Category Archives: public transport

RTA Transit Innovations Series

I will be talking, over the Internet, in Raleigh-Durham on January 8 about accessibility and transit at the RTA Transit Innovations Series.

The Regional Transportation Alliance has launched a new RTA Transit Innovations Series to support and advance current discussions on transit in Wake County.

The sessions include in person and/or videoconference presentations from experts on bus rapid transit and related innovations and research including express lanes, freeway caps, land use, circulators, and periodic comparisons with various rail transit options such as commuter rail, streetcars, and light rail.

    (Download pdf overview of the RTA Transit Innovations Series here).

With the exploration of new and emerging transit innovations, the development of a bus rapid transit-based alternative(s) as a basis for comparison with the current draft plan, and the clarification and prioritization of goals and objectives, our community can evaluate the potential mobility and economic benefits of transit for our community and make an informed decision on our enhanced regional transit future in Wake County.

There will be no cost to attend any of the events in the RTA Transit Innovations Series.  Scroll down or click here if you are interested in sponsoring either an individual session or the entire RTA Transit Innovations Series.

Detailed schedule of all past and future RTA Transit Innovations Series events.

Next Session
RTA Transit Innovations Series
Session 2:  Research on land use and tradeoffs

Wednesday, January 8, 2014, 3:30 pm EST
Greater Raleigh Chamber of Commerce


Presenters, via Cisco WebEx videoconference:                        

  • David Levinson, Ph.D., University of Minnesota
    -  Editor of the Journal of Transport and Land Use and Director of the NEXUS research group
  • Stephanie Lotshaw, Manager, U.S. and Africa, Institute for Transportation and Development Policy
    -  Author of More Development for your Transit Dollar 

RSVP online or contact by Monday, Jan. 6

Join the Conversation on Twitter @RTATriangle, and use the following tag:  #RTATransitSeries.

Bus stops by Metropolitan Area

As part of some recent investigation about Bus Stops in the Twin Cities, I wanted to find out how many bus stops there are in various cities. Sadly this information has not been pre-compiled on the Web … until now.

This is the first list of bus stops by transit system that I know of. It is of course, incomplete. Feel free to add information in the comments (with references, and system definitions as necessary), I will try to update the list periodically. Also feel free to add this information to Wikipedia to preserve this information for posterity.

World Cities:

  1. London 18,000
  2. Delhi 4,627
  3. Singapore 4,615

North American Cities:

  1. Los Angeles 15,967
  2. New York City 15,000
  3. Dallas 12,500
  4. Twin Cities 12,268
  5. Washington MetroBus 12,000
  6. Chicago 11,493
  7. Toronto 10,173
  8. Houston 9,960
  9. Seattle 9,400
  10. Atlanta 8,978
  11. Boston 8,500
  12. San Francisco MUNI 3,500
  13. Alameda County AC Transit 5,600

“Big” Data as a Foundation for Measuring and Improving Public Transport Operations


In case you are one of the few people who missed it, (Standing Room Only crowd, + 26 online live viewers (Which might be 2500% more than usual)!) Robert Bertini’s recent Warren Lecture at the University of Minnesota ““Big” Data as a Foundation for Measuring and Improving Public Transport Operations” is now available for viewing as a recorded webcast.

+ View Recorded Webcast

Feels like the first time: Transit interfaces and the first time user |

I have a new post up at Feels like the first time: Transit interfaces and the first time user:

“When arriving in a city for the first time, the visitor often seeks to move from the port of entry (the airport) to where they are staying (e.g. a hotel). Most airports have taxi services of some kind, but the urban Transportationist wants to take public transit.”

GIS in Transit: Evaluating and Planning Transit Service Using Continuous Accessibility

Andrew Owen will be presenting “Evaluating and Planning Transit Service Using Continuous Accessibility” at the GIS in Transit conference at the National Academies, 3:00 – 4:30pm Wednesday, October 16

Details are here.

The thesis on which this is based is here.

A model of the vicious cycle of a bus line

Recent paper:

It has been frequently noted that in a non-regulated environment the development of public transport service is self-adjusting: Faced with decreasing demand, operators will tend to reduce service to cut costs, resulting in a decrease in the level-of-service, which then triggers a further drop in demand. The opposite may also occur: high demand will induce the operator to increase supply, e.g. through an increase in frequency, which results in a higher level-of-service and a subsequent increase in passenger numbers, triggering another round of service improvements. This paper adds to the literature by presenting an analytic model for analyzing these phenomena that we call vicious and virtuous cycles. Based on field data regarding passengers’ variation in willingness-to-wait for a public transport service, we investigate the dynamics of the line service and show how the emergence of a vicious or virtuous cycle depends on the total number of potential passengers, the share of captive riders, and bus capacity. The paper ends with a discussion of the implications of the findings for the planning of public transport services.

This paper extends a pedagogical model we developed in Planning for Place and Plexus and makes it much more rigorous.

