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Can't you simply have fewer locals and more limiteds?

Aaron Priven

Are there industry standards for stop spacing? AC Transit's stop spacing standard is, if I recall correctly, from 800 to 1300 feet, but although we went through a period of consolidating stops on a few major trunk lines a few years back, most of our lines never went through that process.

Our process did have opposition, but we also have local residents who want nothing more than to get the bus stop away from their house.


In my neighborhood near Boston the stops are definitely much closer together, less than 300 feet apart.


Minneapolis/St. Paul has stops at nearly every corner. Crowded busses end up stopping at just about every bus, often times to let once person off and are foreced to stop 300 feet later for another rider or two. There have been sporadic bus stop removals on portions of routes (east to west in Minneapolis) that run perpendicular to short blocks.

The biggest improvement has been in downtown Minneapolis. Express commuter busses stop only every other block and board through the front and rear doors. Local busses now stop every other block though I think it will take time for riders and passangers to get this straight.

Any Twin Citians aware of activits campaigning to remove stops?


Taking out stops means Muni runs faster, which means more people take Muni, which means less cars, which means less potential for pedestrian fatalities ... Sure enough. Fewer stops also means more people at each stop, which improves personal security and also justifies better infrastructure.

Right. But it also means that people have to walk further on average to get to and from the bus stops to the endpoints of their trip, which may discourage ridership and encourage more driving. The additional time required for the extra walking may exceed the time savings from having the bus make fewer stops. And the extra walking may impose a physical hardship too, especially for elderly or disabled riders. And for all riders if the weather is bad, or the climate is particularly hot or cold.

Is there some formal methodology that transit planners use to balance these costs and benefits to produce the optimum spacing for bus stops?

Alon Levy
Is there some formal methodology that transit planners use to balance these costs and benefits to produce the optimum spacing for bus stops?

You know, you're the first person who complains about "may" responses to your suggestions. And yet when the FUD calls for it, you say it just the same. I don't blame you for it. If I got paid to spread anti-transit FUD, I'd probably do it too. But I don't; I'm actually honest. So is everyone else on this blog.


Portland could use this for its downtown MAX stops.


Many stops have constituencies, some of them powerful.

On the westside MAX line in Portland (both the Blue and Red lines), for instance, the PGE Park stop and the Kings Hill stop are located about 500 feet from each other. The PGE park stop is located near the front gates of PGE Park, a multipurpose stadium located near downtown. The Kings Hill/Salmon Street stop is essentially located "behind" the stadium--adjacent to it, but not near its entrance/exit.

500 feet. This isn't a local bus either, this is a major rapid transit line. Why?

Rather simply--the line passes through a wealthy neighborhood at this point, and TPTB wanted a stop serving the local housing (and likely the Multnomah Athletic Club, an exclusive athletic club catering to Portland's movers and shakers). Without a separate stop just for them--there likely would have been intense opposition to the Westside MAX line altogether.

A map of the neighborhood is here.


In regard to the comment on the AC Transit (East Bay of San Francisco Bay Area) stop spacing, the following seems to happen:
- Stops are every block on long blocks and every other block on short blocks in urban areas.
- Stops are every block in suburban areas (where the blocks tend to be much bigger)
- Most buses will skip about 1/3 of urban stops and most of the suburban stops because there's no one waiting there and no one wants to get off there either. When I lived in Fremont the bus would sometimes run for 2 miles without stopping. (2 years later that line got eliminated).
- In downtown Oakland and Berkeley, stops are one every 3 to 4 blocks, since its practically guaranteed that the bus will stop at all of them.


Most buses will skip about 1/3 of urban stops and most of the suburban stops because there's no one waiting there and no one wants to get off there either.

Don't request stops play havoc with bus schedules? I know that buses that are running ahead of schedule sometimes make longer stops in order to get back on schedule, but that would seem to defeat the purpose of having request stops in the first place.


The local geography has to be taken into account. For instance, Melbourne's CBD historically had a tram stop at each major intersection. This has been changed in recent years in favour of (some) mid-block stops, which apart from making it quite confusing, means the stops are in less useful locations for interchange and for walking along cross-streets to final destinations.

And of course the route's purpose has to be considered. In some cities with trams, the tram might be the only high-capacity, medium-to-long distance travel mode. In others, that role might be taken by express buses or heavy-rail.

Some more reading:

Myth: Trams will function better if stops are relocated to mid-block locations

Myth: Tram passengers benefit from fewer tram stops


People who say "less" when they mean "fewer" irritate me however sensible their attitude to bus spacing.

There's a bus near my Dad's house in Manchester that stops, drives past a minor road that joins from the left and then stops almost immediately on the other side. The stops can't be more than 150m apart in a quiet low density suburban area. Everytime I make the journey I forget and ring the bell for the next stop only to realise as I stand up that this pointless stop exists. Drives me mad.


With respect to Manish, stop spacing isn't as simple as "Taking out stops means Muni runs faster, which means more people take Muni."

