even Need Them at All?
This article examines timepoints: how many do we need, and do we even need them at all?

Designing Bus Routes and Schedules Part V: Blocking, Run Cutting, and Rostering
The fifth in a series of five articles giving a brief overview of how bus routes and schedules get designed.

The Rules of the Run Cut Part I: Defining the Duty Types
This article describes the different duty types that make up a typical transit agency's run cut.

The Rules of the Run Cut Part II: The Rule Version
This article describes the importance of the rule version to an agency's run cut.

The Rules of the Run Cut Part III - Changing Rules and Managing the Duties
This article describes when you might consider changing the rule version and by changing the run cut solution by varying the number of duties.

A Common Scheduling Problem
This article describes a common bus scheduling problem and four ways in which it can be resolved.

Service Cut Strategies
When we cut service should we "spare the key routes" or "spread the pain"? Experience suggests that "sparing the key routes" is the superior strategy.

Tailoring Schedules to Ridership Demand: Holliday Periods
This article goes into how we can tailor schedules to ridership demand by operating Saturday schedules on certain days in the holiday period with low ridership.

Operating Special Schedules on Fridays and Holidays
This article advocates for operating special bus schedules on Fridays and holidays.

The Proper Stop Spacing of Rapid Transit Lines
This article examines how closely together subway stations should be, and concludes that 1/2 mile is the optimum stop spacing for subway lines.

What Is the Capacity of Different Modes of Transit?
This article describes the relative capacities of different modes of transit. Cities are cautioned against building rapid transit lines with either too much capacity - since it wastes money - or too little capacity - since a day will come when the line is saturated with passengers and cannot add any more.

Bus Rapid Transit - A Definition
A definition of Bus Rapid Transit

The Value of On-Time Performance
This article describes the value of on-time performance and the relative merits of headway-based operation versus traditional schedule-based operation.

Another Aspect of On-Time Performance - Inside the Bus
This article describes how on-time performance can be affected by what goes on inside the bus as well as outside.

Overview of the National Transit Database (NTD)
This article gives an overview of the federal requirement that transit agencies submit annual data about the number of accidents, crimes, ridership, and passenger miles to the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for inclusion in the NTD (National Transit Database). Agencies gather this information either by using automated passenger counting...

Headways and Service Span
This article describes how by expanding headways at night we can expand service span at little or no additional cost.

Three Ways to Improve Public Participation in Public Transit
Transit agencies are often disappointed in the amount of public participation they receive. TCRP Synthesis 89 reviews strategies that transit agencies have used to successfully improve the quantity and quality of public participation, and this article boils it down to three things: identify and connect with your audience, ensure the events are...

Transit Public Hearings: Successes and Failures
This article describes some factors that can make transit public hearings either successes or failures, and finishes up with nine guidelines for successful public hearings.

How Psychology Can Affect Urban Planning - Comments From Jarrett Walker's Course
This article argues that the makeup of Walker's transit network design class - young, healthy, choice riders who work in the public sector of the urban planning profession - explains the near universal decision to avoid any effect suburban transit in favor of robust central city transit, to make people walk a long distance to the nearest bus...

How You Can Design Transit Networks at Home - Comments From Mr. Walker's Course
This article describes the basic makeup of a recent urban planning class taught by Jarrett Walker and how in a simplified format any person can engage in a similar activity, which is an effective way to think more about how public transit can better serve a particular city.

The Importance of Successful Bus-Rail Interfaces
Many transit systems are constructing light and heavy rail lines. But since their reach is necessarily limited, if bus system improvements do not happen concurrently with the rail line opening then the rail line will not be successful. This article describes how to create successful bus-rail interfaces.

Two Ways of Looking at Transit Network Design
Two ways of looking at transit network design are described - the point-to-point system, in which many routes exist that attempt to connect everywhere to everywhere - and the grid system, in which every major street tends to have one route, and routes tend to be straight lines.

Transit 101: The Layover
An article describing an essential aspect of transit, the layover location.

Transit Follies - Lessons From Detroit
This article examines two new transit proposals in Detroit, both put forward by people with no experience and transit, analyzes the proposals, and concludes that they will do nothing to help the transit dependent in the city.

Transit 101: Relief Points
This article describes relief points, the locations along a bus route where drivers shift changes can happen.

State of Transit Scheduling in Florida
Although a little dated now (the report is dated March 2005), this report gives a nice overview of what transit scheduling is all about, the pros and cons of automated scheduling software, and information about the major scheduling companies along with prices charged to their clients in Florida.

TCRP Report 100
TCRP Report 100, the Transit Capacity and Quality of Service manual, is essential reading for anyone involved in or wishing to learn more about transit planning.

Transit 101: The Load Factor
This article advocates for a new lower load factor standard for low floor transit vehicles.

The Rail vs. Bus Rapid Transit Debate
A blog entry in Planetizen - another excellent resource not referenced elsewhere on this site because it is not exclusive to public transit - referencing the debate between building rail and building bus rapid transit.

World Resources Institute Weighs In on the Debate, and Comes Out In Favor of BRT
In this article, the World Resources Institute analyzed which mode would perform better in a proposed rapid transit route in the suburban Maryland portion of Washington D.C., light rail or bus rapid transit, and comes out in favor of bus rapid transit.

Evaluating New Start Transit Program Performance: Comparing Rail and Bus
In this paper from the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, public transport performance in areas which expanded bus service from the mid-1990s to 2003 is compared with public transport performance in areas which expanded rail service during that same time period. Overall, areas that expanded rail service had improved transport performance compared with areas that expanded bus service.

New Rapid Transit Projects: Should We Serve Existing Demand or Generate New?
This article examines whether when we design new rapid transit projects if we should serve existing demand or generate new demand. In other words, it is asking whether rail transit is demand-based or supply-based. Due to the high construction costs of rail and other rapid transit, the article argues that new rapid transit projects should be...

Fixing Existing Service First
This article argues that transit agencies should make sure their existing passengers are served well before attempting to attract new ones, especially with costly rapid transit lines that may end up starving the conventional bus service.

Simplicity in Route Design
This article argues for simplicity in route design as a tool to attract higher patronage to transit.

Transit Ridership and Access to Airports
This article examines how many people take transit to airports and issues associated with designing airport rapid transit lines.

When to Use School Trippers
This article explains when to use school trippers in your transit service.

More About the Grid
This article describes more about a grid network, including defining "thick" and "thin" grids and how to make adjustments to extend the grid into newly developed areas.

Evaluation of Randal O'Toole's Proposals in Gridlock Part I
This is part I of an evaluation of Randal O'Toole's nine proposals to reform federal transportation policy.

Evaluation of Randal O'Toole's Proposals in Gridlock Part II
This is part II of an evaluation of Randal O'Toole's nine proposals to reform federal transportation policy.

What Can Houston Tell Us About Transit?
A review of Houston's transit offerings and a speech about transit planning given by Kurt Luhrsen, Vice President of Planning for the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, Texas in Houston.

Social Service and Other Government Centers Should Be Built Near Transit
An article that argues that social service and other government centers should be built in areas with good transit.

Review of Digital Cities Smarter Transportation Conference
A review of the Seventh Annual UCLA Downtown Los Angeles Forum on Transportation, Land Use, and the Environment which took place on Thursday, March 20, 2014.

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