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Network planning and design for public transport success – and some pitfalls

Gustav Nielsen
Truls Lange
Civitas Consultants As, Oslo
Corinne Mulley
John D. Nelson
Transport Operations Group, Newcastle University, UK
This paper outlines some basic principles of best practice in public transport
network planning. It is based on the authors’ work for a Best Practice Guide
on Public Transport Network Planning (Nielsen et al 2005), published by the
INTERREG IIIa (North Sea) HiTrans project in September 2005
Our intention has been to show that network planning and design can be a
decisive factor for public transport success. We also recommend some
important elements of planning philosophy and design principles for the public
transport network.
However, what constitutes good practice or bad solutions depends on the
context. Therefore, there is no definite recipe for success. In this paper, the
emphasis is on high quality public transport that is able to replace car use as a
significant measure to create a more sustainable and environment friendly city
region on a long-term basis. In most urban regions in the developed world,
this is a major concern of transport policy. Therefore, by high quality solutions
we mean solutions for public transport systems that are able to be a
competitive alternative to the motor car for urban travel. This is a far-reaching
quality ambition, which means that it is difficult to find practical examples that
fully live up to the expected level of quality for all components of the public
transport system.
In order to fund the quality needed, the public transport system must also be
cost-efficient. The costs of operation also influence the level of fares that
users must pay. Therefore, both efficient use of resources and high quality
service to the passengers is required.
Good network planning can make a very significant contribution towards both
objectives. On the other hand, there are a number of very serious pitfalls that
decision-makers might fall into, if they do not reflect properly on their planning
philosophy and network design strategies. Making the right or wrong choices
at a strategic level can decide between success and almost complete failure.
Statistics on public transport trends and market share in urban regions
©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
indicate that at least some wrong choices have been made in most urban
The HiTrans Best Practice Guide discuss a number of aspects of public
transport network planning in small and medium sized cities, including the
planning process, the need for good understanding of user requirements and
travel demand factors, project assessment and, most thoroughly, institutional
and political factors. Here we concentrate on network planning philosophy and
design principles. The institutional aspects of such planning have been
commented upon in an earlier paper (Mulley, Nelson and Nielsen 2005).
In the public transport network planning process it is useful to reflect on (at
least) four pitfalls of principles that are easy to fall into, and the alternative
principles that we would recommend. We place the pitfalls and the alternative
approaches at this strategic level under the following headings or labels:
The ‘Bangkok model’ pitfall vs. the ‘Zürich model’ approach
‘The Direct line’ pitfall vs. the ‘One section - one line’ approach
The ‘Tailored-made’ pitfall vs. the ‘Ready-to-use’ approach
The pitfall of ‘Hundred flowers blossom’ vs. the ‘Make it simple’ approach.
Given the planning philosophy outlined, we can also offer some more detailed
and practical advice on public transport network design. We can present even
these principles as a number of pitfalls, and discuss them in relation to
alternative approaches.
We have identified no less than fourteen issues to take up in the discussion of
network design
. For all these issues we can find examples of good and bad
practice, in addition to the theoretical analyses offered or available from other
research. Many public transport planners are well aware of these principles,
but often the importance of the principles are not adequately understood
among decision-makers and other participants in the planning and design
process. However, time and space only allow for a full discussion of the first
four major principles, and some very brief comments on the other fourteen
aspects of network design.
3.1 The ‘Bangkok model’ pitfall
Our attention to the importance of the contrasting principles of the Bangkok
and the Zürich models was stimulated by reading Paul Mees’ interesting book:
‘A very public solution’ (2000).
Obviously public transport planning must cater for the different users’ demand
for travel. Planning should be based on a very thorough understanding of the
different segments of the market. However, the market and user oriented
focus of public transport planning might lead to some serious misconceptions.
Mees describes them as the consequences of the ‘Bangkok’ model of urban
transport planning, which he connects with the idea of a liberal, unregulated
market economy for urban transport.
©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
The Bangkok model is a school of thought that has heavily influenced public
transport planning for many years, and contains several basic ideas about
public transport as summarized in Figure 1. We tend to agree with Mees that
this set of ideas is responsible for much of the failure of public transport to
keep its position in the urban transport market. The most important effect of
this approach is the segmentation of the public transport market. The idea of
market differentiation and tailoring services to various groups of customers will
easily lead to a disintegration of the public transport system into separate,
unco-ordinated and competing services with their own marketing, branding,
information and fare systems. Each of the services might be “ideal’ for a
particular segment of the travellers in the region, but of little use for the
majority of the potential customers.
Figure 1: Comparison of the characteristic ideas of the Bangkok and Zürich models for public
transport development and provision.
The philosophy looks upon the motor car as the ideal form of urban transport,
and tends to overlook the economy of scale in public transport and underrate
the disbenefits of scale of the car system in urban settings. This influences the
kind of solutions chosen for the public transport network. It has also inspired
many technology-led research projects attempting to develop public transport
©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
systems that strive for services that are similar to the private car. For at least
some 40 years automated Personal Rapid Transit (PRT) systems with small,
car-sized vehicles has been presented as The Solution to the urban transport
The main reason for us not having the PRT type of transport solutions in our
cities today, 30-40 years later, is not due to technological shortcomings or the
lack of suitable institutions and tax incentives, as the proponents of such
systems usually claim. The main explanation lies in the fact that the idea of
individual travel in small vehicle units is not conducive with the conditions of
the built-up city and urban region. This way of travelling simply requires so
much space and expensive infrastructure that it cannot compete with the
combination of the traditional modes of walking, cycling, buses and light rail
systems and the motor car.
