Transit Types

Posted by | Jun 26, 2011 | 2 Comments
Major modes of transit available in the United States include:

 

LOCAL BUS SERVICE:

Local buses carry 66% of the transit trips in the United States.  Frequent stops make local service slow averaging 13 mph.  However, these frequent stops also make local bus service convenient.  It is flexible which allows transit planners to add buses or change routes to accommodate new or changed demand.

Buses are powered by diesel, gasoline, battery, or alternative fuel engines contained within the vehicle.  Buses operate on streets and roadways in fixed-route or other regular service.  Types of bus service include local service, where vehicles may stop every block or two along a route several miles long.  When limited to a small geographic area or to short-distance trips, local service is often called circular, feeder, neighborhood, trolley, or shuttle service.  

 

  

EXPRESS BUSES AND BUS RAPID TRANSIT (BRT):

Express bus service typically involves routes with limited or no intermediate stops between trip origins and destinations.  It can achieve high average speeds.  Bus rapid transit (BRT) is a variation of express-bus service that operates on dedicated roadways or lanes from which other traffic is excluded or nearly excluded and typically offers some of the same features as rail transit systems, such as stations, fast and efficient service, and special quick loading vehicles.

 

 

LIGHT RAIL:

Light rail is a modern version of the streetcar, in Europe it is known as “trolleys” or “trams”.  Its tracks may be located on shared streets or on dedicated rights-of-way.  Street sharing subjects light rail to traffic delays, crash potential, and lower speeds, however cost savings are realized by not securing dedicated rights-of-way.  The average speed for new light-rail systems in the United States is 20 mph, compared to 12 mph for some of the older streetcar lines.  It is widely accepted that light-rail is needed to attract “by-choice” riders, these are riders that have the option to drive but consciously choose to ride light-rail instead.  Light rail stops less frequently and is more reliable which is an accessibility advantage to nearby properties resulting in higher property values.    

 

RAPID RAIL:

Rapid rail is also known as “heavy rail” or “subways” – in Europe they are known as “metros”.  It operates on exclusive rights-of-way without grade crossings and its tracks are often located underground.  Rapid-rail transit is operated at faster speeds than light-rail, and the distances between stations are generally greater.  Because of its high cost, rapid rail requires high population densities in order to achieve a reasonable cost per rider.  The long distances between rapid-rail stations impart a high accessibility advantage to nearby properties.  Thus rapid rail tends to produce higher real estate premiums than light rail. 

 

 

 

COMMUTER RAIL:

Commuter rail lines provide service to downtowns over long distances.  Station spacing is typically 3.5 miles.  Commuter rail is relatively speedy, although shared tracks with other uses diminishes its speed advantages.  Riders on commuter rail come from a wide area around stations, and when parking is provided they generally arrive by car.  While commuter rail stations would be expected to offer real estate premiums, many are surrounded by land uses that limit the potential property value advantages – including commuter parking or industrial operations served by freight services that share the commuter rail tracks.

Commuter rail is also called metropolitan rail, regional rail, or suburban rail and is characterized by an electric or diesel propelled railway for urban passenger train service consiting of local short distance travel operating between a central city and adjacent suburbs.  Service must be operated on a regular basis by or under contract with a transit operator for the purposes of transporting passengers within urbanized areas, or between urbanized areas and outlying areas.  Such rail service, using either locomotive hauled or self-propelled railroad passenger cars, is generally characterized by multi-trip tickets, specific station to station fares, railroad employment practices and usually only one or two stations in the central business district.  Intercity rail service is excluded, except for that portion of such service that is operated by or under contract with a public transit agency for predominately commuter services.  Most service is provided on routes of current or former freight railroads.

