Bus stop spacing and location

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Because of their effect on average travel speeds, the spacing and location of bus stops can have a serious effect on travel time and reliability of bus transit.

Bus Stop Spacing

Bus stops spaced closely together reduce walking distance for passengers, but increase travel time because frequent stops reduce average speeds. Bus rapid transit lines gain travel time advantages by spacing stops far from one another. Additionally, the more frequent and fast the service is, the greater distance people may be willing to walk to get to bus stops.[1] Therefore, local buses tend to have stops spaced closer together, while limited service and express service buses have stops spaced much further apart, usually about a mile apart for BRT service.

Location Options

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 Location

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.[2]

Far-side Location

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 (TSP). However, queuing buses may block intersections.“Stops, Spacing, Location and Design.”</ref>

Mid-block Location

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.[3]


Additional Reading

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. "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.

Furth, Peter G. and Maaza C. Mekuria. “NEU Bus Stop Spacing Analysis: Tools for Evaluating and Optimizing Bus Stop Location Decisions.”

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.

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.