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A guide to public transport planning

Public transport is the backbone of any livable city. In rural areas it provides a sustainable option of mobility. The buses, trains and trams ensure everyone can move around, and they tackle the dangers of climate change by reducing dependency on cars.

Good public transport planning involves many challenges: From rapid rise in demand in growing urban centers, through difficult operating conditions in the countryside, to adjustment to new technologies. Overcoming these challenges is the responsibility of public transport planners, operators, and relevant authorities.

Here is a short guide to good public transport planning, and to the technologies that support professionals as they work to achieve it.

Examples of great public transport planning

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What is public transport planning?

Public transport services are complex systems, where passengers expect a high-quality service, operators need to provide economically viable services, and authorities require accessibility and sustainable modal split. To achieve these multiple interests, public transport planning deals with many topics, including:  

  • Network design and timetables
  • Fleet planning and procurement
  • Cost-benefit analysis and funding
  • Punctuality and crowding analysis
  • Line bundling and bidding processes
  • Ticketing and pricing policies
  • Revenue splitting

The technology behind public transport planning

Public transport planning is too complex - and its results are too expensive - to simply base it on gut feelings or Excel sheets. Besides, planning must be of high level to be judicially approved.

In most cases, public transport planning is not about finding a single “ultimate” solution. It is rather about considering a range of possible measures, policies, and conditions, before suggesting suitable actions to political or commercial decision-makers. 

Therefore, digital modeling tools enable planners to quickly develop different scenarios for public transport. They can then test these scenarios under a range of assumed future demographic or economic conditions.

Here are a few examples of how modeling helps in public transport planning:

  • Having a multimodal view on public transport ensures that more passengers are attracted to public transport.
  • Cost-benefit analysis is needed to ensure money is well-invested in the right projects.
  • Ticket data can be analyzed and visualized, to reveal valuable information about ridership.
  • Sharing revenue between operators is made fair and transparent.
  • Transferring data via digital interfaces helps to minimize mistakes in the planning process.
  • And much more...

Aspects of good public transport planning

Public transport service planning

A key element is resilient service planning. Good service planning creates a holistic network design which is demand-oriented and cost-efficient. It is the base for making the most out of public transport.

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