Bus Versus Rail: Meta-Analysis of Cost Characteristics, Carrying Capacities, and Land Use Impacts


Ming Zhang

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

operations - capacity, land use - impacts, mode - bus, mode - rail


Rail transit capacity, Rail transit, Meta-analysis, Land use, Intracity bus transportation, Costs, Bus transit capacity, Bus transit


Whether to develop bus- or rail-based mass transit has long been a topic of policy debate. Recent developments in bus rapid transit and light rail transit throughout the world add to heated discussions on the comparative advantages of bus- versus rail-based transit systems. The metastudy discussed in this paper synthesizes current understanding of the cost and operational characteristics as well as land use impacts of bus versus rail mass transit in the framework of land use and transit integration. The study’s main purpose is to provide a balanced view on bus and rail. Such a retrospective review is timely; for many cases, the debates of bus versus rail are narrowly focused or based on opinion and lack adequate supporting materials and evidence.