Are Network Planning Guidelines Based on Equal Access Equitable?

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus, place - australasia, planning - integration, planning - network design, planning - standards, operations - service span


network design, network planning, equality of spatial coverage


Planning principles for public transport networks include simplicity, legibility, frequency, and spatial coverage. These principles are typically translated into a series of guidelines that set out the specific standards for network design within a jurisdiction. In practice, such guidelines usually concentrate on creating a bus network or on defining the role of buses within a multimodal network, as rail-based routes are regarded as fixed in location, and separate planning processes are typically used to design rail frequency and stopping patterns. The outcome of network planning gives rise to tradeoffs between the economic and institutional environments and is conditioned by historical legacy. Bus routes often continue because they have operated at that location. This paper offers a case study of Sydney, Australia, where network planning guidelines still place emphasis on equality of spatial coverage despite moving toward a more integrated approach to network planning. The paper asserts that guidelines focusing on equal spatial coverage may inadvertently promote inequity by not taking account of the difficulties (and therefore higher cost) of serving challenging topographical areas. The paper examines the equity impacts of implementing service planning guidelines on the basis of equal spatial coverage. Criteria relating to equity are established and then measured with the use of data on bus supply, journeys to work, and socioeconomics. The conclusions of the paper contribute to implementation of network planning, with many cities in Australia and elsewhere implementing similar guidelines to those in Sydney.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by Transportation Research Board, Washington, copyright remains with them