Transit Future Plans – Part 1 – Strategic Planning for Combined Mobility Trips with Transit and Cycling


Transit future planning is not exclusively about bus routers and frequency of service.  Transit future is about planning Transit Corridors for significant transit ridership growth.


©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013, unless otherwise noted

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013, unless otherwise noted

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013, unless otherwise noted

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013, unless otherwise noted

Many research projects, lectures, and articles have made the case that sustainability of our cities and communities is dependent on shifting of transportation modes away from car usage to active transportation modes.  Many research projects, lectures, and articles have made the case that maintenance of our personal health and for reduction of health care costs for the government and for us, as individuals, is dependant on shifting of transportation modes away from car usage to more active forms of transportation, including cycling, transit, and walking.

©Image by TransLink, Metro Vancouver BC

©Image by TransLink, Metro Vancouver BC

Transit is making a resurgence in our cities, regions, towns, and villages.  Along with it, governments and transit authorities are producing and updating transit plans for their operating areas.  In Europe, the evidence of combining cycling and transit on maintaining lower level of car usage has been well demonstrated.  In North America, Combined Mobility trips of transit and cycling have been slow in catching on.  There are some positive examples to point to, such as the Caltrain commuter trains in the San Francisco area where trains continually have more bicycle storage capacity on trains and the demand still outweighs the capacity.

This article will focus on transit future plans for smaller cities and regions, which typically are bus based systems and do not have rail vehicles, such as, streetcars, trams, and LRT.  Some form of public transportation, such as ferries, trains, and airports, may be serviced by the transit system.

Developing Transit Future Plans

When area transit authorities are working on a transit future plan, there is a key question that needs answering right at the start to set the proper environment for plan development.

“Is the plan exclusively about bus routes, frequency of service, and cost containment to a predetermined budget level?”

If more liveable, vibrant, sustainable, healthy, and green communities are the goal, then another question needs to be answered.  If more dramatic growth of transit ridership is sought, beyond that of population growth, then the same question needs addressing.


©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013, unless otherwise noted

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013, unless otherwise noted

“Is transit futures about planning Transit Corridors for significant transit ridership growth?” 

If transit authorities directions are to devise transit future plans that are contained within their current or smaller operating budgets and where ridership growth is whatever can be picked up incrementally and without great effort, then the concepts in this paper are of no interest.

If transit authorities’ directions are for rapid and significant ridership growths and for marketing techniques being significant in their transit future plans, then the thoughts in this article may be of interest.

Transit Corridor and Catchment Area

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013, unless otherwise noted

©Photograph by H-JEH Becker, 2013, unless otherwise noted

So, what is the definition of a transit corridor?  For this article, a transit corridor is defined by its catchment area of transit riders.  The catchment area for a transit corridor is the distance that people, who are not forced to take transit by other factors, are willing to travel to a transit route.

©Photograph by JL Chong

©Photograph by JL Chong

Normally, the boundaries of a catchment area and depth of a transit corridor is defined by the distance most people are willing to walk to a transit route – 450 metres.  In reality, there also are distances that people are willing to cycle to a transit route.  From some Swedish research and from practical experience in cycling-active European Cities and in North American cities, it may be said that a primary catchment area for cycling may be 2 km from transit routes, while a secondary catchment area may be 5 km.  There is also a catchment area for driving to transit stops, which may be affected by available, free parking at transit stops.

Image – catchment area distance for each mode

For cars, the breath of a catchment area and the decision to use Combined Mobility trips will be affected by operating cost of a car, parking cost at the destination, distance from transit stop to destination, frequency of transit service, the ratio of distances for the car and transit segments, congestion on main roads to the destination, and other factors.

For cycling, the breath of a catchment area and the decision to use Combined Mobility trips will be affected by distance from transit service to destination, availability of a bicycle at transit stop closest to destination, frequency of transit service, the perceived safety of cycling to transit stop, the perceived friendliness of transit stops, the dependability of transit service, the time ratio of the cycling segment to the transit segment, dependability of either bicycle parking at transit stop or space onboard transit vehicle for bicycle, among others.

