Extent of Interchange (Transfer)

Public transport faces a difficult challenge in satisfying dispersed origins and destinations.  One approach to the challenge is to provide for ‘anywhere-to-anywhere’ travel patterns through tailor-made services that directly connect everywhere to everywhere.  The problem with this approach is that the more public transport is tailor-made, the more it surrenders its environmental and economic advantages.  Such networks are less easy to understand and market, and hence are less attractive both to core bus users and to occasional riders (e.g. tourists). Taxis are a more appropriate way of connecting “everywhere to everywhere else”.

Evidence on extent of transfer here

The alternative is a suitably concise network.  Instead of having tailor-made direct services satisfying all trips, the judicious introduction of transfers for some journeys can better enable the provision of services.  Provided there is sufficient coverage within the overall network, this approach will enable ‘anywhere-to-anywhere’ travel, with high occupancy rates, by carrying different kinds of travellers on the same services.  At the same time, the number of interchanges must be sensible – few riders will be attracted to a journey which involves multiple changes to complete a short journey.  A maximum of two (and preferably one) interchange is generally considered desirable.

In most cities with well developed public transport networks, trips often require a transfer (e.g. London, Paris, New York, and Sydney).  Public transport networks which facilitate transfer open up new travel possibilities whilst supporting large resource savings. However, whilst transfers may present many new travel opportunities, they may also impose inconvenience.  Creating effective transfer-based public transport systems requires careful planning to ensure that the inconvenience is minimised as much as possible.  Within the most successful networks, integrated fares and ticketing ensure that there is no fare penalty for transfer, and high frequencies result in minimal waiting times at transfer points.

Easy transfer also requires attention to timetables and physical facilities. ‘Random’ transfers are possible when all lines servicing an interchange point operate frequently, generally every 10 minutes or better.  ‘Timed’ or ‘pulsed’ transfers are needed when services are less frequent, and in this case the timetables for connecting routes must be coordinated.

Designing networks which support convenient transfers can bring about significant improvements in  operational efficiency and improve the simplicity of the network. This not only means that concentrating resources on fewer routes leads to increased frequencies, but also results in a network that is easier for users to understand.

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