3.2 The ‘Zürich model’ approach
As a contrast to the ‘Bangkok model’, Mees recommends the development of
the public transport system according to the supply-oriented planning model of
the Zürich region, which is considered a leading city in public transport
development and an example of market success in a modern, rich economy.
Here the basic aim is to develop a planned and integrated network of services
covering the whole urban region, and designing all elements so that the
services function as one, total system which is accessible and attractive for all
potential users.
The Zürich model approach emphasizes a set of planning principles that are
very different from the ideas of the Bangkok model, as indicated in Figure 1.
To be successful public transport must make use of it’s basic idea of inducing
people to travel together in space-efficient vehicles on efficiently used
infrastructure. A network strategy for meeting the challenges of urban public
transport should take account of the fact that the essence of a public transport
system is the concentration of passenger flows onto specific lines of
movement. This leads on to some implications for network design that we
highlight below. It also leads to the conclusion that interchange is an
inescapable feature of many of the journeys that can be made by public
transport. Consequently, how the network is developed and interchanges are
designed, and how services are organised and presented, is at the heart of
the overall strategy of improving public transport.
3.3 Balance between demand and supply oriented network planning
Good practice in public transport planning requires awareness of this
dichotomy of thinking about how the transport system should be developed,
finding the right balance between demand and supply oriented planning.
The choice of balance should reflect the major ambitions and objectives for
public transport. If the main interest lies in keeping a low level of public
finance and other government involvement in public transport development,
the strategies indicated by the demand-oriented ‘Bangkok’ model are likely to
be useful. If, however, the aim is to develop public transport as a replacement
for the car in the development of a sustainable city, the ‘Zürich’ model is an
inspiring prototype.
©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
In small and medium sized cities the co-ordinated development of one, total
system, and not a differentiated collection of customer-tailored services, will
be the only main alternative available for high quality public transport. The
reason for this is the small size of the total market and the dispersed pattern
of journeys, both in space and time. Co-ordination and combination of
different travel demands is the only way of taking advantage of the economies
of scale and the almost universal accessibility that are public transport’s
reasons for existence.
3.4 The ‘Direct line’ pitfall
Ideally, the public transport network should offer fast, direct links from
everywhere to everywhere, just as the car does for those who have this
option. This is often supported by research that shows that interchanges
between lines and modes are important barriers to the use of public transport.
In practice, public transport must work by concentrating passengers onto
selected corridors, and inevitably this leaves some journeys without a direct
The idea that the ideal public transport service is a direct link between zones
of origins and destinations is widespread, but has such negative
consequences that it can be considered a potential pitfall in network planning,
see Figure 2.
The ‘direct line’ strategy leads to a network that is complicated for the users,
complex to plan and operate and vulnerable to operational disturbances. As
long as the operational resources are the same, these disadvantages are
unlikely to be offset by the benefits of more lines that offer direct travel
opportunities without change. In addition, the aim of a long term stable line
structure is very difficult to achieve if one is working with the ‘direct line’
The only advantage of the ‘direct line’ strategy for the user is that diagonal
journeys between certain branches of the network may be made without
transfer, if the user is able to learn the timetables and adjust her/his activities
to this. But this is achieved to the disadvantage of the high frequency for
journeys between other areas at either side of the interchange or city centre.
An evident effect of the ‘direct line’ strategy is that operational disturbances on
one of the route sections cause more disturbances in the rest of the network.
When route sections are served by several lines that run to different areas,
there are problems of timing the departures on different lines. Even if there
are many departures per hour on a route section, big ‘holes’ very easily
develop in the timetable for the common section. This results in longer waiting
times for many passengers, and often uneven use of the capacity of different
departures, i.e. less efficient use of the operational resources.
In bus operations, where the supplied capacity per departure is small, the
uneven timetable on the common route sections often leads to the creation of
‘convoys’ of vehicles. This causes congestion and delays at bus-stops and
often confusion among passengers about which bus to board, passengers
running to catch the right bus, etc. The more common route sections we
make, the more interdependencies we create between lines in the network
©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
scheduling and the more difficult it will be to design a network where the
operational resources can be used to produce real high frequency services.
The long common route sections also make more difficult the fine adjustments
of frequency against demand for each line that are necessary to optimize the
use of operational resources.
Figure 2: A simple comparison of the two different network principles of ‘Direct connections –
no transfer’ and the ‘One section – one line’ approach.
3.5 The ‘One section – one line’ approach
The opposite network design principle to the ‘direct line’ approach is the ‘one
section – one line’ approach, which we recommend because it supports the
development of a robust, flexible and cost-efficient network, see Figure 2.
This network strategy has very real advantages in that it creates a much
simpler and a much more stable public transport network for the users. This is
important in order to achieve the positive effects of the public transport
network on peoples’ long term travel and location decisions, as well as on
land use. Every city has a range of possible public transport modes and
service types, each of which offers a different combination of characteristics
such as speed, capacity, ride quality, ability to penetrate different types of
areas, and cost. Use of the ‘one section – one line’ principle creates the best
possible conditions for the selection of the most appropriate mode, size and
©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
type of vehicles, and type of operation for different sections of the network.