Cyclists as Customers, as a Target Market Segment for Transit Future Plans and Ridership Growth

For cycling growth, motorists are the target market.  A portion of these motorists is needed to be attracted to cycling for cycling traffic to grow.  What percentage of the motorist market are potential converts to cycling?  If one looks at the car usage rate in North America, 75% or higher are not an untypical numbers for city and metro areas.  While in cities such as Copenhagen and Amsterdam, car usage is in the 27% to 30% range.  Even in the City of Vancouver, car usage in the downtown peninsula is at 40%.  For the city as a whole, it is at 50%.  So, there is potential for moving people from driving to transit, if there are good transit alternatives available.  Part of this movement will be realized with cycling servicing as a feeder to the transit system, at both ends of the transit trip segment.

For converting motorists to Combined Mobility trips of transit and cycling, some will cycle to transit stops; some will cycle from transit stops to final destinations; some will do both and have bicycles at both ends; some will need to take their bicycles on the transit vehicles; and some will have access to public bicycles enroute.

For inspiring Combined Mobility trips of transit and cycling, transit future plans will need to be Transit Corridor Plans.  The plans would need a focus on growing cycling as a feeder of transit ridership.  The cycling feeder portion of plans should focus on eleven discrete segments, including cycling from neighbourhoods to transit stops, transitioning from streets to the stops, bicycle parking at transit stops for short and long periods, bicycles transitioning onto transit vehicles, bicycle parking on-board transit vehicles (interior, exterior), accommodation of electric-assisted bicycles (not e-moped type bicycles), cycling from transit stops to final destinations, wayfinding, communication on transit trips and schedules, bicycles with loaded panniers, and social marketing of Combined Mobility of transit and cycling.

As the target motorists do not cycle today or cycle very infrequently, the approach for converting these potential motorists to cycling and transit customers will be beyond what is needed for cyclists of today.  Obviously, cycling on today’s roads and today’s road conditions is not enough for converting these potential transit customers.  The needs of these potential customers to cycle to transit stops will have to be understood and provided for within transit corridors.  The goal is to make these potential transit customers comfortable and perceive to be safe cycling to transit stops.  Social or brand marketing is obviously needed.  Before marketing to these potential customers, the road and transit infrastructure will have to be to their liking.

What is in it for Transit Authorities, for Local Municipalities, for People?

For transit authorities?

The contribution of the inclusion of Combined Mobility within strategies and plans of transit systems will be growth of ridership and of transit revenue with cycling being one of the more more viable feeder modes of bringing passengers to transit systems and for expanding the catchment area of transit routes.  In combined mobility trips, cycling provides a flexibility option to the rigid schedule of buses that makes this type of trip a viable alternative to driving.   High quality of cycling infrastructure will determine the success of attracting people to combined mobility trips, which includes cycling.

For municipalities?

For cycling touring, the option for taking transit for parts of trips is important for appealing to a wider spectrum of people, including those who are not committed cyclists, and for bringing the benefits of cycling touring to local business economies of municipalities.   With touring cyclists comes contribution to the accommodation, hospitality, retailing, and services trades, helping employment for locals.

Transit is a back-up transportation mode for cycling.  As cycling traffic grows, the demand for traffic lane decreases.  So does the maintenance costs for roads.  The recognition that transit vehicles, including buses, have the capacity to carry bicycles provides a comfort to cyclists and encourages cyclists to expand the extend of trips and frequency of cycling.  For people who wish to cycle for transportation or for other trip purposes, the capacity of using transit for parts of any trip is a growth promoter for cycling as an Active Transportation mode.  Just the security that there is an option for cyclists to complete their trip by transit will draw more people to cycling.  The decision to switch to transit during any trip may be driven from considerations ranging from personal preferences to environmental influencers.  The reasons for switching to transit is long including personal energy, shopping enroute, trip time factors; weather; darkness setting in; mechanical breakdown of a bicycles; choosing to cycle one-way cycling and coming back on transit; among others.  With the knowledge that a nearby transit option is availability, more people can choose cycling with less trepidation as a transportation option.  Cyclists will not feel that they may become stranded with a mechanical problems with their bicycles develop along the way.  They have a way to get to their destinations.

What is in it for people?

As we hear from many sources, reduced use of cars leads to cleaner air, less health problems, and less cost to the government for maintaining the health care system.

“According to Australian epidemiologist Takemi Sugiyama, lead author of a recent study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, “Commuting is a relevant health behavior even for those who are sufficiently active in their leisure time.”