I cringe when these debates come up because the only trip type that's reliably given respect seems to be the long-distance commute trip. That's an important niche, don't get me wrong. But it's important to recognize that stop spacing isn't a one-size-fits-all thing, and a transit agency can serve different niches without one coming at the expense of the other, so that each trip type's ridership is additive.

Most lines in SF with high long-distance commuter ridership also run limited service. These lines effectively consolidate bus stops to benefit those who need to go far quickly, while preserving access to those who want local service for short trips or have mobility issues. For these lines, stop consolidation is a red herring. If there is more demand for limited service than local, the mix of buses can be adjusted to match.

For lines without limited service (in SF that's almost always crosstown lines) I am strongly of the opinion that the solution is to offer a greater mix of service, not less overall just for the sake of one transit niche. A 22-L or 49-L would have high ridership indeed.

One thing you didn't touch on is that even when a majority of people agrees that stops are too close together, consensus among the public tends to break down regarding which stops to remove. Everyone wants their start and stop points close to a bus stop, it's all the other people's stops that get in the way.


I honestly don't understand why this is such a gripping issue. In many countries (say, Germany, where I have lived), stops are on average MUCH farther apart than here in the US. Nobody complains. Nobody agitates for an extra stop in front of their house. It's just commonly accepted that bus stops belong at major intersections, and that the needs of riding public needn't be surrendered to the lowest common denominator (i.e. folks who can't walk more that 1 block).


SF Muni has rather specific and well-designed stop spacing guidelines which include, among other things, how steep the hill is. Stop spacing is encouraged to be closer on the hills than on the flat (because people will not be able to walk as far up or down hill).

The guidelines seem really well designed, but have largely not been implemented.


FWIW, bus stops that are far apart tend to put more people on paratransit, which can cost some 5 to 10 more per passenger-mile than fixed route. If the elderly or disabled find it too burdensome to go the bus stop, they'll ditch it in favor of paratransit.


And if the young and able find it too annoying to stop every 2 blocks, they'll ditch transit in favor of driving.

Joseph E

Electric wheelchairs and scooters are the solution for the "last block problem" facing elderly and disabled transit riders. Medicare covers them, and other health insurances should as well. Considering that one "paratransit" (i.e. taxi) ride costs $20 to $40, if a $1000 chair prevents 50 paratransit calls over its 10 year lifetime, it is cost effective.

If insurance won't pay for the chair, the transit agency should subsidize the purchase, and throw in a monthly pass, for frequent paratransit riders! Or we could change the law in the USA so paratransit is no longer a huge unfunded mandate, paid for in service cuts and higher ticket prices, by other transit riders.

Paratransit is one of those ideas that sounded good at the time, but had all sorts of unintended consenquences, it appears.

And I'm not sure that shorter stop spacing reduces paratransit use. Many of my patients live right at a bus stop, on a line that stops a block from my office, yet continue to request paratransit passes. Perhaps the bus is too slow for them too, because of too frequent stop spacing?

On the other hand, many people will take the Blue Line light rail train, even though the station is 4 blocks away, because of the faster speeds, reliability, and level boarding platforms.

Joseph E

Watson, basic physics requires tha there is a minimum effective stop spacing for transit.

Consider a bus on street with a 30 mph speed limit. If the bus driver accelerates at 2 mph/second (about the limit of passenger comfort), it takes 15 seconds to reach top speed, while traveling 1/16 of a mile, or about 100 meters. If the driver then brakes at the same acceleration, the bus will stop after another 15 seconds and another 100 meters. So for a stop spacing any less than 200 meters, you will not reach 30 mph for even 1 second. Your average speed will be less than 10 mph with stops, slower than a bicycle, and that's not counting wait time.

If the bus is on a highway and could reach 60 mph, it will take 400 meters to accelerate and 400 to stop, so 1/2 mile is the shortest stop distance for "Bus Rapid Transit" or a subway. These sorts of transit lines can go a mile in 3 minutes or less, faster than a bicycle anytime, or a car during rush hour.

In the 1880s, when bikes were rare and dangerous, walking was the only alternative for 99% of the population. A transit company could make a profit with trolleys that stopped every block (100 m) and maxed out at 15 mph, since the average speed with stops was still about 5 mph, or twice as fast as walking. Even then, if the trolleys came every 5 minutes, it would be faster to walk for destinations under 1/2 mile away.

If a transit company has a bus that runs every 15 minutes and averages 10 mph with stops (like the local buses do in my town), walking will be faster that the bus for the majority of trips under 3/4 mile. On the other hand, if you can eliminate half the stops and get the bus moving at 15 mph on average, the bus will still be faster than walking for trips over about 3/4 mile in length, and your 2 mile long bus trip now takes only 8 minutes, instead of 12. Better yet, 50% faster trip times mean that buses can come every 10 minutes instead of every 15 minutes, saving another 2.5 minutes of average wait time and lots of aggravation.

To make transit useful for short trips, high frequency of service is much more important than closely-spaced stops, until the stops are spaced significantly more than 1/2 mile apart (or a 5 minute walk).