This will contribute towards the optimal use of resources for network
operation. Unnecessary parallel running of buses and rail services might be
avoided, and the number of buses and/or trams on inner city streets might be
kept below strict traffic and environmental capacity limits.
For the public transport passengers it can be highly advantageous to
substitute a fast mode (such as rail) for part of their journey, instead of a slow
mode (such as bus). Indeed, only by the combination of different modes and
service types can public transport offer an acceptable alternative to the private
car. Data gathered by Tarzis and Last (2000) suggest that there is some
association of higher levels of transfer with higher public transport modal
Even when the ‘direct line’ strategy is abandoned, line structure and
timetables can be designed so as to give the best direct and high frequency
services to the opposite travel corridors, so that transfers will only be
necessary for the less common combinations of origins and destinations.
In many practical cases some common route sections for different lines will be
the best solution, but only when there are some definite reasons for departing
from the ‘one section – one line’ principle.
3.6 Avoiding unnecessary transfers and reducing the barrier effect of
As a consequence of selecting the ‘one section – one line’ principle, it is
important to focus on measures that keep the need for transfers at a
reasonable level and to make arrangements for easy transfers between
different lines and modes.
The most important measure than can be taken to reduce the need for
transfers, is to create long lines that connect important travel origins and
destinations such as densely developed housing areas, local and regional
centres, concentrations of work places, etc. By connecting two such lines in a
well designed interchange, a significant additional part of the region can
relatively easy be reached by one transfer only. Two groups of long lines
crossing each other may in theory cover all origins and destinations in a
region by a combination of direct journeys and journeys with one transfer.
In practice, urban form and development, topography and infrastructure will
force modifications of the network. The public transport system has several
modes and lines with different stopping patterns to cater for the different
demands of the short and long distance travellers. Very different capacity
demands in various parts of the region also require the splitting up of the
network into different types of lines and modes.
Reducing barriers to interchange will enable individual passengers to gain
more benefit from the public transport system, and will increase the
attractiveness of the public transport service relative to the car.
The key role of transfers and interchange points must be fully recognised and
given high priority in public transport development. This point has been
stressed by the GUIDE project (Tarzis and Last 2000). They ascertained that
interchange between services is an inescapable feature of public transport.
©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
Hence, GUIDE developed guidelines for the design of interchanges that will
significantly reduce the barrier effect of transfers, and offer new opportunities
for further development of the market for public transport.
In many cities improvements of all aspects of interchanges stand out as one
of the most cost-efficient ways of increasing public transport ridership and
market share. According to Tarzis and Last (2000) the key benefits from the
systematic improvements of interchanges are:
Reductions in disutility from reducing unpleasantness of individual interchange
experiences of existing users.
Reduced journey times from rerouting where previously interchanges discouraged
Fulfilling a necessary condition to make possible an increase in public transport mode
share, especially where it is traditionally least competitive such as for orbital
Reduced pressure on crowded radial sections.
Increased flexibility for operators and planners to offer a mix of public transport
modes to suit local circumstances.
More theoretical and empirical analysis of the relative merits of the two
network strategies of ‘Direct connections – no transfers’ and ‘One section –
one line’ is desirable, including studies of their practical applications in
different urban regions.
3.7 The ‘Tailor-made’ pitfall
The principles of the ‘Bangkok’ and the ‘direct line’ approaches are closely
associated with the pitfall of attempting to create ‘tailor-made’ public transport.
Attempts to offer tailor-made transport similar to the individual use of the
motor car cannot succeed in the long term. Special services for particular,
small groups of people may be created and can be very popular for a short
period of time. However, the customers and their travel demands change
rather quickly, and some months or years after their introduction, the tailored
service has to be adjusted. With many different types of special services in a
region a very complicated mixture of services will be offered. Still, the
complete set of services is unlikely to cater very well for the major travel
volumes of the city region.
3.8 The Ready-made approach
The alternative we recommend is the ‘ready-made’ approach. Instead of
attempting to make public transport as similar to the car as possible by the
tailoring of services to different continuously changing travel demands, it is
more fruitful to look upon the role of public transport as similar to the role of
the road network in the city.
Public transport planning should be focused on the task of providing access to
all parts of the city region for all those who cannot or prefer not to use their
own motorised transport, at the time of their own choice. This implies ‘mass
production’ of a public transport service for the whole urban region, hence the
term ‘ready-made’ approach.
©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
3.9 Towards a two-tier network strategy
It is interesting to note that in Swedish public transport planning, there has
been a move in planning advice from the demand-oriented towards the
supply-oriented model of network development. A planning advice paper by
Holmberg, Börjesson and Peterson (no date) has been revised to
accommodate this change of view within the profession. They acknowledge
that the 1980’s idea of tailoring the services to different groups of users at
different times of the day has stimulated the market orientation of public
transport planning. But taken too far, the principle leads to a complicated
service supply and inefficient use of the total resources for the public transport
At the end of the 1990’s a different strategy had become very clear, which
now can be found in planning advice from other countries as well. This implies
the development of a two-tier system of urban public transport networks.
HiTrans has also found support for this principle in evidence from city case
The first level is the development of heavy trunk line services with high
frequencies, priority measures and heavy travel demand. This requires the
concentration of routes and often somewhat longer distances between stops
than traditional bus services. All main transport corridors should be served by
a combination of urban and regional trunk lines. They should be seen as a
permanent element of urban structure and therefore run with a high standard
of service at all operating times.
