Bus Stop Spacing

A variety of guidance is given on bus stop spacing, and a variety of standards are followed in various parts of the world. The closer bus stops are on any given road, the less distance intending riders will need to walk once they have walked to that road. This increases convenience, and reduces overall journey time by decreasing access time. But closer bus stops also result in lower bus operating speeds, which both makes the service less attractive to riders and increases operating costs. Peter White[1] has shown that these two considerations are best in balance at a stop spacing of about 550m – at this distance, overall travel time is minimised.

In many places bus stops are placed much closer than this – in North America, stops are often found spaced as close as 100m apart. In Europe and Australia longer spacings are typical – 400m or more.

UITP guidance  is as follows (the assumed walking speed equates to 4.5 kph);

Table 1

Table 1; UITP Guidance on Bus Stop Spacing

It is certainly desirable to have stops closer together in city centres – the high volume of boarding and alighting passengers justifies reducing their walking distances, and it is often desirable to spread both passengers and stopping buses over a number of locations to minimise congestion (although this will require greater carriageway and footway space at the expense of other uses).

It is less clear why longer stop spacings might be appropriate in low-density residential areas; in such areas routes are likely to be further apart, so intending riders will have to walk further to the route in the first place, before they walk along the route to a stop. Such a strategy can only be justified for operational reasons – to avoid too many stops slowing the bus down.

It is worth noting that the disadvantages of short stop spacing – slower bus speeds and increased costs – can be mitigated by not having every bus stop at every stop. This could be achieved by having a hierarchy of services including both limited stop and all-stops services, or by having all services running on a “skip-stop” basis – calling, perhaps, at each alternate stop. The former of these alternatives is probably more sensible both operationally and in terms of ease of understanding for passengers, and could be applied as part of a service hierarchy approach.

Note also that both the number and location of bus stops may be affected by a number of factors associated with safety, pedestrian and traffic flow and the public realm. This means that discussion of whether stops should be placed “mid-block” or at intersections may well be academic, particularly if urban blocks are of such a size that there are several stops along the block.

[1] Page 118 of Public Transport, its planning, management and operation (5th Edition); White, Peter, published by Routledge, 2009.

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