Managing Unplanned Rail Disruptions: Policy Implications and Guidelines Towards an Effective Bus Bridging Strategy

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Subject Area

mode - bus, mode - rail, mode - subway/metro, place - north america, operations - performance, planning - methods, planning - travel demand management


Bus bridging, Rail interruptions, performance, delay


Bus bridging is a key strategy used by transit agencies to handle rail service interruptions. In practice, buses are dispatched from scheduled services to act as temporary shuttles along the disrupted rail segment. This study provides a robust analysis of four factors affecting bus bridging policies: 1) initial dispatch direction of shuttle buses, 2) dispatch time (i.e., the response time for requesting shuttle buses), 3) uncertainty in predicting the incident duration, and 4) reduction of metro passengers demand because of disruption. A user delay modeling tool is used to assess various bus bridging policies based on their resulting users’ delays (for affected passengers) and other system performance measures. The tool was validated, and sensitivity analysis was conducted based on real disruption scenarios that suspended various segments of the metro service in the City of Toronto. The main results indicate that: 1) the initial dispatch direction of shuttle buses should take into consideration the demand at the disrupted segment while maintaining a moderate level of shuttle bus utilization; 2) a 1-min increase in the dispatch time causes about 0.4 min additional waiting time at disrupted metro stations per passenger; 3) incidents with high forecasting errors can cause excessive delays for metro passengers and significant wasted time of non-utilized shuttle buses; and, 4) significant users’ delay savings are observed at higher demand reduction levels. This paper provides transportation practitioners and planners with a better understanding of the different aspects of bus bridging policies based on users’ delays and shuttle buses’ performance metrics.


Permission to publish the abstract has been given by SAGE, copyright remains with them.