The second level of service must serve the rest of the city and region with a
more flexible and dispersed form of operations that will provide improved
public transport access also for elderly and disabled persons. Often minibuses
are used and operations vary from traditional line haul traffic with medium to
low frequency to demand responsive services, even using taxis.
A major task in network development is to find the right balance between the
two types of services, in space and time.
A challenge is to integrate the two levels of the network into a single public
transport network that caters for the different demands of the various groups
of users. Integration of all lines and modes should be achieved through the
development of high quality interchanges located at nodes in the urban
structure. Co-ordinated scheduling, ticketing, traffic control and information
systems will ensure that the public is offered seamless public transport
between all parts of the region.
3.10 The pitfall of ‘Hundred flowers’ blossom
The last pitfall of network planning ‘philosophy’ we will draw attention to, can
rather ironically be named after one of Chairman Mao’s slogans of the
Chinese ‘cultural revolution’. From the 1980’s a similar idea gained foothold in
public transport policy: Take away regulations and other institutional barriers,
and let entrepreneurs and innovators be free to develop new transport
solutions in response to the users’ needs and the demands of the travel
©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
Now we can look back and learn from the results of the ‘cultural revolution’ in
public transport, and we can obviously conclude that the results were not as
catastrophic as those of Mao’s revolution.
‘On-the-road’ competition is the closest that public transport comes to a totally
open market. This allows operators to compete directly with each other for
customers, with or without restrictions. This has been implemented in a
number of urban bus environments, most notably in the UK and South
America, but the initial heavy competition has typically been followed by
consolidation and a reduction of innovation. This has led to authorities re-
entering the regulatory framework, at least to ensure the fundamental
network, integration and quality of service. In practice, while open competition
exists in the coach and private hire markets, it has been rare in the urban
sector in developed countries.
We also note that the introduction of on the road (more or less) market
competition in the UK outside London since 1986, has not resulted in general
improvement in services or turn-around of the continuing decline in bus
patronage (Passenger Transport Executive Group 2003). A 42% fall in bus
passengers from 1982 to 2001 was registered for the passenger executives of
the large conurbations outside London. On the contrary, the London region
where a more regulated institutional framework remains, is the only large
urban conurbation in the UK with a significant long term growth in bus usage:
38% growth from 1982 to 2001. Also overall public transport patronage
increased in the London region.
From a passenger perspective, the lack of integration of light rail with the bus
network is seen as the least attractive aspect of light rail development in the
UK. In contrast to mainland Europe, it is the institutional framework of
deregulation and the distinction between commercially operated bus services
(over which the planning authority have no control) and tendered services
(which are provided under the banner of socially desirable services not
provided by the market) which prevents further integration (National Audit
Office 2004).
A study of the organisational aspects of the light rail system of Tyne and Wear
drew a number of conclusion (Veeneman 2002):
The focus on the free market has made it hard for public and private actors to co-
operate, leading to a rather passive public role for the responsible authority in public
transport provision.
Co-ordination between operators at the level of scheduling becomes focussed on
individual market share rather than on collective market coverage.
Risk aversion and market control can limit the operators’ customer orientation.
A free market does not guarantee a competitive bus market.
Other studies of market competition in Scandinavia and other countries have
shown that the transport authorities have typically retained the initiative for the
planning of the network, integration of services, and specifying the quality of
the transport product. This confirms our claim that a free market environment
cannot provide the type of competitive, high quality public transport that most
cities of the developed world are looking for.
©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
3.11 The ‘Make it simple’ approach
Instead of focusing on free, on the road market competition, we recommend
public transport planners and politicians to focus much more on how to
simplify the public transport network, and to make the system much more
accessible and easy to understand and use for all groups of potential
We believe that the importance of the ‘make it simple’ approach is grossly
underrated in much of current public transport planning and development.
There are several reasons why simplicity should be an important
consideration in the design of the public transport network.
At a particular point in time, a large part of the users are new to the system,
and the turnover in the market is high. Some operators (like Oslo Public
Transport) work on the assumption that annually, even with a stable total
demand, some 10 percent of their customers leave the system and are
replaced by new users. In addition, potential users are most inclined to
change their travel habits when they have moved to a new place of residence
or changed work. This means that the large section of the population who are
changing their travel patterns and habits, are those most sensitive to new
information and least informed about the public transport system they might
choose to use.
Dziekan (2003) has shown that the use of public transport requires a large
emotional and intellectual effort of information collection and problem solving
during all stages of the journey. For all non-users this is a significant barrier
against the use of public transport, especially for the non-routine journeys.
Tarzis and Last (2000) point out that the way in which the network is
presented to the public can significantly affect the system’s effectiveness. At
the extreme, if passengers are not told about interchange opportunities, they
will not plan their journeys to make use of them. More subtly, the way in which
the public transport network is promoted to the public, and the role set out for
interchange within the network, will have a profound influence on how
passengers use the system. The design and promotion of the network can
thus highlight, or alternatively downplay, the scope for interchange at
particular locations, and hence guide passengers as to where barriers to
interchange are least.
