“Essential Elements of Good Transit” is courtesy of “It’s more than buses: Advocates for Better Transit in Halifax”
Fast transit service can reduce travel time, making transit a better choice for more travelers. Faster service also helps encourage more drivers to use transit. We advocate three main ways to increase transit’s speed:
1) Give transit priority. Transit lanes and special transit signals help transit bypass traffic jams, making service much faster and much more reliable. Reduce the number of stops. Rapid stop spacing of about 500 meters between stops. This spacing makes transit faster, without making the walking distance to transit stops too far.
2) Reduce the number of turns on routes. Long twisting and winding routes make taking transit unnecessarily slow. Every time a bus turns, it has to slow down. Turning buses also get caught in traffic – such as red lights.
3) Make stops quicker. When all riders pay only at one door, busy stops take a long time. This slows down the entire route. Allowing people to pay off the bus (off-board fare collection), remind passengers to only use the backdoor, or have all door boarding which can reduce the time buses spend at stops.
Who likes waiting for the bus? Who wants to plan their life around a transit schedule? Frequent service – every 15 minutes or better on core routes – is key to making transit an appealing and convenient choice.
Less time waiting means less time en route, reducing overall transit time. High-frequency transit also makes transfers easy, by reducing the time riders spend connecting. A network that allows easy connections lets people travel to many different locations, and reduces the number of overlapping, inefficient routes.
People are much more likely to take transit if it runs reliably i.e. on time. Providing transit-only lanes is an example of transit priority measures and the best way to get transit out of traffic and running on time. Transit lanes also make transit run faster. Other transit priority measures include special transit signals and short queue-jump lanes that get transit past busy intersections.
The most important places to get transit past traffic is at the choke points such as along Gordon Street during rush hour. Getting transit through these choke points would make the entire network run more reliably, benefiting all riders.
Transit needs to be accessible to everyone. Unlike cars, transit doesn’t provide door-to-door service. That means that everyone must be able to walk (or roll) to and from their stop or station. That doesn’t mean stops have to be everywhere, it just means that they have to be designed so that they encourage walking to and from each stop.
Transit riders must get to and from the stops they need. Most riders walk to their stop. Supporting transit means making streets and neighbourhoods safe and pleasant places to walk. Walkable areas have sidewalks, many safe places to cross the street, and well-connected streets. Walkable streets must be a priority, especially near transit stops.
Cycling is quicker than walking. Developing bicycle routes around major transit stations and corridors would allow more people to quickly access transit. Safe and convenient cycling requires good routes and places to store bicycles. Good bicycle routes include quiet streets, dedicated off-road trails, and streets with protected bicycle lanes.
Providing covered bike racks, bike lockers and bike maintenance spaces also help encourage cycling. Bicycle racks on buses make it easier for people to use long-distance, express transit, which may not stop near their home or work. Finally, cyclists who travel long distances prefer having places to shower and change when they arrive at their destination; these end-of-trip facilities make cycling more convenient and attractive. Locating cycling services near transit will encourage riders to cycle to their stop.
A simple, easy to understand network is appealing to both first time, and veteran riders. A user-friendly network is also comfortable and safe. Ways to make transit more comfortable include:
1) Shelters and seating at more stops;
2) Amenities and services near terminals and major stops; and
3) Less crowding.
Ways to make transit easier to use include:
1) Fewer routes; more frequent routes that are on a straight corridor;
2) Simple, clear network maps and diagrams;
3) Real-time arrival information;
4) Route and schedule information at stops and on vehicles;
5) Electronic smart cards for fare payment; and
6) Named stops.
Land Use Planning – Be on the Way
Certain neighbourhood types and street patterns support good transit. Transit is most efficient in areas with urban densities. Areas with high housing and job densities have a higher demand for transit, resulting in more transit riders.
Well connected streets and major destinations placed in transit-friendly locations also make transit more attractive and feasible. The best transit lines provide service between many important destinations along a direct route. Direct routes provide the quickest travel times, making transit an attractive choice. Transit consultant and author Jarrett Walker’s ‘Be on the Way’ principle states the best way to ensure good transit service is to locate on a strong, straight corridor that has other major transit destinations.
Encouraging higher densities is one way to support transit. Placing jobs at nodes or along corridors that are easy to serve by transit is another. We advocate for land use plans and transportation plans to identify major corridors and direct new jobs and housing into these corridors.