I believe buses and streetcars that travel up to 30 mph should stop no more frequently than every 1/4 mile or 400 meters, unless there are huge hills or other obstacles between stops. And even at that low maximum speed, 1/2 mile stop spacing would be better for the majority of riders, including people in electric wheelchairs.



That was the exact portion of the MAX that I was thinking of. I think they planned a bit too much of having a stop right at Lincoln High and PGE Park, or had great aspirations of new TODs sprouting up.

They simply need one at Goose Hollow and one at PGE park. No in between.


Watson, basic physics requires tha there is a minimum effective stop spacing for transit.

Yes, I realize that. It doesn't alter the fact that within the limits imposed by the laws of physics and other constraints, there is a tradeoff between saving travel time by making buses stop less frequently (by increasing the distance between stops), and saving travel time by reducing the distance riders have to walk between bus stops and the endpoints of their trip (by reducing the distance between stops). The total travel time is the time it takes the rider to get from his origin to his destination, which includes time spent walking to and from bus stops. It's not just the time he spends waiting at a stop and on the bus itself.

Paul C

The main intersection by my house in Vancouver. Which is about 150 metres away. The North South Routes have a bus stop in each direction after the light. The west bound route also has the bus stop after the light.

But the east bound route for what ever reason. There is a bus stop about 50 metres before the light and then one right after. There is about a 100 metre difference between the stops.

If I remember and it has been so long. The stop before the light was always there. Then they put in the other stop, but never took out the previous stop. It is nice in cases where I'm coming home and I can't get off the bus for the first stop. I will always make it off the second stop.

Lauri Kangas

In theory you can calculate optimal stop spacing, but you need to have usable values for things like the typical distance travelled on the vehicle, cruising speed, stop dwell time and length of connecting walks. Researching these in detail for each route would be hard, but a reasonable set of assumptions can be used to get a rough understanding.
I typed up one formula here: http://preview.tinyurl.com/ye6qxue


Here's vancouver's guidelines:

“To promote faster service, the distance between bus stops should not be less than the following, as long as safe access for customers can be provided:


BUS 250 metres (both near & farside stops
permitted at major transfer points)

B-LINE (ie, BRT service) 500 metres to 1,500 metres average spacing on route

COMMUNITY SHUTTLE (ie,small shuttle vehicles) Flexible to serve local conditions”


Ian F

A comment on the last point about walking the bus route, if it's a short trip and you may arrive sooner by walking than waiting and riding: This feeds back to an earlier point that fewer stops can mean more infrastructure at each. With fewer stops, it's more likely that real-time information can be provided, or even just fixed information where service is reliable. Thus you can make a more informed choice to walk or wait and the bus is more competitive with walking.

Fewer stops also improves legibility. Note how many European bus systems can show every bus stop on a system map, and often even name them, because they aren't excessively dense.

I see our (Vancouver's) guidelines are quoted above. There are certainly some examples of egregiously close stops here. The stops on the EB #6 at Davie and Cardero, Nicola and Broughton are 120 m apart, with the Broughton one having been added since the guidelines cited were introduced, due to a seniors' residence across the street.

Nathan Landau

The idea that having fewer stops allows stops with more facilities probably makes a lot more sense to folks in a place like Vancouver, with a more adequate level of transit funding. Here in California, where transit funding has been cut and cut and cut under the auspices of an "environmentalist" Governor, fewer stops just looks like fewer, not fewer but better. When transit agencies cut stops here, they don't typically make any committments about improving the remaining stops, they really can't.

It would take some resources to do it, but it would be helpful to measure the impact of stop spacing on bus stops' broader "walkshed." Measure, along actual walking routes, how many residences become farther than 1/4 mile (or whatever distance you like). The tendency I've seen is simply to measure stop distance along the arterial and see if it meets standard. But all the potential passengers don't live on the arterial. Maybe it wouldn't have that much effect, that would be worth knowing too.

Ted King

There's a problem with using radial measurements when determining who is a quarter mile or a half mile away. Given a bus on Second Ave. stopping at alternate streets (A, C, E, etc.) then someone who lives at B + Third isn't the diagonal distance (1.414 blocks assuming square blocks*) away but is closer to two blocks away. I hope someone out there is working on a tentacular mapping tool to address this mis-match.

* I know such a rara avis as a square block is out there somewhere. Most of the ones I've seen are either non-square quadrilaterals (aka tetragons) or a 2-D take on non-Euclidean geometry.

Bob Davis

Here in Southern California, back in the mid-1920's most of our transit was streetcars and most of our electricity came from hydro plants. 1923 was a very dry year. Los Angeles Ry., the narrow-gauge "Yellow Car" system, eliminated many streetcar stops, posting notices in the cars advising riders that this was in response to the electric power shortages. Pacific Electric, the standard-gauge "Red Car" system, converted many of their lightly-used local lines, especially in Pasadena, to motor bus service, having bought 81 coaches from White Motor Co., the largest order for buses up to that time.


If you are disabled and unhappy with the public transit system in your area then you may want to consider using a disabled transport service to get yourself around. Visit http://www.wheelchairtransit.com to get all the information you may need to help you decide if a disabled transport service is right for you.

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