Based on current research on user orientation in public transport systems,
Dziekan and Thronicker (2004) have proposed an extensive checklist to assist
the planners in the development of simplicity and information in public
transport. They state that it is necessary to have a single, comprehensive and
easy to read map (or diagram) to give the user an overview of the total system
with all modes, lines, stops and interchange points that serve the urban area,
irrespective of the operator.
This requirement is crucial, since it is impossible to fulfil if the system consists
of a large number of lines on the same or parallel routes in a dense network
with many different types of services, express routes, special peak period
services and so on. The importance of this point is underlined by the
additional user requirement to combine public transport information with
©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
orientation information about the city and the need for detailed street and stop
information during travel.
Even general psychological research into the reactions of people to the
freedom of choice, supports the idea of simplifying public transport choice
situations and to dismiss the idea of the ‘Hundred flowers’ blossom’ as
interpreted above. When there are available many alternatives with complex
sets of properties, consumers come into a type of stress situation (Kirkeboen
2006). This might lead to a dismissal of alternatives, and a reliance on earlier
habits and old choices. Here we might have a good explanation for why
simplifying the product or service is a key to successful branding in the
consumer industry – and in public transport.
In addition to this user perspective, there are good operational reasons for
simplifying the network, so this has become an important trend in high quality
network development in recent years. Examples of good practice may, for
instance, be found in the bus systems of cities such as Copenhagen and
Lemgo as well as in many modern light rail systems elsewhere.
Space and time will not allow for a detailed discussion of our remaining
principles of network design. However, a very short explanation of the
potential pitfalls and recommended alternative principles of network design is
offered. They form the link between the recommendations on planning
philosophy and more practical applications of network design.
Line definition: The basic building block of the public transport service is the
line. Before starting to develop the public transport network it is crucial to have
a clear understanding of this key element, and define the different properties
of a line.
The line map pitfall vs. the service frequency analysis: The planner should not
rely on the traditional public transport map for information on the public
transport coverage of the urban area, which often is very misleading because
of the lack of information about service frequencies and times of operation for
specific lines, or on the detailed scheduling on route sections operated by
several lines. Rather detailed analysis of the frequencies on different lines and
route sections is recommended even at the level of strategic network
planning. Frequencies also influence strongly the number of vehicles needed
in the system, and hence much of the operating costs.
The flexible line pitfall vs. the stable geography - flexible frequency approach:
The planner should not develop a network that changes significantly over
short time periods, including a large number of special lines and services with
very few departures during the day. To provide a robust structure for urban
planning and development, and for the building of confidence and long term
branding of services, the major geographical elements of the public transport
network should be left unchanged for long periods of time. The necessary
flexibility in relation to travel demand and available resources for service
operation should mainly be attained by the flexible adjustment of service
frequencies of individual lines and end sections of lines with the weakest
travel demand.
©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
The pitfall of neglecting the network effect vs. designing a line structure that
exploits the network effect: Traditional public transport planning tends to focus
on single lines or route sections and transport corridors, and to analyse the
pros and cons of different alternative solutions in this context. This approach
tends to neglect the network potentials of the system, and to look upon
interchanges as barriers to travel that should be avoided by all possible
means. Instead, focus should be on the opportunities for creating a true public
transport network of highest possible quality and exploits the new
opportunities for travel that high quality interchanges can provide when
combined with the right high frequency line structure.
The pitfalls of low and high frequencies vs. optimal network frequencies: Due
to a combination of low transport demand and faulty line structure, large parts
of existing public transport systems have too low frequencies to be looked
upon as an interesting alternative to car use. Often other sections of the
network have so high frequencies that congestion, disturbances of operations
and negative environmental effects are created on inner city streets, without
much gained in the form of shorter waiting times for the customers. Planners
should aim at a form of optimisation of frequencies in relation to travel
demand, and adjust the line structure and roles of different modes
The pitfall of adding new lines vs. the principle of concentration of resources:
When improvements to existing services are discussed, very often the adding
of one or more new lines is the main proposal. This may easily result in less
efficient use of resources. To achieve the much needed increase in service
frequencies, operational resources should instead be concentrated to as few
high frequency lines as possible. This even improves the benefits gained from
money used for infrastructure improvements.
The pitfall of low density of demand vs. the co-ordinated pulse timetable
approach: It is unrealistic to achieve high frequency services in low density
areas and small towns and villages. The recommended solution in such
situations is to develop a network with co-ordinated pulse timetables.
Infrastructure improvements might be needed with the aim of facilitating and
improving the efficiency of such solutions in a particular area.
The central terminal pitfall vs. the pendulum line approach: Many cities
operate services with lines terminating in the city centre or at suburban
centres and interchanges. This line structure should be replaced by a network
of pendulum lines running between areas on either side of the central terminal
or interchange. This will improve significantly service quality to travellers, the
use of vehicle and street capacity in the inner city, and the efficiency of the
The short walking distance pitfall vs. the quality access strategy: Many bus
systems operate a network with a primary aim to keep the walking distances
to the bus stops very short. In combination with a local road network not
primarily designed for efficient public transport, this leads to very long and
costly routes and long travel times for bus users. Instead, a more direct route
line network design is recommended, which will improve journey times for the
majority of customers and save resources for an increase in service
frequency. Trips from areas at some distance from the bus stops should be
©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
catered for by the improvement of access quality for pedestrians, cyclists and
car users, and through the provision of special local public transport services.
