Bus stop spacing and location
Decisions about the spacing and location of bus stops can have a major effect on average speeds, and thereby impact travel times and reliability of bus transit. Stop spacing is also important for determining the possibility for bicycle connections and pedestrian connections.
Bus Stop Spacing
As Jarrett Walker points out, the way that transit stops are spaced will depend on the goals of the provider and the type of service. A service that seeks to serve all people along a line with few coverage gaps will locate stops closely together. This results in duplicate coverage, which means that multiple stops are in walking distance for many destinations along the line. Duplicate coverage results in slower average vehicle speeds because of frequent stops. On the other hand, for a service that demands higher speeds, like a Bus Rapid Transit service, stops should be spaced further apart. This means that fewer people and destinations will be in walking distance from each stop, but it results in less duplicate coverage and higher average speeds. Additionally, the more frequent and fast the service is, the greater distance people may be willing to walk to get to bus stops. In the United States, local bus stops are often located about 1/4 mile apart or less, with rapid stops 1/2 to 1 mile apart.
When on-street, bus stops may be located at a variety of points on a block. Each possible location has its benefits and drawbacks for different types of service.
Near-side bus stops are located at the side of the block prior to crossing an intersection. The advantage of this location is that red-light dwell time can overlap with passenger boarding and alighting dwell time. However, it increases the risk of conflicts with vehicles making right turns.
Far-side location bus stops are advantageous because traffic signals create gaps in traffic flow for buses to re-enter traffic. This location works best with Transit Signal Priority. However, queuing buses may block intersections.
Mid-block stops experience less pedestrian congestion than the other two stop locations. They do, however, encourage mid-block crossing for pedestrians and increase walking distance for people crossing from intersections.
Other Improvements to Stops
Bus bulbs have been found to be effective for high-volume stops. A bus bulb is "a section of sidewalk that extends from the curb of a parking lane to the edge of a through lane. Bus bulbs are also known as curb extensions, nubs, and bus bulges." They are like other curbside bus stops, but can save time pulling into and out of traffic to make stops. They also create space for passenger queues, street furniture, and shelters.
- Walker, Jarrett. “Bus rapid transit stop spacing: is 2 miles too far?” 2009.
- Walker, Jarrett. "Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives." 2012. pages 59-64.
- Federal Transit Administration. “Stops, Spacing, Location and Design.”
- Transit Cooperative Research Program. "TCRP Report 65: Evaluation of Bus Bulbs (Bus Stop Sidewalk)." 2001.
Federal Transit Administration. “Stops, Spacing, Location and Design.”
- This Federal Transit Administration website outlines the advantages and disadvantages of locating bus stops at the near-side, far-side, or mid-block specifically for Bus Rapid Transit systems.
Transit Cooperative Research Program. "TCRP Report 19: Guidelines for the Location and Design of Bus Stops." 1996.
- This guide from TCRP is a guide for practitioners on the design and spacing of bus stops.
Walker, Jarrett. "Human Transit: How Clearer Thinking about Public Transit Can Enrich Our Communities and Our Lives." 2012.
- This easy-to-read book by the transportation blogger and consultant is a great resource for transit planners looking for clear, concise explanations of best practices. The book covers bus stop spacing along with explanations of service design, route design, fares, and other critical components of provision of transit service. See his blog at humantransit.org, for timely and interesting articles about transit.
American Public Transportation Association Standards Development Program. “Bus Rapid Transit Stations and Stops.” 2010.
- This chapter on standards developed by APTA describes the design and spacing of Bus Rapid Transit stops. It also discusses the variety of different stop types available to transit providers and the maintenance and cost considerations of each type.
Furth, Peter G. and Maaza C. Mekuria. “NEU Bus Stop Spacing Analysis: Tools for Evaluating and Optimizing Bus Stop Location Decisions.” 2005.
- This report describes the development of a GIS-based tool that incorporates parcel-level land use data for optimizing stop spacing. The model has been used to determine stop placement in Albany, NY and Boston, MA. In many cases, when walking time was increased, the stop spacing resulted in a substantial improvement in travel time that made up for that increase. The development of this tool and report were sponsored by the Federal Transit Administration through the Transit IDEA program, as well as the Transportation Research Board, and the Transit Development Corporation.
El Dorado Transit Authority. "El Dorado County Transit Authority Transit Design Manual." 2007.
- In sections 4 and 5, this design manual addresses stop spacing and location in El Dorado County, California, but the information is applicable in other jurisdictions. It includes helpful diagrams and thorough comparisons between the types and possible locations of bus stops.