Improving bus service reliability

Document Type


Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus, operations - performance, operations - reliability, place - australasia


(bus) bunching, bus, bus priority, operations, New Zealand, patronage, performance measures


The objective of this research (undertaken in 2010–12) was to provide urban bus operators and public transport contracting authorities in New Zealand with practical guidance on methods for diagnosis of urban bus service (un)reliability, the causes of unreliability, how unreliability is best measured and monitored, and experience and best practice on measures and methods to improve reliability and punctuality.

The research outputs were intended to assist urban bus operators and planning/contracting/funding authorities in New Zealand to gain a better understanding of bus reliability and punctuality issues and how best to address them. The report addressed the causes of unreliability, reliability standards and measurement, data collection and analysis methods, and the approaches available to tackle reliability problems through planning and timetabling measures (when problems can be anticipated in advance) and/or through operational measures (for problems arising on a day-to-day basis).

Recommendations were made on: the continuing refinement and adoption of outputs from automated (GPS-based) data sources as the primary means of monitoring reliability performance, replacing operator self-reporting methods; on using these data sources to optimise running times; and on the adoption of some form of ‘quality partnership’ arrangement between regional authorities and their operators to jointly pursue continuous improvements in reliability performance.


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