The satisfy everybody pitfall vs. the two-tier system approach: Traditional
attempts in bus transport planning to create lines and services that try to
satisfy all users with one type of ‘flexible’ line service tend to dissatisfy a
majority of potential customers. Instead, a two tier approach of network
structure is recommended: First, a strong and stable high frequency network
catering for the majority of users. Second, a local, flexible set of services that
cater for very local journeys and provide access to the main network.
The pitfalls of conventional road traffic planning vs. the fast operation
approach: To facilitate fast, efficient and attractive public transport a number
of traditional design ‘rules’ should be abandoned and replaced by
infrastructure and traffic management solutions that prioritize public transport
operations and users. All possible measures to improve speed and stability of
operations should be used, within reasonable limits of traffic safety and
security. This should also include measures inside the public transport system
itself, such as appropriate ticketing systems, vehicle design, customer
information and management, and driver education.
The cheap road solution pitfall vs. the shortest route strategy: Often road
infrastructure built to facilitate safe and fast motor traffic creates barriers for
passengers and diversions for public transport lines. Road investments for the
benefit of public transport can help significantly to reduce operational costs
and improve patronage.
The pitfall of separating public transport from land-use planning vs. the
integrated approach: Very often the requirements of public transport are
neglected in the planning and development of urban land. Integrated land-use
and public transport planning can make a big contribution to the creation of
public transport success.
The technological pitfall vs. defining the problem before the solution: Quite
often public transport planning improvement is thought of in terms of
developing some new technological solutions, be it new propulsion systems,
clean fuels, or advanced information and control systems. In most cases new
technology can make only very marginal contributions to the competitiveness
of the public transport system, and the technological fascination diverts
resources, planning capacity and the attention of decision-makers away from
potentially far more effective network planning measures.
The light rail pitfall vs. the modal integration approach of the Zürich model:
Discussions of light rail solutions often dominate the planning debate on public
transport. Even if a large number of successful light rail projects have been
realised around the world, light rail should not be considered as The Solution
to the high quality public transport challenge. This is illustrated by the rather
successful development of the public transport system in the Zürich region.
Even if the city is most renowned for its light rail strategy and solutions, most
of the region is served by bus. A modal and regional integration and systems
approach that includes coordination with land use and transport policy, is the
main explanation for the success of Zürich in relation to the goal of competing
with the motor car.
©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
The key to public transport success in the competition with the motor car lies
in good network planning and development. Having the right network planning
philosophy as well as applying the right network design principles can stand
between outstanding success and complete failure for public transport in small
and medium sized cities and regions.
The main practical recommendation is to use all available planning means to
create a simple high frequency integrated network for all modes and services
with high quality infrastructure, vehicles and service operations. This should
form a public transport structure that is fixed and stable enough to form the
backbone of urban land-use planning and development, and the basis for
long-term branding and marketing. Adjustments in line frequency should be
the main tool for the short term balance between travel demand and service
provision, given the available resources from ticket revenue and public funds.
A second tier access system of flexible public transport and improved
accessibility to stopping places and interchanges by foot, bicycle and car
should secure the full geographic and social coverage of the public transport
Dziekan, K. (2003). Easy-to-use public transport. Learning from the mistakes
of human beings – a psychological approach. 3rd UITP Conference on Travel
Information, Gothenburg 17th–19
September 2003.
Dziekan, K. and Thronicker, I. (2004). How to enable user orientation in public
transport systems? Results of an empirical study in Stockholm, Sweden.
Submitted to Environment & Behaviour, 5th of July 2004.
Holmberg, B., Börjesson, M. and Peterson, B. (no date). PM om
Kollektivtrafikplanering. Lunds Universitet, Lunds Tekniska Høgskola,
Institutionen för trafik och samhälle, Lund. (A note on public transport
planning; in Swedish).
Kirkeboen, G. (2006). Valgets pris. A-magasinet 26
of May 2006. (In
Norwegian; a popularized review of psychological research on the cost of
individual choice, including research by Sheena Iyengar of Columbia
University ( and Barry Schwartz’ book ‘The
Paradox of Choice: Why more is less.’)
Mees, P. (2000). A very public solution. Melbourne University Press,
Mulley, C., Nelson, J. D. and Nielsen, G. (2005). Network planning for high
quality public transport. Paper presented at 9
Thredbo Conference on
Competition and Ownership in Land Transport, Lisbon, September.
National Audit Office (2004). Improving public transport in England through
light rail. Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General. HC 518 Session
2003–2004. 23 April 2004. The Stationery Office, London.
Nielsen, G. et al. (2005). Public transport – Planning the networks. HiTrans
Best Practice Guide 2. Civitas Consultants AS/The HiTrans Project. Rogaland
County Council, Stavanger.
©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
Passenger Transport Executive Group (2003). Newsletter no 3 (downloaded
from Leeds.
Tarzis, G. and Last, A. (2000). Urban interchanges – A good practice guide.
MVA Limited, Woking.
Veeneman, W. (2002). Mind the Gap. Delft University Press Science. Delft.
©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
1. The authors were the main consultants and authors of the HiTrans Best Practice Guide on
Public Transport Network Planning (Nielsen et al 2005), published by the INTERREG IIIa
(North Sea) HiTrans project in September 2005. The other members of the international team
of consultants and HiTrans’ expert and editorial advisors also made significant contributions
to the Best Practice Guide.