Wheels on Wheels: An Argument for Universal Design

On a recent LRT trip, on my car, there was a person in a wheelchair, a bicyclist with bicycle, a stroller, and travelers carrying wheeled suitcases. How much of this was made possible by “Universal Design” and the Americans with Disabilities Act?


Universal design is the design of products and environments to be usable by all people, to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptation or specialized design. —Ron Mace

The problems that transportation disadvantaged individuals face are similar to, but more severe than the problems that the rest of the population sees on a day-to-day basis. Take, for instance, the simple question of which bus goes from the bus stop nearest my home to downtown. When going to the bus stop, is information provided other than the simple sign saying “Bus Stop”? Many stops don’t even identify routes, much less schedules. Without a guide (either person or documentation), using the system entails taking great risks, among them the risk of winding up across town from your desired destination and being hours late. The relatively simple, but seemingly revolutionary idea of providing information with the service may help. For instance, operators should make the signage clear so the bus stop can be found, make clear the route number, route end points, and the direction toward which the user needs to travel at the bus stop; make clear when the bus is coming, especially when service is infrequent; and clearly convey to the user, when he or she should get off the bus (which may require more than drivers announcing the bus stops as the bus travels the route). While this may be critical for those who are unfamiliar with the location (tourists) or the language (immigrants), it is also important for those who are cognitively challenged, and would probably provide a much better travel experience for those who lack special difficulties. Some transit systems do this, especially in downtown areas. Others would rather spend money on new rail construction (seeking new, wealthier customers) than make the existing bus system (serving existing, poorer customers) work well.

To provide another example, when the Americans with Disabilities Act was passed, a major concern was retrofitting buses with elevators to accommodate wheelchairs. Buses traditionally had steps leading from the ground to the level where passengers sit. A more universal design would lower the floor of the bus (and gradually raise the level of the ground at the bus stop) so that wheelchairs could roll onto the vehicle, the way that occurs on many subway systems. Such a system would benefit many others with poor knees who can walk but find steps difficult. The lowering of the floor of buses is becoming more common, the raising of bus stops less so.

Having a universal design assists those who need the assistance while benefiting others. The principles of universal design are a set of values, but they are hard to disagree with:

  1. Equitable Use: The design is useful and marketable to people with diverse abilities.
  2. Flexibility in Use: The design accommodates a wide range of individual preferences and abilities.
  3. Simple and Intuitive Use: Use of the design is easy to un- derstand, regardless of the user’s experience, knowledge, language skills, or current concentration level.
  4. Perceptible Information: The design communicates neces- sary information effectively to the user regardless of ambient conditions or the user’s sensory abilities.
  5. Tolerance for Error: The design minimizes hazards and the adverse consequences of accidental or unintended actions.
  6. Low Physical Effort: The design can be used efficiently and comfortably and with a minimum of fatigue.
  7. Size and Space for Approach and use: Appropriate size and space is provided for approach, reach, manipulation, and use regardless of user’s body size, posture, and mobility.

Excerpted from The Transportation Experience: Second Edition, by William Garrison and David Levinson. Oxford University Press (2014)

Does BRT have Economic Development Effects?

In a recent post on Streets.MN, I asked if Streetcars had economic development effects, and concluded we have no evidence to date.

In contrast, for Bus Rapid Transit systems, there is lots of peer-reviewed evidence, though not as much as we might like.

First, obviously the nature of the impacts depends on what kind of BRT you are talking about. Broadly, in the Twin Cities we divide systems into freeway-based BRT systems with stations, and arterial-based BRT systems with stops. The differences are that stations are more elaborate than stops, and less frequent. Worldwide, systems are hybrids.

A 2008 review: Bus rapid transit systems: a comparative assessment by David Hensher and Tom Golob found wide variations in the types of BRT across many dimensions (speed, construction costs, ridership, subsidies, etc.) with some systems offering a peak headway of well better than 1 bus per minute, while others were at 10 minutes between buses.

BRT thus has many distinguishing characteristics, ITDP recently developed a ranking system, the BRT standard. The categories for which points are awarded in BRT Basics are:

  • Busway alignment: 7 points
  • Dedicated right-of-way: 7 points
  • Off-board fare collection: 7 points
  • Intersection treatments: 6 points
  • Platform-level boarding: 6 points

The standard scorecard is more complicated, and includes many other factors as well. The best systems are rated Gold, and so on. I don’t agree with all of the points or categories, but this is a good place to start. The US and Canadian systems (Los Angeles, Eugene, Pittsburgh, Las Vegas, Ottawa) tend to fall into the Bronze Category, though Cleveland’s Health Line makes Silver (appropriate given the color of the buses and its former name “The Silver Line).

[I have not scored the University of Minnesota Transitway (which may or may not be considered BRT (I would, wikipedia is mixed on the matter)), or the Red Line, which were not ranked (but would make a good term paper for a transportation class).]

