July 14, 2011

Study Looks At How Transit Managers Evaluate Transit Stops & Stations

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When you need to evaluate a transit stop or station, there are multiple perspectives to take into account. Of course, there is the customer perspective. Then there is the political perspective, where local governments feel that the transit facility is meeting the needs of the community given the allocated resources. Then there is the way that the transit stop fits into the fabric of the surrounding businesses and neighborhoods. But the decisions often fall to the transit agency to decide where stops should go, how to allocate facility resources, and to spot problems. A recent study by Michael Smart, Mark Miller and Brian Taylor out of the University of California – Los Angeles and University of California – Berkeley looked at the perspective of transit managers and what they value in a transit stop and station.

The study, “Transit Stops and Stations: Transit Managers’ Perspectives on Evaluation Performance”, published in the Journal of Public Transportation, takes an analytic look at what transit managers across the country prioritize when they are evaluating how shelters, stops and transfers are working in the system. The authors found that respondents viewed safety and security as their number one priority with 2) pedestrian/vehicle conflicts, 3) schedule coordination, 4) operating costs, 5) stop/station equipment reliability, 6) comfortable environment, 7) adequate stop/station space, 8 ) interagency cooperation, 9) facilitation of passenger flows, 10) accommodation of vehicle movements and 11) protection of passengers from weather. Of course, these are an average of results, and any individual transit agency may prioritize differently.

As the results show, transit managers focus a lot on the useability of transit stops and stations, with less emphasis on aesthetics and more on safety and functionality. The study helps illustrate the point-of-view of the transit agency, while other stakeholders  make may look at transit facility design through other lenses. From a rider or community member’s perspective, how would you rank these priorities? Would you change any of them? What about local governments and businesses? How should they evaluate transit stops and stations?

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7 thoughts on “Study Looks At How Transit Managers Evaluate Transit Stops & Stations”

  1. RTBones says:

    This is a study of transit managers – which explains a lot about why things are done the way they are, and why public transit (in general terms) is usually better abroad than here at home.

    I don’t have the link to it handy, but there was a general look done at metro systems around the world some time ago (I want to say 2003? Again, if I can find the link at some point, I’ll post it). The systems that consistently got the most use? Those that were aesthetically pleasing, those that integrated into the areas they served. What I mean by that is that the station was not out in the middle of nowhere surrounded by spacious parking lots. I am always floored by the American concept of building a station, and surrounding it by acres of concrete (North Hanley is an example. Shrewsburry is another. The Ballas transfer station is a third.) Acres of parking does nothing for the neighborhood or economic development – its just another place to put your car. None of those three stations is really bike friendly, and youre not likely to walk to any of them either. That means unless you arrive by bus, you’ll be driving to them. Further, it means essentially ignoring or discounting neighborhoods or local traffic because everything is set up for ease of access for the car. Applying that to the St. Louis metro area – as a driving culture, if it is easier to drive, we will. In St. Louis – it is MUCH easier to drive if you can than take transit.

    Aesthetics is important for another reason – the “feel safe” factor. A station may be safe as houses, but if it doesnt LOOK safe, you will be less likely to use it.

  2. Jimmy Z says:

    Metro has too many bus stops, something like 8,000, if I remember correctly. Some are a block apart, even in areas with little ridership. Just because someone used it 20 years ago doesn’t mean that it needs to stay today. Managing means eliminating ones that aren’t used frequently, both to focus on the ones that are used daily and to speed up trips, in general. The big reason so many people drive in St. Louis is that it takes 3 times longer on the bus!

  3. mike says:

    Jimmy Z.

    I’m not sure if trip times are actually affected by the number of bus stops, because stops that are not frequently used, shouldn’t impact the run time since buses wouldn’t be making the stops anyway. I think a lot of the prolonged travel times comes with waiting for buses, and with transferring especially if they are untimely or missed connections. In addition, I think the route alignments for a lot of the buses affect the trip times But that’s just speculation on my part and maybe you can help me see it from a different point of view.

    But otherwise, I agree that bus stops not frequently used should be removed, but caution still needs to be taken so that ridership won’t be further impacted.

  4. Jennifer says:

    I agree, Jimmy. The planners have been working on consolidating stops on bus routes as we go through and upgrade stops to make them ADA compliant. You can read about that project here: http://www.nextstopstl.org/1778/bus-stop-upgrades/

  5. Jimmy Z says:

    It appears that they’re doing stop evaluations along Jamieson. Is any of that info available online?

    1. Courtney says:

      Not yet. We’re still working out a working public engagement model. Anything you want to discuss about that stretch?

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