The Lead partner of the HiTrans project was Rogaland County Council, Norway. Other
partners were the city or public transport authorities and operators in Aarhus, Edinburgh,
Helsingborg, Newcastle upon Tyne, Oslo and Sunderland, and the national road and railway
authorities and railway operator in Norway. More information is available at the project
Team of consultants – HiTrans Best Practice Guide 2:
Gustav Nielsen and Truls Lange, Civitas Consultants AS, Oslo
Corinne Mulley and John D. Nelson, Transport Operations Research Group, Newcastle
University, UK
Göran Tegnér, Transek, Solna/Stockholm
Gunnar Lind, Stratega, Stockholm
Axel Kühn, Karlsruhe;
Ian Radbone, University of South Australia
Gustav Nielsen, Civitas As, Oslo, Norway.
2. The idea of presenting the principles in the format of pitfalls and alternative approaches
was developed for the final presentation of the results of the HiTrans project, and revised and
extended for this paper. This structure was not used in the Best Practice Guide, but the basic
material and references for our recommendations will be found in the Guide.
... Cities with good transit planning and operations generally adopt an integrated transport network making use of a variety of modes than do cities in which transit is neglected [10,12]. Planning integrated public transport systems contributes to the success of cities. Sustainable public transport systems should thus warrant the following key preferences of modal characteristics [13]: ...
... The series covered the basics of trying to plan a public transport network in varying situations, both concisely and simply enough for the general public to grasp. They expanded on this work in the following years with literature confronting the theories behind their best practice guide and some of the common pitfalls that practitioners encounter (Nielsen & Lange, 2008;Nielsen et al., 2006). ...
Full-text available
The successful integration of public transport and land development planning is likely to be central in determining how effectively the cities in the 'global south' manage the mounting pressures from rapid urbanization, population growth and rising income inequality. While a number of Sub-Saharan African cities, particularly in South Africa, have commenced large scale public transport reform, little research has been undertaken to date on appropriate public transport-land use integration in these contexts. As a result, both of the initial phases of BRT corridor implementation, in Cape Town and Johannesburg, have been found to be financially unsustainable in their current urban forms. The major decisions regarding the design of land use environments and public transport networks, in the context of rapidly developing cities, still occur without due consideration for each other. The aim of this study is to investigate the relationships between land use characteristics, network features and viable public transport services in the South African context and at a corridor scale. The study utilises a public transport corridor operating cost model that was created to simulate the effects of variation in four land use characteristics (population density, density distribution, land use mix and destination accessibility) and two public transport network features (mode technology and service configuration) on the financial viability of services. The corridor operating cost model consists of cascading land use, transport and costing sub-models for which the output of one supplies the input of the next. Gross population density was found to have the weakest causal relationship with financial viability. Density distribution was shown to have a very significant effect on the average passenger trip length, and financial viability as a result. When the majority of the population is articulated adjacent to the public transport trunk corridors, at a higher density, far fewer inefficient feeder services are required. Additionally, the chosen non-motorised transport mode for those accessing the trunk service directly had a considerable effect as the higher speed of bicycles increases the catchment area within which a feeder service is usually not required. Bicycle-based density articulation was able to halve the total cost of the public transport network in one of the cases, relative to the conventional pedestrian-based variety. Land use mix had a strong connection to public transport financial viability, through substantial effects on peak passenger volume. The final land use characteristic, destination accessibility, was represented by distance to the Central Business District (CBD), as well as dictating the length of the transport corridor. It was found to have a substantial influence on financial viability and affordability, especially in the context of a distance-based fare system. Passenger volume is the key determinant of mode technology choice and is influenced by population density, as well as the other three land use characteristics to a lesser degree. Low population densities intuitively favour smaller vehicles, while high densities or economies of scale promote the use of suburban rail and other capital intensive modes. Long public transport corridors with unsupportive land use environments favour larger vehicles, such as the BRT and non-BRT articulated bus modes. Fewer of these large vehicles are required to meet the demand and they can efficiently operate over longer distances than their smaller competitors. Whereas, short corridors and supportive land use environments favour the space priority that the conventional and articulated BRT modes possess. The higher speed that the segregated lanes allow the vehicles to reach over the shorter route distance also decreases vehicle requirements due to the higher rate of trips per hour per vehicle. The trunk-feeder and direct service configurations reacted similarly to the changes in land use characteristics, when the optimum modes are chosen to minimise costs. The results of the study suggest that a detailed land use development plan is necessary for each major public transport corridor, with unique targets for population density, density articulation and land use mix. It also demonstrated that, in the South African context, to achieve a high public transport modal split and sustainable public transport service requires high population densities, high articulation, mixed land uses, small corridor catchment areas and minimal feeder services.
... Garis laluan yang terlalu banyak liputan kawasan dan jalan yang berliku adalah sangat tidak digalakkan. Laluan terbaik dicadangkan berbentuk garis [30] dan tidak lebih dariapada dua cabang [29]. ...
Full-text available
The main issue in Putrajaya’s bus services is related to time and cost. Optimal travel time require optimal routes and shortest distance. Minimizing travel time means minimizing operational cost. This paper reviews and evaluates the density of passengers and maximum number of passengers as parameters to obtain an optimum route. The mathematical model was utilized to analyze the passenger density with the improvements of the constraint to the number of passengers. The study based on data from intra-city bus services during off-peak hours. The main focus of this optimization is to compare the passenger density and the number of passengers as the parameters in decision making for bus routes. The result shows that the passenger density is better than the number passengers to assess bus routes.
