Speeding Up Public Transport - a Practical Approach

Speeding Up Public Transport - a Practical Approach


R Schneider, Hamburg-Consult, DE



1. The Problem
Running time and speed of public transport modes influence attractiveness for passengers and profitability to a high degree. Two objectives are to be followed by an operator: To reduce running times and to make running times more reliable. Different kinds of measures to meet these objectives were developed, lots of them are implemented in the urban road network: Bus lanes and priority signals are the most popular. However, assessing the effectiveness of measures and combining them to an overall strategy following cost-benefit-aspects is one of the most decisive problems public transport operators have to face nowadays. One part of the problem is missing data: In many cases operators simply don?t know how punctual their vehicles are moving, whether they are too early or late, and how many passengers are affected. It is normally not known whether running times include reserves that could be used to speed up vehicles without implementing physical measures. The second part of the problem is that the effectiveness of physical measures to speed up public transport is as uncertain as negative impacts on other road users, especially car drivers. For this reason, the implementation of physical measures often follows political rules at the expense of rational economic decisions.

2. The Approach
It would be presumptuous to claim that an overall approach could solve all the problems listed above. However, reducing running times and making them more reliable both for passengers and for operators is such a fundamental challenge that every simple step in the right direction is helpful. The approach described here was developed and applied in a medium sized city (250,000 inhabitants) including ten bus lines from three operators. The approach consists of the following components:
* Analysis of running times
* Analysis of passenger numbers
* Detection of disturbances
* Evaluation of measures
* Assessment of measures

2.1 Analysis of travel times
First, route data of the bus lines like traffic light, start of a bus bay, end of bus lane, etc. and the time table had to be fixed in a record bringing together the attribute and the distance. Real travel times were recorded by using an automatic measuring system. For this reason, two busses were equipped with hardware components to measure and record the following data: distance [meter], time [seconds], door status [open, closed], speed [kilometers per hour]. To guarantee statistically sufficient results, the number of courses measured per line was not smaller than 10 per time period (morning peak, noon and afternoon peak).

2.2 Analysis of passenger numbers
The technical equipment to measure running times was completed by an automatic counting system recording the number of boarding and alighting passengers per stop and door. The accuracy of detecting passengers using this infrared sensor is about 95%.

2.3 Detection of disturbances
The fundamental potentials to speed up public transport vehicles is the difference between free flow running time (no stops, no disturbances) and the real running time. Factors causing negative impact on travel times are:
* Regular stops forcing to break, wait and accelerate,
* Disturbances caused at crossings (traffic lights, priority) and
* Time loss between stops and crossings. In addition, premature and late arrivals at stops are also to be recorded.

2.4 Evaluation of measures
To minimise disturbances, the following types of measures have to be considered:
* Reducing premature arrivals
* Measures at stops (physical measures like giving up a stop, bus cap, reducing durtion for boarding and alighting by using low floor busses, keeling, ticket machines, passenger information at the stop, etc.)
* Measures at crossings (priority rules, traffic light priorisation)
* Measures between crossings and stops (bus lanes, etc.). The catalogue of measures is well-known and doesn?t need to be described in detail ere.

2.5 Assessment of measures
The types of measures listed in 2.4 have to be assessed according to costs and benefits.

The particular types of measures are assessed individually first, this means that measures to rebuild stops are compared with each other, measures to reduce the duration of stops with doors closed, etc. This shows how effective these types of measures really are. The following example shows the potentials of te measure ?rebuilding bus stops?, expressed by time gain and the number of passengers affected.

3. The Results
Bringing together all measures developed, running times can be reduced significantly. The following picture shows how the particular measures contribute to speed up busses.

Bringing all measures in an order according to their benefit-cost-ratio, the dependency looks as follows:


Association for European Transport