Public transport mode selection: a review of international practice

Document Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date


Subject Area

literature review - literature review


This paper will aim to address one of the ETC conference themes: “Guidance for option development in transport studies? How are particular mode solutions chosen?" Three research strands will be adopted: • Review of current relevant policy guidance and literature. • Examination of some recent local public transport technology developments • Case studies based on experience The international policy context for particular public transport mode solutions will be examined [Europe, North America and Australasia]. As additional context a review of best practice literature will be analysed to highlight the relative performance of a range of public transport mode options [from bus to light rapid transit]. The paper will also briefly highlight some recent technology advances in local public transport which could influence mode selection. In the UK context this includes the development of ‘cost contained’ light rail and high quality bus technology (e.g. the high capacity ‘Roadtrain’ double deck bendy bus and the ftr streetcar). The paper will identify that general characteristics of public transport modes are insufficient to select the right mode for any particular application which requires a detailed understanding of the local context. The paper will therefore concentrate on Case Studies to draw on the outcomes from a number of international projects and studies to compare and contrast alternative approaches in the selection of particular transport mode solutions. Case Studies: Australia The paper will focus on some of the particular transport characteristics of Australian cities including population density, strong emphasis on ‘quality of life’ in an urban environment and very fast rates of development growth leading to the need to introduce relatively flexible and extensive public transport solutions. The paper will examine the rationale behind the development of an extensive Busway Rapid Transit (BRT) network in Brisbane, Queensland (over 20km in operation and over 100km in advanced planning). This will include a review of actual system performance characteristics in the first 5 years of operation of the initial element in the network. The paper will also review the justification for mode choice in the fast developing Gold Coast city of Queensland including examination of different studies with conflicting recommendations with respect to the most appropriate from of rapid transit (bus based of light rail) for a high development density corridor. The paper will also provide an overview of the development of Sydney’s bus rapid transit network (Sydney Transitway’s) and examine why progress in the delivery of the network has been slower than anticipated. United Kingdom UK case studies will examine both studies in and outside London. Outside of London the paper will review the justification for development of guided bus schemes in Greater Manchester and the fast developing conurbation of Luton-Dunstable focusing on public transport solutions to make best use of existing but redundant heavy rail corridors. London case studies will focus on the rationale for the selection of a range of ‘intermediate’ public transport modes from bus rapid transit to light rail in several corridors. This includes new high quality surface public transport across central London linking the economic centre to new major development proposals and areas of multiple deprivation. In the context of a major high density conurbation the paper will examine the comparative benefits of different public transport modes to address key objectives such as: • Capital and operating cost effectiveness • Environmental objectives • Mode shift • Passenger Capacity and Passenger Demand • Deliverability • Affordability • Etc The paper will also highlight the potential role for Bus Rapid Transit in the UK and potential barriers to implementation. North America As a final counterpoint the paper will highlight some recent work in North America in the selection of Bus Rapid Transit or Light Rail in particular corridors focusing on public transport developments in Vancouver. Finally the paper will provide some broad conclusions as to : • Appropriate policy framework • Possible direction of technology advances • Local factors to be taken into account in the selection of appropriate modes of public transport • A best practice framework for possible use in public transport mode selection


Permission to publish abstract given by AET.