As many people worry, something can be pitched as a high-quality service, and then whittled down by the time of deployment, or afterwards to save costs. Frankly, this can happen with any technology, just look at what has happened to service frequencies on the Phoenix LRT, which are since 2010 12 minutes, but were 10 minutes at opening in 2008). Clearly as BRT is developed and deployed, this needs to be monitored. But this is true for any service with net ongoing operating costs that can be reduced over time.

Some findings from the peer-reviewed literature are below (sadly some of the papers are behind paywalls, let me know if you wants). Most, but not all of the evidence is favorable to measurable economic development impacts, clearly every system is unique:

  • Bus rapid transit impacts on land uses and land values in Seoul, Korea by Robert Cervero and Chang Deok Kang. “Multilevel models reveal BRT improvements prompted property owners to convert single-family residences to higher density apartments and condominiums. Land price premiums of up to 10% were estimated for residences within 300 m of BRT stops and more than 25% for retail and other non-residential uses over a smaller impact zone of 150 m.”
  • Redistributive effects of bus rapid transit (BRT) on development patterns and property values in Seoul, Korea by Myung-Jin Jin. This study uses simulation, rather than empirical evidence, so keep that in mind. “First, Seoul’s BRT contributes to increased development density in urban centers, acting as a centripetal force to attract firms from the suburbs into urban cores and supporting arguments for Smart Growth proponents. Second, unlike its redistributive effects on nonresidential activities, the BRT has a limited effect on the redistribution of residential activities, implying that residential locations are less sensitive to accessibility improvements made by the BRT than are nonresidential locations. Third, reflecting the transferred space demands from the suburbs to the urban cores, the CBD reaps the highest property value gains, while all of the outer ring zones suffer from reduced property values.”
  • The impact of Bus Rapid Transit on location choice of creative industries and employment density in Seoul, Korea by Chang Deok Kang. “[T]he BRT system is the favorable component for the location of creative industries and service sectors within 500 meters of BRT-bus stops. In addition, the BRT operation increases the employment density within the same distance to the bus stops by 54%.”
  • The Impact of Bus Rapid Transit on Land Development: A Case Study of Beijing, China by
    Taotao Deng and John D. Nelson. “The statistical analysis suggests that accessibility advantage conferred by BRT is capitalized into higher property price. The average price of apartments adjacent to a BRT station has gained a relatively faster increase than those not served by the BRT system. The capitalization effect mostly occurs after the full operation of BRT, and is more evident over time and particularly observed in areas which previously lack alternative mobility opportunity.”
  • Value of accessibility to Bogota’s bus rapid transit system by Daniel Rodriguez and Felipe Targa. “Results suggest that for every 5 min of additional walking time to a BRT station, the rental price of a property decreases by between 6.8 and 9.3%, after controlling for structural characteristics, neighbourhood attributes and proximity to the BRT corridor. “
  • Capitalization of BRT network expansions effects into prices of non-expansion areas by Daniel Rodriguez and Carlos Mojica. “Properties [in Bogota] offered during the year the extension was inaugurated and in subsequent years have asking prices that are between 13% and 14% higher than prices for properties in the control area, after adjusting for structural, neigh- borhood and regional accessibility characteristics of each property. “
  • Walking accessibility to bus rapid transit: Does it affect property values? The case of Bogota ́, Colombia by Ramon Munoz-Raskin . “The main results showed that, with respect to the value of properties in relation to proximity, the housing market places value premiums on the properties in the immediate walking proximity of feeder lines. The analysis by socio-economic strata showed that middle-income properties were valued more if they fell closer to the system, while there were opposite results for low-income housing. Finally, analysis across time reflects slight average annual increases in property values correlated with the implementation of the system in two specific areas analyzed.”
  • Recent developments in bus rapid transit: a review of the literature by Taotao Deng and John D. Nelson. ” In common with other forms of mass transit, a full‐featured BRT has the potential to offer significant effects on land development; the literature review also indicates that more work is needed to investigate this.” (The general cry of the academic – more research is necessary).

All of this is consistent with general observations and what theory would predict about accessibility improvements. A transportation system that adds to accessibility in a significant way warrants a premium in the prices people are willing to pay to take advantage of it.

Do Streetcars Promote Economic Development? |

Now at Streets.MN: Do Streetcars Promote Economic Development? :


It is often said that “Absence of Evidence is not Evidence of Absence”, but this is wrong. This is especially wrong in a context were we have motivated people searching for evidence. Consider the example of Bigfoot. Bigfoot is a supposedly big humanoid / primate living in very small numbers (and presumably hiding from humans). There was a fad in my youth for blurry pictures of Bigfoot to appear in weekly tabloids sold at supermarket checkout stands. However, as XKCD points out, cameras are everywhere now, on billions of phones, and yet we have no more evidence of Bigfoot than before.