 

Source:  Developing Around Transit: Strategies and Solutions That Work, Urban Land Institute, 2004


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2 Responses to “Transit Types”

  • Kia says:

    Where to start. There are lots of things Metro COULD do, but llekiy wont. Part of the reason for this is that Metro’s primary mission is NOT transit it is economic development.But for starters, Metro could try running a transit system, not a commuter system. Schedules and timetables are geared for the average worker during the week, not service outside of work times. While there is service on off-hours, it is limited. Metro and its buses are geared for the lowest common denominator of traveler those that must use it. There is absolutely nothing being done to attract those that could CHOOSE to use it. Buses go, primarily, where lower income riders are forget trying to get around in the county (or, for that matter, the 270 loop) by bus. While it is not a bad thing that the bus serves lower income areas, if that is the ONLY place buses go, people that have the ability to choose will go elsewhere. The bus system also takes TIME (and has some really whacky connections another thing that puts off potential riders) and for those who could choose to take Metro, time is money. When you have time (say, like going to a sporting event), its fine because you know the bus will take you there and you know the bus will take you back (in other words, it will actually meet a schedule) but when you have to be somewhere (like work, or to pick up children, a doctor’s appointment, whatever) taking the bus is difficult, particularly when they are late. Most of the buses I have ridden (full disclosure: I have a monthly pass and use it regularly) are chronically late by 4 to 12 minutes. Again, time is money and if I am going to be chronically late because of Metro, I’ll find another way to get there. This means making connections is difficult (like, getting off a train and watching your bus leave when the next one isnt for another half hour), and in the winter who wants to wait that half hour outside in the cold for the next bus? In several instances this past month I have also seen buses going WAY over the speed limit at times. Why? Their drivers were about to be off, and they wanted to finish their run and get back to the garage. Additionally, particularly at the North Hanley station, I have seen buses purposefully put up their Out of Service sign just so the driver doesn’t have to let folks on before his/her time regardless of the number of riders waiting or the temperature outside. The buses also do not run late enough. Again schedules are based around the commuter, not someone who wants to take public transit. Most nightlife in the St. Louis area shuts down between 1:30am and 3:00am. Don’t even think about getting a night bus because there aren’t any I realize there may be financial reasons (among others) for this, but it goes back to catering to commuters who have to use the system, and not riders that might choose to. There is little to no advertising in the media, and what advertising there is seems to be geared towards the 99 downtown trolley . Buses tend to run when and where it is convenient for Metro to run them, not necessarily where folks (those that can choose, that is) need or want to go. At times, it is actually easier to take Amtrak from Kirkwood into downtown at night than it is to catch a bus either because of lack of service, or because I would need to make two connections or better. Then you have all the time and effort spent in promoting a trolley which is NOT a trolley. It makes St. Louis look like it isn’t interested in real transit. I realize it is intended to be a branded service, but as someone not from here originally, sorry all you’ve done is encourage me NOT to ride it. Its a downtown BUS, not a downtown trolley. I have ranted here before about inadequate signage, so I’ll just say that our bus stop signs are out of date and horrid. If you don’t do your research ahead of time, you’d never be able to ride the bus in St. Louis because the signs that do exist nine times out of 10 are wrong because they are years out of date. Along the same lines, have you seen where some of the bus stops are? On the shoulder of busy roads, or places where there is little to no pedestrian access. Particularly in bad weather, how exactly am I supposed to safely get to a bus stop when I have several YARDS of deep snow and ice to traipse through? In many cases, there isn’t sidewalk there to begin with. There is the chronic problem of continually being hit up for money for bus/train fare. If it were every now and again, it would be one thing but it isn’t. That doesn’t sit well with potential riders that could choose to ride. Finally, there is the general disorganization of some of Metro’s stations (particularly Civic Center and Central West End). Unless you know where you’re going, forget trying to figure out which bus is going to the loop in front of the Sheraton or going to stop at the shelters just north.Wow, that’s quite the rant. Didn’t intend it, but you did ask.

     

    • Transit-Oriented.com says:

      Right on. You share the same frustration as the rest of us. Now what can do we do about it?