The purpose of this paper is to reveal possible reasons for unfavorable decisions in transit planning that weaken the possibility of increasing transit competitiveness versus the private car. The paper is based upon a qualitative case study of two Norwegian cities that have initiated projects to increase transit competitiveness versus the private car. Interviews and document studies have been conducted and interpreted using existing theories and case studies to determine possible reasons for decisions that are unfavorable for transit competitiveness. In this paper, it is concluded that conflicting politics is the main reason for unfavorable decisions in transit planning. Though the planning practitioners in the transit projects make effort to communicate to the politicians how the conflicting politics are limiting the possibility to increase transit competitiveness versus the private car, this effort has little effect. It is suggested in this work that the role of the urban planner should be extended to not only inform but also awaken a need for more knowledge among politicians and decisionmakers to help prevent unfavorable decisions being made within transit, and urban planning.
This study investigates whether faster overall public transport times could be achieved if a given set of bus resources were configured in a simple but sparse network of direct and frequent services, when compared to the same level of resources currently deployed in routes that lack those characteristics. Melbourne, Australia is used as a case study. Two strands of literature are reviewed: (1) literature on public transport network design, noting that principles such as direct, simple and frequent routes are well-articulated, but that there is comparatively little quantitative academic literature applying those principles to real-world transport networks on a whole-of-city basis; and (2) studies of public transport accessibility, noting that they often focus on access to employment centres or journeys to work, rather than trips made for other purposes. Network analysis tools are used to model and compare public transport travel times under the existing Melbourne public transport network, and under a new network where bus routes are reconfigured on a basis more consistent with network design principles identified in the literature, using a set of trip patterns disclosed by a government survey of household travel activity. The results show that the reconfigured network, using existing resources, could reduce average travel times in the interpeak period across the study area by 5.30 minutes (12.67%), with the greatest benefits accruing to outer suburban areas.
How to enable user orientation in public transport systems? Results of an empirical study in Stockholm, Sweden
  • K Dziekan
  • I Thronicker
Dziekan, K. and Thronicker, I. (2004). How to enable user orientation in public transport systems? Results of an empirical study in Stockholm, Sweden. Submitted to Environment & Behaviour, 5th of July 2004.
Easy-to-use public transport. Learning from the mistakes of human beings – a psychological approach
  • K Dziekan
Dziekan, K. (2003). Easy-to-use public transport. Learning from the mistakes of human beings – a psychological approach. 3rd UITP Conference on Travel Information, Gothenburg 17th–19 th September 2003.
Public transport – Planning the networks. HiTrans Best Practice Guide 2. Civitas Consultants AS/The HiTrans Project
  • G Nielsen
Nielsen, G. et al. (2005). Public transport – Planning the networks. HiTrans Best Practice Guide 2. Civitas Consultants AS/The HiTrans Project. Rogaland County Council, Stavanger. ©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
published by the INTERREG IIIa (North Sea) HiTrans project in The other members of the international team of consultants and HiTrans' expert and editorial advisors also made significant contributions to the Best Practice Guide
The authors were the main consultants and authors of the HiTrans Best Practice Guide on Public Transport Network Planning (Nielsen et al 2005), published by the INTERREG IIIa (North Sea) HiTrans project in September 2005. The other members of the international team of consultants and HiTrans' expert and editorial advisors also made significant contributions to the Best Practice Guide.
Improving public transport in England through light rail Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General
National Audit Office (2004). Improving public transport in England through light rail. Report by the Comptroller and Auditor General. HC 518 Session 2003–2004. 23 April 2004. The Stationery Office, London.
(no date) PM om Kollektivtrafikplanering
  • B Holmberg
  • M Börjesson
  • B Peterson
  • Lund
Holmberg, B., Börjesson, M. and Peterson, B. (no date). PM om Kollektivtrafikplanering. Lunds Universitet, Lunds Tekniska Høgskola, Institutionen för trafik och samhälle, Lund. (A note on public transport planning; in Swedish).
Valgets pris. A-magasinet 26 th of (In Norwegian; a popularized review of psychological research on the cost of individual choice, including research by Sheena Iyengar of Columbia University (www.columbiaThe Paradox of Choice: Why more is less
  • G Kirkeboen
Kirkeboen, G. (2006). Valgets pris. A-magasinet 26 th of May 2006. (In Norwegian; a popularized review of psychological research on the cost of individual choice, including research by Sheena Iyengar of Columbia University ( and Barry Schwartz' book 'The Paradox of Choice: Why more is less.')
Mind the Gap. Delft University Press Science. Delft. ©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006 ©Association for European Transport and contributors
  • W Veeneman
Veeneman, W. (2002). Mind the Gap. Delft University Press Science. Delft. ©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006 ©Association for European Transport and contributors 2006
Network planning for high quality public transport
  • C Mulley
  • J D Nelson
  • G Nielsen
Mulley, C., Nelson, J. D. and Nielsen, G. (2005). Network planning for high quality public transport. Paper presented at 9 th Thredbo Conference on Competition and Ownership in Land Transport, Lisbon, September.
A very public solution
  • P Mees
Mees, P. (2000). A very public solution. Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.