Guidelines for Transit Bus Stop Spacing: Improving Accessibility and Performance
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Guidelines for Transit Bus Stop Spacing: Improving Accessibility and Performance

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      This research involved a comprehensive study of spacing standards in general and specifically the development of a procedure for selecting stop locations. The procedure is evaluated against sample routes in two case study locations. One location is the transit-friendly city of San Francisco. It is selected to represent large urban environments with a central city type of density in the location of activities. It also provides variations in topographical characteristics. The other location is San Luis Obispo County. It is selected to represent the small urban, suburban and rural types of environment. The County provides wide variations in the density of people and proximity to stop locations. The study applied readily available demographic and economic data on corridors served by existing transit routes within these case study locations in the development of a systematic set of procedures for selecting stop locations. The outcome of the research is a simple tool with associated recommendations that transit operators and planners can adopt in: (a) consolidation or extension of existing routes or (b) planning for new routes. Key Findings This study has provided additional confirmation of the potential benefits of properly defined stop spacing. The study applied knowledge from previous research to develop a simple tool for practical application by practitioners to realize the benefits of proper stop spacing whether in enhancing operations or in planning for future expansion. It is an obvious notion that the more people who live or engage in other human activities close to transit stops, the more accessible the service would be to them and the higher the potential of using it. Many transit operators established several stops to realize this notion. However, for a given traffic and roadway condition, the more frequent stops are along a route the slower the route travel time due to deceleration, stopping and acceleration. So also the farther stops are from each other, the longer the average distances for access and egress. Early research revealed that the optimal spacing therefore is one that minimizes total travel time, which includes access and in-vehicle times. Further research has shown that there are operating cost increases associated with close spacing and operating cost savings associated with wide spacing.

      Project Report (June, 2011) – Bus Stop Spacing – Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo – CKN (PI) therefore is one that minimizes total costs, which include travel time costs to transit users and operating costs to transit providers. Such an achievement would both improve operational efficiency and maintain good accessibility. Accessibility can be dealt with by guaranteeing that population concentrations are within acceptable walking distances to transit, which the literature places at a quarter to a half mile. Other provisions can also improve accessibility by accommodating those who would access the service by other modes. Some examples are bicycle parking for bicyclists, convenience of transfer for users of other transit service, and parking or drop-off locations for automobiles. If too large and not in a structure, automobile parking can occupy so much space as to extend the access distance for walkers and bicyclists. The preferred policy would be to concentrate activities and locate stops in such a way as to prioritize walk access Research revealed that stop spacing is generally shorter in the US than other countries abroad, but transit use is higher in those places. In general, European cities recommend 3 to 4 stops per mile, or approximately 1300 feet of separation. American guidelines recommend stops between approximately 500 to 1300 feet of separation. While increasing stop spacing distances could increase walking distances for some users, in places with high transit stop density, most access distances will remain within the acceptability threshold of a five- to ten minute walk. This study added confirmation to this observation. Studies have also shown that fewer stops will concentrate passengers at the remaining stops along the route, which can increase predictability, allow for a more accurate schedule, and result in a more reliable service. Concentrating passengers can also reduce the dwell time per passenger per stop, which leads to an overall reduction in route travel time. Reducing travel time reduces operating expenses which in turn could enable operators to provide more stop amenities. Reduced operating expenses may also translate into more frequent service. Ultimately, a more reliable service means passengers will spend less time waiting at bus stops. This study has similarities with previous studies. It uses GIS data by census block but with uses population and employment data rather than ridership to represent the spatial distribution of potential demand. This distribution is used to determine both the efficiency in the alignment of routes and the preferred locations of stops. Thus it can serve as a tool in planning for existing settlements as well as future settlements when ridership data is not available. It is also similar to other studies that recognize the importance of accessibility to transit and the implications of cost for both riders and operators. It differs by not using mathematical programming, but is similar to simulation in the approach of using multiple criteria in a step-by-step approach to determining stop locations.

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