Analyzing the research, The Health Behavior News Service notes, “It may be more realistic to accumulate physical activity through active transport than adding exercise to weekly leisure-time routines.”

The four-year study of 822 adults found that people commuting to work by car gained more weight on average, even if they engaged in regular exercise, than people who did not commute by car. The authors of the study recommend creating more opportunities for everyone to walk or bike to work.”

Reference: Pricetags (

Strategies for Significant Transit Ridership Growth


“Significant growth of Active Transportation facilitated by the transit system’s network, facilities, services, marketing and communications, and operations providing capacity for Combined Mobility of transit with cycling, walking (over 450 metres), and driving, or any combination of these with transit.”

Transit future planning is not exclusively about bus routers and frequency of service.  Transit future is about planning Transit Corridors for significant transit ridership growth.  Strategies for significant ridership growth include directions, such as:

    1. Targets for transit usage – Transportation mode share targets for municipalities.  Transportation mode priority ranking.  Targets conversion plan to transit usage.
    2. Urban land densification – Residential, retail, commercial, institutional, and industrial lands.  Densification set at levels that will generate sufficient passenger income, which will make each kilometre of transit routes profitable using private sector, corporate investment criteria.  Strategies and targets for multi-home units versus single home sprawl.
    3. Customer comfort – Exploring electronic information, real-time transit route status, and other methodologies that will make people more comfortable with transit and bus travel and waiting at transit stops.
    4. Combined Mobility – As feeder to transit routes and increased transit ridership – transit with car, cycling, walking (over 450 metres) or a combination of any of these with transit and the facilities that will make combined mobility a transit growth factor.
    5. Elasticity of ridership with transit trip time, routing, and excess passenger capacity guidelines – Addressing fear of transit stop bypass.
    6. Elasticity of ridership with frequency of service – Frequency cases for 1-hour, 30 minutes, 15 minutes, 9 minutes, 5 minute, etc.  Spending the same operating money using smaller community buses more frequently than large buses.   Hours of service.
    7. Elasticity of transit usage with fares – Structures, time usage, fare packaging, and other fare conditions.
    8. Elasticity of transit use with car usage – Ownership costs, weather, and other factors that affect decision to drive instead of taking transit.
    9. Elasticity of transit usage with social marketing programs.
    10. Transit vehicles and network designed for customers – Not just people movers.  Portable devices that people need to take along to make a transit trip competitive to car usage – people with bicycles, wheelchairs, strollers, carting grocery and purchases, trip luggage (airport, train, ferry, intercity bus stations, etc.).
Tools for Significant Transit Ridership Growth

Planning for significant ridership growth in transit future plans depends on a clear understanding of potential customers and their needs for transit.  Tools for planning and for successful public and key stakeholder consultations should include:

      • In-depth transit ridership analysis – Growth potential.  Who are existing and growth customers?  What are their preferences and wants to use transportation modes?  What are the factors that would grow ridership?
      • Transit catchment area coverage – Maps highlighting residential and commercial lands outside of the 450 metres transit catchment area along with densification of residents and employees.  Measures that would expand catchment areas with cycling as a feeder.
      • Futures vision for the next 25 years or more – Transit and bus stop amenities.  Cycling as a feeder to bus stops – facilities at transit and bus stop, bike parking, road feeding passengers to transit stops.  Accommodating E-Bicycles (electrical –assisted, not electrical mopeds)
      • Futures vision for the next 25 years or more – Transit vehicles and their design.
      • Understanding potential for additional growth of transit and bus vehicle resources, route and frequency of service over the next 25 years funded from projected fare box revenue growth associated with ridership growth in the forecast period – Projected increase in x million riders in the next 25 years at an average fare of $y.yy (2013 level) producing additional income of $z million, at average cost of bus or transit vehicle operations of $aaa per hour, including vehicle and related investment, leading to increase potential of operating hours of of bb,000 at full cost of operating a transit or bus vehicle without subsidies or property tax support, and supporting additional buses or transit vehicles operating dd hours per day, 365 days per year.  Growth projections allows for increased frequency of service on main routes, which should further increase ridership.

More to read – Part 2 on designing for effective combined mobility of transit and cycling – to come ….